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Our alumnus Rajkumar Sabanadesan: I want to set an example that an immigrant can also succeed

Published on 13.2.2024
Tampere University of Applied Sciences
Sabanadesan stands in front of lake Näsijärvi, Näsinneula in the backround.
Rajkumar Sabanadesan's incredible life story gives hope that everyone can make it in life with some hard work and perseverance, even if the starting point is difficult. He nevertheless urges today's students to take it easy and enjoy their studies - there is no rush in life.

Rajkumar Sabanadesan arrived in Finland as a 19-year-old asylum seeker in 1994, in the midst of the deepest economic recession. He had left behind his former homeland of Sri Lanka, where he had become a child soldier in a civil war that tore the country apart.

Sabanadesan began a tenacious rise from a client at a reception centre to a manager of the same centre. For many years he worked in various management positions in the social and health care sector before becoming an entrepreneur and leadership coach about ten years ago.

Today, Sabanadesan lives in Tampere with his wife, her teenage children and their 7-year-old son. He is known as a social commentator who has shared his experiences in numerous interviews and columns.

– I have wanted to be as open as possible about myself and my background in order to increase understanding of immigrants. If we are given the opportunity to live in this country, at some point we will become equal citizens of society and together we can build this country for future generations, he says.

Sabanadesan wants to set an example to other immigrants that it is possible to succeed and thrive in Finland if you keep an open mind, are curious about opportunities and work hard.

– There has been a tendency among immigrants to think that there is no room for us in this country or that it is difficult or impossible to advance your career here. I would like to point out that it is not impossible if you are determined and set your mind to it.

Studies helped me to integrate into Finland

After Rajkumar Sabanadesan had moved to Finland, studies at Pirkanmaa University of Applied Sciences, which merged with Tampere University of Applied Sciences in 2010, was an important step in his integration.

Sabanadesan completed his studies in nursing and social work, followed by a specialisation in social and health management.

– I gained a lot of knowledge from my studies, which has later proved useful in my work. For me, the studies were also an integration programme, which gave me an insight into how the Finnish system works and what studying and working life here is like.

When Sabanadesan was studying to become a nurse, he didn't know whether he would be allowed to stay in Finland permanently. He still warmly reminisces the support he received from his teachers and fellow students during the harrowing and difficult asylum process.

Later, Sabanadesan also completed a trainer's degree and studied neuroscience, career counselling and coaching. His next step is to obtain a further qualification as a professional teacher.

Sabanadesan has worked hard to progress in his career and achieve his dreams. But for today's students, he has a reassuring message.

– Take it easy and enjoy your studies. There is no rush in life.

Live in the moment

In his work as a management and workplace coach, Rajkumar Sabanadesan is particularly passionate about meeting and helping people. He believes that a content human being brings a lot of good to everyone.

Sabanadesan encourages people to take a pause, be present and reflect what is important to them.

– The problem we have in the West is that we are always living in the future. But we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Happiness comes from living in the moment.

After settling in Finland, Sabanadesan did not follow the news from his former home country Sri Lanka for a long time. That all changed when he became a father seven years ago.

– I felt the need to introduce my child to his father’s home country. Since then, I have followed Sri Lankan affairs quite closely.

Last year, Sabanadesan took his son to Sri Lanka for five weeks. It was a wonderful experience for him, even though the country is suffering from a severe economic crisis, poverty, and unrest.

– Sri Lanka is a beautiful country with so much potential. Unfortunately, the country is just “very badly run," Sabanadesan reflects.


Who: Rajkumar Sabanadesan

Degrees: BA in Nursing 2000, BA in Social Work 2006. Specialization studies in social and health care management 2008.

Work: Entrepreneur and government professional, leadership and workplace coach, social debater. Volunteer as a work-life coach for young adults.

Free time: Most of his free time is spent with his family, especially his 7-year-old son. Also enjoys films and following politics.


Text: Virpi Ekholm

Photo: Laura Vesa