I’m not sure how to start this blog post, not for lack of knowledge, but to try to summarize my experience over the last few months in a few paragraphs.
I had always been attracted by that university life in which students were given the opportunity to choose one country among many to live there for a period. And as the saying goes, ’Time flies by and my time has come’. I wasn’t sure which country I was going to choose, but when I read it, it was one hundred percent clear: Finland.
But why Finland? ”You won’t stand the cold”. ”It’s too far away”. ”It’s in the North Pole”. Really? After a lot of brainstorming and questioning my decision, it was clear to me that I wanted to go to the furthest place from my current country to be able to live and learn from a culture extremely different from mine and see what I can learn from it! And obviously to reinforce my English, of course…
But as anyone my age would do nowadays, during the months before, I had to do an FBI inspection of ’Everything I must know about Finland before traveling’ so I swear I knew more about Finland in all those afternoons than in my whole stay.
My first contact with the experience was undoubtedly the outbound flight and its tiring layovers. However, once in the country, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the incredible green landscapes. Pori, which is the city I was going to stay in, looked like a typical city out of a family movie. The organization and structures were more of the same, and although I didn’t understand anything of what the people around me were saying, they seemed to be very friendly and respectful.
Once the weeks had passed, I had settled into the flat, scouted out the area, and knew the classes I was going to be taught as well as my experience partners, my three stages of what I call ’FIN-Enamoramiento’ began.
Fin = Finland
Enamoramiento (Spanish word) = falling in love
Phase 1 of ‘FIN- Enamoramiento’
This first phase, as in any beginning, is the phase in which you hallucinate everything: people, streets, nature, landscapes, shops, food (although very expensive), weather (in summer and with more daylight hours than normal), education, economy, etc. I couldn’t believe that I was 6106,8 km away from home and living this great opportunity that not everyone can experience.
The campfire evenings by the river or in the park were magical; the sunsets with those incredible colors were dreamy; the parties with music (some we didn’t understand) and with a group of unforgettable friends where people focus on having a good time; those first contacts with young Finns where, as usual when learning a language, they teach you the most ’beautiful’ words (you know what I mean); the incredible beach of Yyteri or the farm of Merikarvia together with cities like Tampere, Turku, Rauma or Helsinki made my stay a place to live forever.
We were surprised how many Finns had learned Spanish through the series ’La casa de Papel’ or even shocked to have to eat lunch at 11 AM in the morning when for us the usual time was breakfast, or the emphasis and enthusiasm, they put into cheering on their hockey team; among many other cultural shocks.
Phase 2 of ‘FIN-Enamoramiento’
Once the weeks have passed and as usual, the homesickness stage begins, when you start to miss your usual place and all that goes with it: family and friends. Everything reminds you of your home country and the comparisons begin with the food, the climate, the people, etc. Added to this is the fact that we were in the middle of the change of season and although we knew that we were going to have fewer hours of daylight, we were not really used to it.
However, we can only highlight funny anecdotes such as having dinner at 5 PM in the evening, something that would be unthinkable in Spain; confusing the times and thinking that it was 11 PM and it was still 7 PM; those first slips in the snow and comparisons with the calmness with which the Finns walk when they are used to it or even that we were wearing 5 layers of clothes and the rest had only 1 or 2.
Phase 3 of ‘FIN-Enamoramiento’
This is the most beautiful stage of all. At this stage you are already used to living there, you understand the reasons for many things and situations, what to do (good manners) and what not to do (bad manners), the typical foods or the funniest phrases of the language, the exchange of cultures that occurs in many situations and what you learn from it, the desire to discover and make more and more different plans to get to know Finland and its people.
But the most beautiful thing about this phase is undoubtedly the great maturity that you manage to acquire and above all to prove to yourself that you are capable of adapting and learning on your own or with friends in every situation.
Yes, I know what you are thinking now: ’here comes the most sentimental part to close this blog post’. And the truth is that it is. Finland has undoubtedly been the country where I have stayed the longest after my home country (Spain), and therefore where I have learned the most. Not only culturally speaking, but also because many of the best memories of my life and undoubtedly people have left their mark on me.
It is sad to think that once my experience is over, I will no longer live here, no longer see the people I always see, no longer do what I did here and what is really beginning to form part of my day-to-day life, but what is clear is that my memories will never leave.
I still have the second half of the year to live, and I can’t be more anxious to know what it will bring. Could it be even more surmountable than this one?
Text and photos: Aissatou Díaz-Goudiaby, an Erasmus exchange student from Universidad de la Laguna