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Summer School Alum Story: Toward personal growth and intrinsic motivation in the Self Leadership course

Summer School alum Christina Malikiosi discusses her journey towards intrinsic motivation and self-development through the Self Leadership course.
Christina Malikiosi työstämässä tehtävää oppitunnilla.
Christina (middle) working on an exercise in class. Photo: Laura Lumijärvi / Aalto University.

Inspired by the Finnish educational system, Christina Malikiosi traveled from Greece to participate in the Self Leadership course at Aalto University last summer. Her study background is in philology, particularly Greek and Latin literature and linguistics. Her dream is to work as a teacher and get to provide young people with not only academic knowledge but also important values, support, and a positive outlook on life. 

For Christina, attending the summer school was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, offering her a unique window into the local educational system. "The Finnish educational system is considered one of the best in the world," Christina emphasizes. "In Greece, Finnish schools and universities are always used as the positive paradigm and example when we want to compare our education with a foreign one. After I spent two weeks at Aalto University, I can confirm that the university's excellent function and organization, its facilities and location surrounded by beautiful nature, and the teachers’ and students' mentality of 'openness' and willingness to help us and make us feel comfortable are some of the reasons why Finnish universities are famous worldwide."

Christina raising her hand during one of the Self Leadership sessions.
Christina during the final day of class. Photo: Tommi Byman / Aalto Ventures Program.

Motivation and empathetic listening as key takeaways from the course

The Self Leadership course focused on finding a balance between meeting strategic goals and managing time in a healthy way. Students were encouraged to analyze the motivational factors behind their actions. When asked about her key takeaways from the course, Christina was quick to underline the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. During the summer school, she realized that many of her actions were pushed by extrinsic rewards rather than an inner desire. She intends to apply this newfound realization to her studies and life, with the goal of finding intrinsic motivational factors to inspire her in the future.

In a global classroom, Christina found herself enriched by the various conversations and experiences she took part in during the course. "The discussions and activities that helped us to develop empathetic listening were really beneficial for me," she reflects. "I feel that I have become a less selfish and more empathetic listener, not only because of the specific activities related to the growth of empathetic listening but also because of the numerous group conversations during the two weeks of the course."

While other Summer School alums have found the multicultural group to pose challenges in communication from time to time, Christina feels the opposite: “If anything, it led to easier bonding because all of us shared the common desire to know each other’s country, culture, and tradition.” The multicultural environment fostered by the course was Christina’s favorite part of the summer school experience. 

Christina and her summer school friends playing the Finnish "Mölkky" game.
Christina (second from the left) and other summer school students playing the Finnish “Mölkky” game at their welcome event. Photo: Laura Lumijärvi / Aalto University.

Just take the risk – live the experience to the fullest

Christina's advice to prospective students considering Aalto University Summer School is straightforward and encouraging: “Just take the risk and you will not regret it! I had classmates that came literally from the other side of the Earth, and they have proved that you don’t have to hesitate to make such a long trip!” 

Prior to the course, Christina was nervous to speak English as it was not her first language. Throughout the summer school, she found that the classroom was a safe space where everyone could express themselves freely, without any fear of judgment. She wants future students of the summer school to remember that no comment is wrong or boring and that participating in group discussions can be very fulfilling. “Most importantly, be yourself during the summer school weeks, and don’t be afraid to show your personality and who you are”, she encourages. “Live the experience to the fullest!”

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