My name is Agathe Aslanides and I started studying at UEF in 2021. I’m part French and part Greek so moving to a cold country that has “real” winters with cold temperature was a big adjustment for me. I wanted to write a few lines to, hopefully, explain my own experience of Finnish winters and a few tips I have picked up along the way. A list of advice is available at the end of this page if you want to avoid having to read it all and just want to get the grips of it.
I’m Carla, and I’ve spent my whole life in this small city in Catalonia. Since I was a kid, I’ve always had this desire to live abroad for a while. So, as a microbiology student in Barcelona, I got this chance to do an Erasmus program for my final year. I picked Finland cause I wanted something completely different, and Finland is known for its breathtaking natural landscapes, innovative education system, and unique culture. So, off I went!
I decided to apply for the ERASMUS program after hearing about it from a friend. As a 6th year medical student in Hungary, I could do part of my final year abroad as a traineeship through the program. From the list of partner universities available, I chose UEF as Finland was different from any place I had ever visited before. Also being from Namibia, Finland seemed like the opposite of my home country.
Life turning towards normalcy, it seems, feels practically like a shake-up to the “new normal”… It was three years ago that the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic. And now, even cities and countries with the strictest coronavirus precautions have been rolling back their restrictions for a while. Here, in the Middle of Knowhere, Kuopio, we, and Finland in general, were in fairly good shape during and after the pandemic. Therefore, we are truly happy to welcome back to the University of Eastern Finland an international one-day ERASMUS+ Meetup, to be held on the 7th of June at the Kuopio campus, Canthia building. We are also pleased that, after several years, Prof. David Morton from the University of Utah, School of Medicine (UUSOM), Salt Lake City, will be able to visit us and deliver a lecture again.
My first impression upon arrival in Finland was a sense of calm and security. I got the impression that there everything was made for the sake of people, e.g. easy transportation, and reachable conveniences. Not only technical aspects, but also clean air, bright sun, green forests, blue lakes, and friendly people in Kuopio. When I asked about the direction, I should take to reach the shore of the lake, the answer was “in any direction.” Kuopio turned out to be a pearl city, surrounded by clear lakes.
With all the excitement and expectations, leaving home (Africa), for the first time was like a good dream. I took all I thought I needed, including the warmest clothes I could get in Ghana, only for me to leave Accra with a temperature of about +28° Celsius to arrive in Joensuu at -12° Celsius. I had always known it was cold out here but I did not know it was this cold. It is funny and not funny at the same time.
In order to participate physically in a winter school (talvikoulu) to earn the remaining three credits necessary to complete my doctoral programme’s required 50, I boarded a plane to the Finnish capital. One of the first cultural references you run into at the airport is Tove Jansson’s Muumi. It’s popular among residents as well as in foreign countries including my home, Japan.
As doctoral researchers, we sometimes get carried away with our projects and lose sight of other areas in our lives. Occasionally, we need to tell ourselves that we are more than our doctorates.
While I research cultures in the Circumpolar North in the Social and Cultural Encounters programme, it is important for me to spend time exploring other cultures as well as (non-)academic interests. It is with this very attitude that I visited Italy – from its Alps to its more southerly coastal areas.
From the May of 2021, I have been working in the marketing team of University of Eastern Finland as a trainee. Since I worked at an admissions office in an international school before coming to Finland and worked closely with the marketing team there, I was interested in recruitment of students and promotion events for students. The jobs I have been doing in the marketing team are quite in line with the ones I did before, but the targeting age groups are different, and the scale of marketing is much bigger and wider here. The marketing team is under the Communications and relations department and, apart from my team, we have several different teams under the department such as design & video producing team, international affair team or translation team.
Summers in Finland are all too short. Time is therefore precious, and one must strive to use the available time well. COVID-19 is still impacting our lives, as everything had ground to a halt and is now trying to start up again. Hence, there has never been a better time to dream up a bucket list of things to do than now. There certainly is something about the Finnish summer that just brings the joy of life to all of us, isn’t there? Like the all-encompassing LIGHT and the white NIGHTs! As SUMMER is now in full swing and we have begun to crawl out from our home offices at University of Eastern Finland, why don’t you open the door and let your imagination fly over FINLAND? Perhaps it is a good time for you to look for future COVID-19 safe activities for your BUCKET LIST in Northern Savonia?
So, the question is: if you do not have your own mökki around…