Episode 65

Cultural Identity & Community Building with Kamilla Sultanova

In this episode we talk to Kamilla Sultanova, a Nordic and Uzbek citizen. She is a speaker, entrepreneur, event host, mentor, and consultant in diversity inclusion who enjoys bringing people together and helping them belong somewhere. Before Kamilla started her life in Finland in 2014, she used to live in Denmark, where she was working for a large shipping company. She is fluent in Danish and at the moment she is preparing herself for the Finnish YKI test. Concerning her language skills so far, she points out that comedy and specifically stand-up comedy got her motivated to learn languages effectively and encourages the Finnish language students to learn the language through stand-up comedy, too, since laughter amplifies the sense of belonging to the target culture.

Regarding Kamilla's current profession and background, she mentions that when she decided with her Finnish husband to move to Finland from Denmark, she started her long-distance job hunt, something that was quite challenging. After two years of working remotely from Helsinki for one of the largest shipping companies based in Denmark, she decided to leave this kind of position and signed up for Finnish language courses, as she realied that she didn't know how to communicate in Finnish. At that point, it felt like for her that reality was kicking in. She found herself again learning a foreign language from scratch. It was like a deja-vu for Kamilla. Thus, she decided to engage herself in volunteering on youth empowerment and helping people find their career paths in Finland. In that way, she was imparting her own experiences and knowledge as a foreigner in Denmark.

Talking about the education system in Finland with Petra, which is focused on promoting critical thinking, Kamilla says:

“Critical thinking gives the whole paradigm of how you mind your own happiness in Finland cause they expect you to know what you need, they expect you to know what you want and they offer you support from the city, you know the welfare state basis, [they expect from you] that you act proactively, take care and recognise what your opportunities are including lifelong learning”.

In addition to this, she mentions that as a foreigner you have to be “respectfully curious” and be stubborn with your actions and challenges, otherwise one feels easily demotivated, isolated or feels their impostor syndrome. What she constantly reminds the immigrants she works with is:

"If you come from a country where decisions are made for you, you need to take your own decisions and have power in your own hands when you move here, otherwise nothing is going to change".

Proactivity should according to Kamilla start from day one or even better - before you arrive. You should know where you're going, who is helping you, how you can help others. Kamilla also stresses out the importance of networking in various ways because there are so many things to do out there.

“All comes once people know you”. - Kamilla Sultanova

Talking about cultural identity, Kamilla mentions that nowadays she embraces her Uzbek identity in various ways, something that in the past was not the case, since she used to feel like she didn’t belong to her own country was trying to overshadow her identity.

“I started wearing more colourful Uzbek dresses here. When you're not afraid to show an expression of yourself through whatever cultural artefacts you have people that will use your clothes as a conversation starter and it's the best thing that happens. [...] You can join your own communities, if they serve you, if they don't, you can join other communities, where you feel yourself.”

Regarding her project portfolio, she has participated in several interesting and creative projects as a speaker and consultant concerning the integration of international students into the Finnish workforce, the promotion of social capital to unlock the hidden job market of Finland and she has also been part of the Talent Boost Ecosystem since 2018, which focuses on the promotion of the international talents in the Finnish job market. Furthermore, Kamilla was also a part of an interesting artistic collaboration with the public employment and business services of Finland (TE-palvelut).

Lastly, Kamilla, as a mother-to-be, highlights the support she has received so far both from the state and the society overall in this beautiful journey of motherhood that has started for her here in Finland.


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TW: https://twitter.com/KamillaUbuntu