Are you experiencing dark days for the first time? Hey! Don’t give up!

Wintery landscape with half frozen lake, ducks swimming and frosted trees.
A glimpse of the Nordic Winter in 2023. Picture: Afreena Emrose Ontee

‘Are you crazy? Isn’t it too dark during the winter in Finland? How do you survive???’ Exactly, this was the question that arose so many times from my friends and colleagues when I was planning to move from Bangladesh to Finland.

I am Afreena Emrose Ontee from Bangladesh and studying to pursue the MSc. degree in Sustainable Architecture program at Tampere University. When everyone is scared about how to survive in the darkest winter, I am enjoying a brand-new weather experience. Do you want to know ‘How’? Let’s start!

Personally, I have never experienced snow, extreme winter and dark days. In Bangladesh where I come from, the average temperature ranges from 10 to 34 degrees Celsius depending on the season. As you see, it’s completely different weather for me in Finland. But I never gave up thinking that the weather would be the toughest for me. Rather I consider myself fortunate to experience both warm-humid and the most winter climates in my life. I feel excited to experience completely different weather in a new country.

I consider myself fortunate to experience both warm-humid and the most winter climates in my life.

Snow, Cold, Darkness – the most common words that come to your mind when you are talking about Finland. December, January and February are the coldest months in Finland while temperature remains 0 to -20 degrees Celsius mostly. December is the darkest month of the year and the length of the day is around six hours. This year Winter Solstice is marked on 22 December in the Northern Hemisphere. The dark days usually last for around 50 days in a year.

The longer dark days might sound scary for international students who are experiencing this for the first time. But believe me, it’s not actually scary at all. There is sparkle of joy too.

The magical snowy weather

Wintery landscape in a park.
I can’t resist myself to capture the amazing nature during the dark days. Picture: Afreena Emrose Ontee

To be honest, I was slightly nervous about the dark days at first. But I was also eager to see and feel the first snowfall in my life. On an ordinary dark and cold morning, I was walking to my first class of the day and suddenly it started to snow. I stopped for a while thinking about “What? Is it happening already?” My eyes opened wide and I jumped to catch the snow. The pure white snow reflected its light and brightened up the dark environment. The snowfall shower was the most heavenly moment while I was surrounded by celestial snowflakes. I can’t express what a magical moment it was! 

To be frank, all dark days are not the same. You might experience the crisp of air while walking and get rid of the thoughts swirling in your head when light bounces back from the snow to your eyes. Nature inspires me: if I’m getting stuck, going out always light’s up my thinking processes and helps to step forward more energetically.



Nature inspires me: if I’m getting stuck, going out always light’s up my thinking processes and helps to step forward more energetically.


Wintry events light the city of Tampere

Tampere city never fails to charm you in the dark days. I have been here only for the last 3 months, but I have experienced the seasons changing with the colorful events adapting to it and celebrating it. One of my favorite was the Tampere Festival of Light’ which illuminates the city center, street projections and exciting light art for the darkest season of the year. For the first time, the rhythm of lights projection in water with music and the huge enthusiastic crowd was a surreal experience for me. Literally, I enjoyed the event with the -2 degree Celsius temperature.

Christmas market in a evening light. Text: Joulutori.
‘Tampere Joulutori’-The colorful Christmas vibe around the city during dark days. Picture: Afreena Emrose Ontee
Santa peeking from a Christmas tree.
A surprise visit with Santa Claus await only for you. Picture: Afreena Emrose Ontee











The longer dark days welcome the Christmas vibe in December. The Christmas market named ‘Tampere Joulutorioffers a real spirit of the upcoming Christmas and create a merry atmosphere to raise your energy to the fullest. Here you can find the local artists, craftsmen and their artworks as Christmas souvenirs and presents. Meeting with Santa is a huge bonus with the events. The colorful city ambiance never fails to entertain you.

Ways to keep your mind light

In the face of dark and wintry days, I consciously choose not to let them become a source of hopelessness or gloominess. My strategy involves keeping myself engrossed in class lectures, submissions, and presentations. As a student in the Architecture department, my passion for exploring Nordic architecture provides me with a creative outlet.

While occasional moments of boredom or low spirits are inevitable, I have found solace in wandering outside, exploring the city, and socializing with friends. Observing city events, strolling through night streets, witnessing trams pass by, and enjoying seeing people walking their pets in the evening all contribute to a dynamic and lively atmosphere.

Christmas market in night light.
An evening walk amid city events ready to mesmerize you somehow you feel down. Picture: Afreena Emrose Ontee


Wintery landscape in a park.
I love experiencing nature-changing colors in Finnish winter days. Picture: Afreena Emrose Ontee
Wintery landscape in a park.
Dark days are the best time to engage yourself in whatever you like to do the most. Picture: Afreena Emrose Ontee

During the dark days, maintaining both physical and mental well-being is crucial. Opting for activities such as walking or cycling to campus on a dark morning not only helps in proper breathing but also sets the tone for an enthusiastic day. If you don’t prefer spending time out in a cold, there are plenty of indoor options such as going to the library, gym, or indoor sports and of course: sauna.

While being here, I’ve discovered the joy of embracing the vibrant ambiance of the city. Whether it’s walks on frozen lakes, capturing photographs, engaging in ice-hockey, or marveling at the reflection of snow and enchanting city views illuminated by lights on dark days – these experiences have become the most adventurous and memorable aspects of my first winter.

My advice to fellow students: Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy every moment of your first winter – it’s a unique and enriching experience that adds a special chapter to your student life.

My top 5 – how to keep your spirit up during the dark days:

  1. Explore the city and ongoing events. 
  2. Enjoy the Christmas spirit. 
  3. Engage yourself in creative works that you love to do the most. 
  4. Do exercise and keep yourself enthusiastic. 
  5. Stay sociable.

Finally, my hearted advice to you is not only to survive in the darkest days but also to enjoy the fullest. Do experiment with whatever you want. I am sure it might turn out to be a lifetime experience for you in a Finnish winter. Stay active and stay warm!

About the author:

Afreena Emrose Ontee is a master’s student in Sustainable Architecture program at Tampere University. Afreena is from Bangladesh and completed her B.Arch. degree from the University of Asia Pacific. She is solidly passionate about sustainable building design, urban planning and is interested in researching built environments to create a better community. The eagerness to think critically influenced her constantly to explore the new city, architecture and culture in Finland.