Minna Kauppi is one of the most successful, colourful and best-known Finnish athletes in the 21st century. A nine-time world champion in orienteering, she graduated with an M.A. from the University of Jyväskylä in 2012, majoring in Swedish.
Kauppi comes from Vääksy in Asikkala. As a young girl, she keenly followed sports and dreamed of great victories in the Olympic Games and world championships. The Kauppi family were actively involved in sports and moved around a lot in nature. Learning was easy for her, and she had a strong competitive instinct. This showed in sports as well as in school. Kauppi finished general upper secondary school with the best matriculation examination grades in her school. The grade average on her school-leaving certificate was 9.8.
Although sports was the only thing that Kauppi was passionate about, continuing studies in higher education was nonetheless self-evident to her. Preferred subjects included languages and arts or alternatively business and economics and journalism. She felt that the University of Jyväskylä would be a familiar place for further studies, since her parents had graduated from there as language teachers.
“I come from the other end of Lake Päijänne. My boyfriend already lived in Jyväskylä, so everything was in order in that sense. I also knew that I would have easy access to my training facilities, even if I didn’t have my own car at my disposal.”
Sports hindered her preparation for the entrance exams to the extent that she was not admitted to the university on her first try, however. Therefore, Kauppi started journalism studies at the Folk High School in Korpilahti. During a year there, she found out that journalism didn’t suit her after all, especially because it would have been incompatible with an athlete’s schedule.
In autumn 2002, Kauppi started language studies at the University of Jyväskylä with Swedish as her major and French as her minor. She wanted to study languages because learning these had always been easy for her and knowing languages would be useful in any profession. After upper secondary school, university studies felt really free and autonomous, which perfectly suited the athlete’s life.
“My circle of friends consisted mostly of other students in orienteering, Kortepohjan Suunnistajat, with whom we participated in the university’s football series, for instance. In that community, our calendars were filled mainly with a happy mess of studies and training. Personally, after the busy summer season of competitions I always found it wonderful to return to the different atmosphere at university and studies for the autumn term.”
The Swedish language studies also included a few months as an exchange student in Stockholm. From there, Kauppi brought along Swedish magazines on interior design. Later, she used these as reference material in her master’s thesis, which used discourse analysis to look at kitchen advertisements in interior design magazines. After completing her master’s degree studies with outstanding grades, she decided to continue on campus for a couple of years. Studying felt meaningful and interesting.
“At university, you learn to search information and analyse things from several sources. I learned in a way a certain kind of critical reading. Because I was studying languages, we also had a wide range of written assignments, through which writing became really easy for me. Obviously, it has been really useful for public appearances to know different languages and can freely communicate with anybody.”
Kauppi was performing in sports at a world-class level throughout her studies. She was chosen as the Athlete of the Year in Finland in 2012. She ended her sports career in 2015. In addition to health reasons, the decision was influenced by her wish to move gradually to working life.
After her sports career, Kauppi has worked as a marketing manager and currently as a part-time executive director of an orienteering association. Part-time working suits her well now as a mother with a family.
Development and new goals have always been really important in Kauppi’s life. She advocates the idea that things can always be done better and in a different way. She is also working as an entrepreneur. Continuous learning is necessary.
“In my working career, I have deliberately taken jobs where I face diverse challenges; at the same time, I keep learning new things, and don’t get stuck with doing the same things with the same model. In this sense, the entrepreneurial role suits my own character well.”
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