The Where Are They Now blog series looks at the lives of Beijing International School alumni after the last school bell has tolled. 21 year old Finnish ex-WABbie Laura Sarikka, played varsity soccer for 4 years at Western Academy of Beijing and achieved an all-star award. She fills us in on her life post-high school.
Timeline since High School
What have you done since leaving high school?
After graduation, I was hesitant about going back home or leaving Beijing. I was unsure of what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. I heard that some of the kids were staying in Beijing and doing semester studying Chinese, which sounded like the perfect solution to me. After my semester, I went to India for 4 months to travel. The following fall I returned home (Finland) and began my studies in Radio & TV Journalism. After graduation, I realized the media industry was slowing down and it would be almost impossible to find a full-time job in Helsinki. So I packed my bags and here I am, back in Beijing! I’m currently at Beijing Language Culture University doing a bachelor in Chinese and working in media.
What led you choose your current path?
Living an expat life and living in Beijing has given me so many opportunities that have inspired me to get into what I’m doing now. The first time I got to work with a journalist to make a short documentary was at the age of 14. All the experiences and the people that I have met living in Beijing and abroad have given me so much knowledge in the industry that have led me to great opportunities.
What has been your greatest lesson?
Never take anything for granted. You definitely get comfortable at WAB and living an expat life. Looking back now, I realize how blessed we’ve been and what amazing people I’ve gotten to know. Reality slapped me in the face pretty hard once I moved back home. I was very lucky to grow up in such an environment.
What do you miss most about high school?
Snow days! They’re always so prepared in Finland ☹. I definitely miss the bond between us students. No matter what grade you were in, who you hung out with, where you were from, you found friendships between a lot of different people. I look at the people I still stay in touch with from high school, what a diverse group of people! Everyone is so different, and I love it!
Which member of faculty had the greatest impact on you?
My soccer coach, Phil “Papa” Farrol. My mentor throughout high school. Plus he always had the best lotion for our legs.
What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
That your life isn’t over if a boy doesn’t like you back.
I wish I had known that people are different and not everyone will understand your situation or how you’ve lived your life. I’ve sat through multiple conversations trying to explain why I don’t really know what to call home anymore and why the thought of living in one place for the rest of my life makes me want to cry. It’s a lot harder to relate to people, but then there are those special moments when you meet someone who’s a third culture kid. It’s an amazing feeling, because we will forever and always have a connection.
Advice for Students
What general advice would you give to current high school students?
Never leave WAB?
What insight would you give to students and parents who are researching career paths and university choices?
You need to live in this place for 3-5 years. So don’t just base your decision on “That looks like a good course for me” or “It’s ranked as one of the best schools in the area!”. You should definitely visit campuses and talk to teachers/ to get a feel of what your everyday life there is going to be like. They will be some of the most memorable times of your life, you definitely want to be enjoying them.
Benefits of Your Beijing Roots
What influence, if any, has your experience as an international student in Beijing had on your choices and experiences?
Beijing and growing up as an international kid has definitely benefited me. You definitely grow up to be more mature and responsible. You start taking charge or your future a lot sooner and what a better place to be in than Beijing! There’s something for everyone here. The amount of opportunity in this city is endless!
Meeting people from such diverse backgrounds teaches you to talk/deal with a lot different kinds of people. Knowing how to talk to people is such a huge asset in life. Nothing is more valuable than your relationships. The person you’re talking to could be your next boss or give you the most amazing opportunity.
By knowing how to talk to people, that’s how I survived my first months back in Finland. Finnish people aren’t exactly the most open people, so it was definitely easier to meet people when I knew how to make conversation.
What is your favorite memory of Beijing?
Beijing Olympics 2008. I worked for the Finnish Olympic Team. I got to experience amazing things and meet people who have actually helped me in my career afterwards.
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
I definitely want to finish my studies in Beijing and gather up as much knowledge and experience in the media industry. In 5 years, on this day, I hope to be moving somewhere else for new adventures!
Photos courtesy of Laura Sarikka