Beginning your SoEx Journey

Starting a new chapter in one’s life is never an easy thing to do, and beginning a new Master’s degree is definitely not the easiest thing to start. It’s definitely made more intimidating when moving to a new continent, country, city, or even university. Some of you reading this may have already completed a master’s degree, and many be slightly more comfortable beginning your studies with SoEx. Nevertheless, as you enter into your studies in Social Exclusion, this marks a new chapter in your life and there may be aspects to it that are unfamiliar or certainly a bit nerve wrecking. Having initially gone through the process of moving between three continents and starting a new life in Finland to complete the SoEx degree, I can claim with certainty that I understand the intimidation of embarking on this new ‘journey’. So I thought I would share a few of my thoughts about how to begin your studies, and hopefully by the end of this post things will be slightly less intimidating and your excitement is the only thing you’re focused on!

A brief context to myself before I get into my arrival in Finland: I was born and raised in Zambia, in South-Central Africa and moved to Canada when I was 18 to do my Bachelor’s degree. After five years in Canada, studying, working and building a life, I made the huge decision to move to Finland and I’ve never looked back. This was three years ago when the Social Exclusion programme was in its first year; so I have the rather unique opportunity to speak to you as one of the first ever graduates of SoEx. I have been fortunate enough in my time since graduating to continue working at Åbo Akademi as a Project Assistant to the SoEx Master’s Degree Programme. So, what was it like in the beginning?
To say that I was not nervous would be a lie, and certainly all of the friends I made along the way (the closest of whom came from the programme) would say the same. Moving to Finland is no small step if you’ve never lived in Europe before, or even if you have I’m sure you’d be able to say it is a wholly different experience. Acclimation to the Finnish reality can sometimes take a bit of time but from my experience, it becomes quite enjoyable and familiar once you’ve found your footing and settled in. Aside from mundane difficulties such as grocery shopping at lidl (which I admit to never having heard of before moving here), or figuring out the best cafes and bars in the city; the study side of the transition was rather smooth. I was fortunate to have two amazing student tutors in my first year, both of whom I consider close personal friends still three years hence. The student tutors are your first exposure to your new academic life, and they will spend the first few weeks with you helping you settle into the university. Together with the Orientation week designed by the university, your first week at Åbo Akademi will definitely help you feel settled in no time! During this first week, you will be shown the city that you will call home for the next two years, in addition to being shown the student cafeterias (where you will definitely spend a lot of your meal times!). You will also receive all the necessary information such as how to get your student card, library card, login information, etc. Really everything you need to know over the two years, you will learn it all in the first week! Additionally, there are social events designed by your tutors and the university where you will be able to interact and meet people from different subjects, faculties and universities. So it really is a beneficial week to get settled. It is during this time that you will also meet your teachers and some of the personnel involved in the programme, and you’ll be able to ask them any questions you may have. The benefit to studying at Åbo Akademi is that everyone involved in the programme are very approachable so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it!
Following orientation week I can say that you will definitely have started to feel a bit settled as you’ll be more familiar with your new location, the studies, and you’ll have already met a few people who could potentially be your closest friends in a few years. Based on my experience, and indeed the experiences of many people that have come to study at Åbo Akademi with whom I have spoken, the intimidation of the new beginning washes away rather quickly once you have actually arrived in Turku and are able to experience the programme in only the first weeks. Hopefully this post has put some of your lingering anxieties at ease and made you feel all the more excited about your choice to join the Social Exclusion Master’s programme. We look forward to seeing you!

Teachers and Staff (2021-2022)

In this post, I will be introducing you to the people involved with the Social Exclusion Master’s Degree Programme. I will breakdown the personnel as well as their contribution to making the programme what it is.

Aminkeng Alemanji Atabong (Amin) is the face that you will be familiar with having gone through the interview process before your acceptance into SoEx. He is head of programme and university teacher, and you will therefore get to know him quite well throughout the duration of your studies at Åbo Akademi. Amin will also be teaching numerous courses throughout the two years of your studies: Social Exclusion: Key Approaches; Seminar I: English Language and Academic skills for Studies in Social Exclusion; Seminar II: Methods for Studies of Social Exclusion; The Geography of Social Exclusion; and Race, Racism and Antiracism. His office is located in Arken and he will be available to contact should you require assistance at any point in your degree studies.

As stated in a previous post, SoEx consists of specializations in history, philosophy, gender studies, study of religions (and theology). During your studies you will come to know of your specialization requirements much better, and so too the personnel. For now however, I will provide a quick introduction to the teachers and staff behind SoEx. Professor Holger Weiss is a professor of General History at Åbo Akademi who will be teaching the course Social Exclusion in a Historical Perspective in the first semester. Laura Hellsten is a post-doctoral researcher, project researcher, and research associate who will be teaching the course Social Exclusion: Patterns of Oppression and Resistance. Camilla Kronqvist is a University teacher at the Philosophy department who will be teaching the course Social Exclusion in a Philosophical Perspective. Francis Benyah is a doctoral student in the faculty of Faculty of Arts, Psychology and Theology, in the Study of Religions, who will be teaching the course Social Exclusion, Religion and Lifeviews: Main Perspectives.  Leonardo Da Costa Custódio is a Doctor of social sciences, post-doctoral researcher and co-founder of the ARMA Alliance, and he will be teaching the course Communication, Media Activism and Social Change. Finally, Sarah Mattila is a university teacher at the English Language department in Åbo, who will be teaching Seminar I: English Language and Academic skills for Studies in Social Exclusion, alongside Amin in the first semester.

Some important personnel in the programme to keep in mind and be aware of are Pia-Maria Gardberg who will be your Study Adviser through the duration of your studies and will provide study guidance and counselling. Sanna Westerlund is the Academic Affairs Coordinator and will be able to assist with issues related to education and studies, or will be able to direct you to someone who will be able to assist you with your specific issue. Martins Kwazema is a Project Asistant to the SoEx programme, and a doctoral candidate at the Faculty of Arts, Psychology and Theology. Lastly, Khushal Naik is a Project Assistant to the SoEx programme, and a doctoral student in the Faculty of Arts, Psychology and Theology. The Project Assistants will be working alongside Amin to help coordinate the programme to ensure students get the best out of their time during their degree studies.

Racial Justice, Racial Equity, and Anti-Racism Reading List

Starting September 2021 – May 2022 we will be suggesting one book monthly as our recommended reading of the month. This monthly reading recommendation will cumulatively represent our Racial Justice, Racial Equity and Antiracism Reading list. This reading list is a starting place to find resources that speak to racial justice, racial equity, and anti-racism.

Our hope is that this reading list could be adopted by the university as The Åbo Akademi Racial Justice, Racial Equity, and Anti-Racism Reading List.

Please send us your book suggestion @ so that we can collectively build this initiative.

Students and staff of Social Exclusion are responsible for this initiative and will appreciate the support of everyone at the faculty and ÅAU to make this initiative a success.

SoEx Specializations

The Master’s Degree in Social Exclusion allows students to learn about the phenomenon of Social Exclusion from various perspectives. Key among these perspectives are the four areas of specialization offered at the Faculty of Arts, Psychology and Theology: gender studies, philosophy, studies of religion (or theology), and history. An easy way to think of these specializations is to think of them as a ‘minor’ to your ‘major’ subject of Social Exclusion. Whilst you will be learning about Social Exclusion from the focused perspective of your chosen ‘minor’, you will not be an expert in that field as your major subject is Social Exclusion.

I will now breakdown what it means to specialize in each of the four specializations. A specialization in gender studies “offers insights into a variety of societal and cultural phenomena and teaches critical, creative, analytical thinking around questions of marginalization and empowerment”. A philosophy specialization affords students the possibility to “hone their skills in expressing themselves in speech and writing” whilst also learning to how to think about the phenomenon of social exclusion. Study of religions “deals with religion in the past and present from various viewpoints, including purely historical studies, comparative studies and studies in the psychology, sociology, anthropology and pedagogy of religion.” Alternatively, Theology “is a discipline that studies various forms of religious phenomena from the viewpoint of Christian tradition.” In both the study of religions and theology, students will study social exclusion through a focus on the religions and lifeviews of socially excluded individuals. Finally, in the history specialization “you will not only be studying individual events, but also learn how to reveal the bigger picture within the details” to various cases of social exclusion.

Throughout the duration of the two year degree studies, students will be exposed to materials which will both educate and inform them about how social exclusion persists as a multifaceted and multidimensional phenomenon in the contemporary world. For this reason, these four specializations offer critical insights across a wide domain of topics, and utilize specialized materials to accomplish this through a multidisciplinary, and an interdisciplinary approach. Whilst students will eventually be required to choose one area of specialization in their second year, they will be introduced to the four areas of specialization throughout their two years through introductory courses in the first year and specialization courses in both years.

In the first year, students will take courses designed to introduce them to the specialization (in addition to specialization specific courses). These courses are: Social Exclusion in a Historical Perspective, Social Exclusion, Religion and Lifeviews, Social Exclusion in a Philosophical Perspective, and Diversity, Equality, Inclusion. Course descriptions and content and be found in the StudieHandboken.

Structure of the Degree Programme

The Master’s Degree Programme in Social Exclusion offers two pathways to Master’s education, the Master of Arts or Master of Theology. Keep in mind however, that the Master of Theology requires applicants to have a background in studies of religion, theology, or similar. Applicants should note this difference and be mindful of this difference when applying to the programme.

Whilst both options can be applied to, admission is awarded only to one option. For example, if you were to apply to both the Master of Arts and the Master of Theology, admission will be awarded on the basis of only one of these two options for Master’s studies. That is to reiterate, you can apply for both options. Students can recieve admissions for both tracks. However, they have to select one at the end.

The structure of Master’s studies consists of 120 ECTS (or credits) to be completed over the two years. They are broken down as follows:

  • Master’s Thesis – 30 ECTS
  • Mandatory Courses – 60 ECTS
  • Specialization Courses – 20 ECTS
  • Free studies – 10 ECTS

The strength of the programme rests in its four key specializations: gender studies, philosophy, studies of religion (or theology), and history. Over the course of the two years, students will be exposed to the phenomenon of Social Exclusion from the perspective of the four key areas of specialization. This will be explained in more detail in a further post.

The current structure of the programme (2020-2022) is broken down as follows. In the first year, you will complete 70 ECTS. This will be comprised of seven courses in the first semester (35 ECTS) in autumn and seven courses in the second semester (35 ECTS) in the winter. The current structure and courses available during the first year are broken down thusly:

  • Semester 1: 7 Courses – 35 ECTS
    • Period 1:
      • Social Exclusion Key Approaches (5 ECTS)
      • Seminar 1 – Academic skills and English skills (2.5 ECTS)
      • Communication, Media Activism, and Social Change (5 ECTS)
      • Specialization Course 1 (5 ECTS)
    • Period 2:
      • Seminar 1 – Academic skills and English skills (2.5 ECTS)
      • Social Exclusion in a historical perspective (5 ECTS)
      • Social Exclusion, Religion and Lifeviews (5 ECTS)
      • Specialization Course 2 (5 ECTS)
    • Semester 2: 7 Courses – 35 ECTS
      • Period 3:
        • Geography of Social Exclusion (5 ECTS)
        • Social Exclusion – Patterns of Oppression & Resistance (5 ECTS)
        • Free Studies 1
        • Free Studies 2
      • Period 4:
        • Race, Racism & Antiracism (5 ECTS)
        • Social Exclusion in a Philosophical Perspective (5 ECTS)
        • Diversity, Equality, Inclusion (5 ECTS)

At the end of the first year, students will be asked to declare their intention to which specialization they have chosen to specialize in. They will also be asked for their preliminary thoughts of a thesis topic which will help to determine supervision for their theses in the second year. Please note that the thesis topic can be changed in the future, and will be developed further during the second year seminar. The second year will consist of four courses (20 ECTS) and the master’s thesis (30 ECTS). The structure is as follows:

  • Year 2 (50 ECTS) = 4 Courses (20 ECTS) + Master’s Thesis (30 ECTS)
    • Seminar 2 – Methods for studies in Social Exclusion (5 ECTS)
    • Introduction to Intercultural Communication (5 ECTS)
    • Specialization course 3 (5 ECTS)
    • Specialization 4 (5 ECTS)
    • Master’s Thesis (30 ECTS)

Upon successful completion of all 120 ECTS, you will be awarded either a Master of Arts or Master of Theology within the Master’s Degree Programme in Social Exclusion at Åbo Akademi.

Welcome to Social Exclusion MA @ ÅAU!

This is the official blog for the Social Exclusion Master’s Degree Programme. Here you will find important information about the Social Exclusion (SoEx) Programme, in addition to content created by the students of SoEX themselves.  We strive to keep the content as up to date as possible, and it is worth noting that information about specific courses can and will be subject to change in the future as they are updated. Further information about specific courses can be found on the Student handbook (Studiehandboken).

If you are interested in knowing more about the programme, you can find further information our official webpage, or you can reach us by email at You can also find us on social media on Facebook and Twitter.

The contents of this blog and associated media are intended for academic purposes only and is a platform to share the contents of the Degree Programme, thus we ask that contents published in these posts will not be misused for purposes other than for its intended purposes.

We look forward to sharing more about Social Exclusion!

If you are interested in contributing to the blog please contact one of the following:

  • Programme email –
  • Jasmin Slimani –
  • Amin –