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Karita Laisi

Karita Johanna Laisi
Born April 5, 1969, Kauniainen

Bachelor of Arts 1996 (Spanish and Latin American Studies), University of Southampton
Master of Arts (Spanish Philology), University of Helsinki

Special Adviser on development policy 2014–, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
Special Adviser, peace and reconciliation 2012–14, Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission
Development cooperation coordinator, regional manager 2010–12 (Jerusalem), Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission
Project manager 2007–08, Finnish Youth Association
Teaching assistant, research assistant 2002–06, University of Helsinki

Photo: Malachy Harty
Written by Karita Laisi (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

My Best Memories from the University of Helsinki

I came to the University of Helsinki from the University of Southampton, where I did my bachelor’s degree. I didn’t know how the University of Helsinki worked or what studying at a Finnish university was like. My ‘wild student life’ really passed me by, as when I came to the University of Helsinki I was already a mother. My first child was born during my second year in England and the next one came along while I was finishing my studies in Helsinki.

Pleasant memories are linked to Latin American studies, study mates and the student organisation which I was founding for the subject. I also worked as its first chairman. During my study years I dreamt of Latin America and followed human rights questions. Professor Teivo Teivainen was a researcher, and I was on his first human rights course. Together with Teivon and a group of students we founded an unofficial group, HYLA, Helsinki University’s Latin American human rights group. For some protests I brought white sheets from home. I first ironed them at home, so that it would be easier to paint the text. As we hoped, we made it to the evening news. My daughter Inka noticed our sheets immediately!

I wasn’t any kind of model student, but I was interested in many subjects: sociolinguistics, archaeology, Latin America, Spanish history and culture and pedagogics. During my study years, time went on drifting around and becoming inspired by things. In hindsight I think that too much was happening simultaneously and that I was involved in too many things. I was interested in everything, also outside university. I also began a PhD, as I was fascinated by the Spanish speaking world and its language, culture and politics. Unfortunately, I never completed my PhD, but perhaps it is true that everything has been of benefit, particularly Latin American studies, which helped me get my first permanent job, which led to an interesting career.

Karita Laisi on a colleague’s terrace in East Jerusalem. Photo: Malachy Harty.


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