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Work and language internship in the Olav Thon Group: "Experience is worth more than money."

Tetiana Yurchenko, 46, moved to Norway one week before Russia invaded her home country of Ukraine. In Oslo, she did her work and language internship in the IT department of the Olav Thon Group.

Portrett av Tetiana Yurchenko
After finishing her internship in the Olav Thon Group, Tetiana started a psychology group for Ukranians in Moss. PHOTO: Madeleine Gedde Kjällgren

From Kyiv to Oslo and the Olav Thon Group

Tetiana Yurchenko worked as a project manager at Elko, a company that supports organisations with digital solutions, in Kyiv. When the threat of war loomed in her homeland of Ukraine, she took her sons and moved to Norway.

Through the refugee service, she was eventually assigned to a work and language internship at the head office of the Olav Thon Group (OTG) in Oslo.

Focus on individual and qualifications

"In the OTG, we are interested in a diverse workforce in terms of ethnicity, gender, religion and sexual orientation. Our focus is on the individual and qualifications, not on whether or not we can pronounce someone's name correctly. This is important for achieving the diversity we desire in the group," says the office manager in the Real Estate Service Marthe Kristin Jacobsen.

It was Marthe who gave Tetiana the opportunity to intern in the OTG and she is clear about how important it is for the company culture to bring in people with different backgrounds.

She says that not all internships have been as successful as Tetiana's, but she still believes it is important to take social responsibility and help people with work experience.

"I fundamentally believe that we need to give people a chance, which a large group like ours can afford. We need to give back."

Tetiana was well versed in IT, but not in Norwegian

Tetiana holds a degree in electrical engineering from a prestigious university in Kyiv and her CV was not a good match for the tasks she was initially assigned in the Real Estate Service. She was therefore transferred to the IT department.

"I have over 20 years of experience with IT. Here, I can work with many of the same digital systems I used in Ukraine and, for example, I am familiar with the server, network and data storage systems from past experience," she explains.

While IT was a language that Tetiana could speak when she moved to Norway, the Norwegian language was much more challenging. During her first year in Norway, she was enrolled in a daily language course, while she now takes an adult education evening class twice a week in Moss. She also gets to practice her language skills in the workplace.

"At first, it was difficult not knowing the language, but I now speak Norwegian every day and constantly learn new words. Today, for example, I called hotels and operations managers and spoke to them in Norwegian," she says with pride.

Work internship offers valuable experience

A work and language internship will come in handy for Tetiana when looking for a permanent job after her internship.

"This is the best place I could have been assigned because the experience is worth more than money!"

She has discovered that there are lots more meetings in Norwegian offices, while Ukrainians tend to write more emails. "There is also more small talk about children and what people did on the weekend," she says and describes the work environment in the Olav Thon Group as fantastic, friendly and warm. 

Plenty to offer

Tetiana would not mind a full-time job in an IT department, but she has plenty to offer and much to contribute in lots of different areas.

She is also a trained clinical psychologist. After finishing her work internship in the Olav Thon Group, she tells how she started a psychology group for Ukrainians in Moss.


  1. MJ Marthe Kristin Jacobsen Office Manager at Eiendomsservice