UWC Adriatic graduate Pilvi Torsti is a researcher, writer and politician. She was instrumental in establishing UWC in Mostar in 2006, has written three travel guidebooks and represents the Finnish Social Democratic Party.
“The break-up of Yugoslavia and the Bosnian war were defining characteristics of my college years. Several of my closest friends at UWC Adriatic came from that region, so it was perhaps inevitable that I would end up working there.
After graduating from UWC in 1995, I returned to Finland to study history and journalism, learn Serbo-Croat and do a PHD. My thesis was on the use of history in Bosnia after the war. I surveyed 1,000 15-year-olds in Bosnia, which was fascinating.
It was at this point that the idea for a UWC in in the Balkans and former Soviet states emerged, almost like a practical application for my thesis. With my family, I moved to Bosnia to work on the project full-time. My husband worked remotely for his company in Finland so that he could be with me. My first son was nine months old, and my second son was born in Sarajevo. It was a bit like starting your own business in a foreign country and was incredibly hard work.
Building a future
By the time the college launched in September 2006, we had a team of 10, and I had worked on recruitment, fundraising, accounting, international organisations and local politics. It was a great experience. How else would I have been able to learn so many skills in such a short time?
Now I’m back at home in Finland with my family and have, almost by accident, become one of the very few Balkan specialists in Finland. I intend to continue with my work on the region, both at university and as a journalist. But, I also plan to keep my opportunities open for different career and lifestyle moves. I want to be open to matters that are critical in today’s and tomorrow’s world.
The vital thing that my time at UWC provided me with was the belief that it is always possible to find ways to do meaningful things and get results – if you have confidence in yourself and your sense of the world.”