The Diary of a (Mature) Student Learning Disability Nurse Abroad: First Impressions. #WheresIan


Well, after months of my eight week placement in Finland being nothing but a collection of application forms, emails, tickets and obstacles; it is finally here.

My journey began early (0315) on Friday 08th of March when I set off for my bus to Heathrow airport, and from there I flew to Helsinki. The flight was fantastic! I had three seats all to myself and I could spread out, listen to Angus and Julia Stone on my iPad, and enjoy views of Denmark and the Baltic Sea – for the first time since I applied for the placement, the enormity of it all hit me – this is two months! Two months in a country where I have no friends and do not speak the language.

The flight was over before I knew it and from Helsinki Airport I had to catch two trains to get to Seinäjoki. This was without doubt the most stressful part of the journey. There were no information offices at the station and I really was confused as to where I was going. Luckily a very kind Finnish woman noticed my confusion and helped me navigate my way – that was my first real encounter with anyone, and her helpfulness really reassured me. Thank you Finnish lady – your help was invaluable!

After finally arriving in Seinäjoki, I caught a bus to Lehtimaki where I was met by my lovely contact ‘Helina’. She gave me a quick tour of the town before taking me back to the accommodation which will be my home for the next eight weeks. I was blown away! It is the most beautiful place I have ever been! I am situated in the middle of a Finnish wood, right next to a lake (which is currently frozen solid). I have a sauna, a wood burning stove and absolutely fantastic views out of every window! Upon my arrival, the fire was crackling away and a meal of homemade sausage and wild berry juice was waiting – the hospitality really moved me.

One thing that I have been reflecting on particularly was a conversation that I had with Helina’s husband while she was fetching bedding from her home. We got on really well, he showed me all of the intricacies and information I would need during my stay: we also discussed football, children, my journey and our meal. The interesting thing was that he didn’t speak any English and I speak no Finnish. It just demonstrates how unimportant words are, and how much we can communicate through body language, facial expressions, and a knowledge of obscure footballers.


Well, I feel properly ‘here’ today. I slept like a log and have been out exploring. I have shopped and I have started to find my bearings. The walk to the supermarket was about a mile and a half, but it was stunningly beautiful! Nordic pines, lakes, snow and log-cabins – what more could you want. The only problem was I had pretty much no idea if I was heading in the right direction, and I didn’t bump in to a single soul to ask (or non-verbally enquire) as to where the supermarket was. I found it after about forty-five minutes and the feeling of achievement was greater than any passed exam or assessment – after all, you don’t get sausages or coffee for passing academic work!

The walk home was significantly more difficult as the snow was blowing in my face and I had about half a tonne of shopping (not being one to exaggerate) but I made it! All of the way back I thought about resilience and the importance of putting one foot in front of another to get to where I needed to be. This is something that the Finnish talk about a lot! Look up the term ‘Sisu’ – it is my motto for the rest of my course!

Anyway, that’s enough for now, but I will be writing about my experiences on a weekly basis just in case anybody is interested. Next stop is a few hours on my dissertation followed by some snowman making and maybe even a snow angel. We will see 🙂

Until next week – Nakemiin, and thanks for reading 🙂


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5 thoughts on “The Diary of a (Mature) Student Learning Disability Nurse Abroad: First Impressions. #WheresIan

  1. Wow what a wonderful start on this journey in order to complete your education! Perfect place for writing quiet and focussed. Perhaps some words about that as well would gather vicarious tuition? Looking forward to more 🤓

    Liked by 1 person

  2. matey really enjoyed reading this im looking forward to following you on your great finnish adventure i will await your next story with great anticipation i have leared to exspect the unexspected with you me old pal

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ian we are all following your journey and wish you well on your Finish placement. Hurry back as we all miss you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Charmaine Gordon March 10, 2019 — 3:18 pm

    Hi Ian, I will be following your jounery, wish you all the best,you are a lovely person. Ian we miss you at St Paul’s Autism Center.Well done.


  5. Really interesting reports Ian, very glad your doing great and loving the experience! I am very interested in the centre that your working at, I worked at a place very similar in New Hampshire, USA years ago. Take care mate 🙂


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