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 🙂