The Diary of a (Mature) Student Learning Disability Nurse Abroad: Weeks 5 & 6.

Panoramic views from the tower.

Well, here we are again, it’s ‘blog day’ and I’m approaching the final chapter of my Finnish adventure. I have two more weeks here, and only one week in practice which is actually quite upsetting. I have really bonded with the students and the staff at the Opisto and it’s going to be a real wrench leaving everybody come May 06th. I have been spending lots of time writing my dissertation which has kept me occupied during the evenings, and have balanced this with lots of walking during my free time. I feel fitter and healthier than I have in a long time.

Horses, horses everywhere!

Since I last posted, Spring has finally arrived and it really is a wonderful time to be in Finland. Within two weeks the snow has all but disappeared and the grass and the flowers are making a tentative appearance. I have been amazed at how quickly this has all happened, and it really does feel magical. It feels as though the whole country is waking up – the birds have appeared and they are singing in the woods, the lake is beginning to thaw and you can actually see water, and you can really sense the excitement in the Finnish people – I have only been here for six weeks, but they have been enduring snow since September!!

I see water!!

My last two weeks have been as good as my first four, but I guess I have settled in to a comfortable working routine. I still have my ‘wow’ moments, but I have acclimatised to the working week and have immersed myself in Finnish life. I have tried to walk the Finnish walk, and talk the Finnish talk, and it has really helped me to become part of the team and make friends. This has also been helped by the fact that everybody I work with has a really good sense of humour and everybody is so eager to teach me things about the language and the culture. The only thing I’m not quite ready to learn is how to be Finnish in the sauna 😱

I could live in this!

At this point, I do have to mention a small legacy that I shall be leaving behind in Lehtimäki. . . .

Since the start of my placement, I have connected with a couple of the students by ‘high-fiving’ and touching thumbs to overcome the language barrier, this is now being reinforced with a few English and Finnish words and it has become a regular part of our daily routine. Anyway, one morning right at the start of my placement, I was carrying out some care wearing latex gloves and one of the students called ‘high-five’ as I popped my head out of a room. Now, obviously I couldn’t do this with out taking my gloves off (I need to point out that they were clean at this point!) so rather than disappoint him I offered him my elbow, and he bumped his against mine. Now, this might seem a little inconsequential, but it kind of became our thing and everyday we’d bump elbows and say ‘YES’. Funnily enough, this has kind of caught on, and I now bump elbows about fifteen times a day with two or three different people (I’m sure people think it’s a traditional English greeting). So, if you ever find yourself in Finland and somebody offers you an elbow by way of greeting – lightly tap it with your own, shout ‘YES’ and think of me. 🤗

Why does this sky remind me of The Simpsons?

Now I know this is a bit random, but I also want to talk a little bit about ‘recycling’. One thing that has really impressed me since I have been here is how beautiful the country is, and how hard they work at sustaining this. For example, if they chop down ten trees in the forest, they will plant ten trees in their place. Recycling is something that is also taken really seriously, and considering that there is no ‘dustbin collection’ out here, it is something that everybody has to take upon themselves. This involves keeping your papers, metals and plastics separately and then taking them to the recycling bins situated by the supermarket. One idea that I absolutely love is the ‘aluminium can’ collection point inside the supermarket which gives you .15€ for each can you take back. Now obviously I don’t have many cans knocking around as I only really drink mineral water, but if I did this would be a great incentive to recycle (seven cans would equal £1). I have been saving my used cans since I arrived and currently have 0.30€ to cash in, which is almost enough for a stick of liquorice!

Lehtimäki church.

I also had a nice surprise on Tuesday when I received a visit from Anita one of my lecturers from University. It was lovely being able to show her around and introduce her to everybody on placement. We had lots to talk about, and not only did she get to experience a day on placement with me, she also got to experience one of my eleven mile walks – I think she enjoyed it! It was lovely to see a face from ‘back home’ and even lovelier that she found time to give me a tutorial, and have a look through some of my work. I still have a lot to do, but it’s always nice to hear you’re on the right track.

Anyway, the work is on hold for the weekend as I have to get ready for an Easter Saturday celebration with my friends,

The Marina

Until next time,


Ian 🤗

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