INSMS International Network for Students of Migration Studies
Project Support Officer at SwIdeas
This week’s interview is with Lavinia who works as a Project Support Officer in a social enterprise in Sweden. She said she never imagined she would have this job, mainly because she wasn’t even aware of its existence, which is why she advises you to be open to all possibilities, even the unknown ones!
Lavinia is 24, she comes from Italy, and has completed a master’s study programme in Advanced Migration studies at the University of Copenhagen. Her current position is Project Support Officer and Assisting Analyst at SwIdeas, which is a social enterprise that works mainly with developing and implementing European projects in different fields. The company works mainly with project management and EU funding, and is currently running several projects on the topics of labour market integration, migrant women in entrepreneurship, socio-economic inclusion, circular economy, intercultural communication and social/environmental sustainability.
Lavinia’s normal working day starts with at least one espresso (“as a true Italian”), and continues with having one or two meetings a day, either with my team and colleagues at SwIdeas or with our partners in other European countries and organizations. Her role covers both management and implementation of the projects, including research with the target groups, communication activities and social media, and development of training courses and educational materials.
Doing an internship was the best choice
She says it was not easy to find an internship that was relevant to her studies, and at the same time interesting enough for her personal and professional development:
“The fact that I could join a small organisation helped me develop professionally, and at the same time enter the labour market in a smooth way. However, I recognize that this is usually not the case - gaining employment after the end of an internship, particularly in big organisations, is quite rare.”
Already during her studies she found it hard to combine her studies with relevant work experience in the field of her interest. During the first semester of her masters, she started volunteering in a shelter for homeless migrants in Copenhagen.
“I went there once a week to help with the overall administration, and to facilitate social interaction and linguistic communication between the users. It was a good start to a practical, first-hand experience of volunteering in the field of migration at a local level.”
During the third semester, she chose to do an internship instead of following courses, and she says that it was the best choice I could have made at the time. Her internship was in the field of project management within the EU, and in connection to a small social enterprise based in Malmö. As the internship was a part of her curriculum, it gave her freedom to explore the labour market in Sweden, and gain a broader understanding of what kind of jobs a migration student can engage in.
After handing in her thesis, she then started as a part-time Assisting Project Analyst at the organisation where she did her internship. She did not, however, imagine she would do what she currently does after graduating, mainly because she didn't even know that such job existed in the first place:
“I was positively surprised when I learned that I could combine research with more practical work within the field of migration and broader social fields. I always thought that my options as a student of migration were quite limited: either I saw myself doing research or working in NGOs. So, I was quite happy to find a middle ground that fit my interests and was relevant to my educational background.”
Working in Sweden
She decided to work in Sweden for many reasons, both personal and professional. She has previously done an intercultural exchange year during high school in a Northern Swedish town, and she wanted to come back to the country which she considers her second home. She moved to Malmö because of her internship, and stayed there for work. She also preferred a more flexible and dynamic labour market in Scandinavia compared to her home country, Italy. Last but not least, knowledge of Swedish language helped her a lot in the process of integration into the Swedish labour market, and that process is still ongoing.
Even though she feels privileged and lucky as a migrant worker from the EU within the EU, she says the first ten months were not easy in terms of getting access to health care, finding a stable place to live, and sorting out the job-related bureaucratic details.
“It took me quite some time to adjust to a highly bureaucratic and digital public system, as well as figuring out the social welfare and housing sector. However, now that everything is settled, I feel more secure and grateful for having such a good support network. I only wish that it were the same for all foreign residents here, regardless of their background and citizenship.”
There’s a great variety of jobs
She says she really enjoys her job at the moment, as she feels her work is important and also challenging. She finds managing and implementing European projects not only fun and interesting but also enriching from an educational and professional point of view.
“The benefits of this type of work include a lot of travelling and transnational project meetings around the EU, networking and growth opportunities as well as an interdisciplinary and stimulating work environment.”
In a broader migration field, Lavinia would appreciate better and stronger communication between universities and companies, NGOs, and organisations that work in the field of migration and related topics. Putting more emphasis on the variety of work opportunities in the field would be highly beneficial to future migration students in her opinion. She would also like to see greater acknowledgement of the migration students in the first place, especially from organisation and institutions that actually need their expertise to improve and optimise their work.
Tips for success
“Be open to all possibilities and opportunities, even the ones you did not know existed! I would also recommend networking as much as possible during the studies in order to have the right contacts for the future. Good luck! :)“
*INSMS is always looking for interesting career paths of former migration students. If you would like to share your professional history with the network, please contact us by email: email@example.com, Subject: P2P Campaign