I have been living the Finnish student life for two years now, and I must admit that my experience has given me unforgettable memories and enjoyable moments.
I come from Cyprus, a beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea, where I grew up and lived until my early 20s. Cyprus is a warm country, filled with overly social people and busy yet balanced life. Moving to Finland, especially settling down was very challenging for me. Even though I am half-Finn, and I can fluently communicate in Finnish, it was still difficult to fit in. The cultural shock was deep – the society and way of living contrasted with what I was used to.
During my first year of studies, I barely made any connections with people, however, this gave me the opportunity to come closer with nature and explore my second hometown by myself. Spending so much time on my own, helped be become more independent and learn how to take care of myself during difficult and unprecedented circumstances. The highlight of my first year was the excitement I felt when I first saw snow and got the opportunity to try various sports and observe the mesmerizing views through nature paths and explorations.
Amid my second year of studies, I met great new people – exchange students from around the world. Having someone to share my day and student life with was life changing. I got the chance to have an even better image of Tampere, and go to places, events, and local happenings to which I would have not gone if I was alone. Allowing yourself to socialize and make new acquaintances is worth it. Some of the activities we did were, northern light hunting, bonfires by the lake, sauna, and many others.
Even though I was told beforehand that Finnish culture is very individualistic, I confirmed it during these past two years. The people are truly great, but you hardly ever get the chance to hang out with them more than once, thus a true bond is not often created. They are kind, and easy-going, and among their top priorities is nature (and having fun in their own way). What I also loved, was the local food markets with fresh ingredients for cooking and tasting local traditional food. Pastries are always fresh in such places, and the tases is authentic. So I would definitely suggest to food lovers to give local markets a try, and to explore the gastronomy of scandic countries and culture from a different to the usual perspective.
Unforgettable will be my experience attending a final hockey match. Adrenaline was really high during those stressing moments, but it was beautiful to see how united the crowed and fans were. Celebrations were peaceful and very exciting. It’ something I would definitely suggest doing while visiting Finland, especially if you are into sports.
Of course, I am beyond blessed and thankful for the experiences I have made, people I have met, and the growth I have seen in myself. There are still parts to the puzzle, which I want to give the opportunity to explore and give a second try.