Working at the UEF

The phrase On the Move sums up quite well my university studies. During those five years, I enjoyed studying at the University of Ostrava, Czech Republic, and I am thankful that I was also able to discover other places and use every opportunity to travel and study abroad. Nearing the end of my studies, I thought it would be good to experience what it is like to work abroad, too. And what a better country in which to do this than Finland, right?

So it happened that one late January afternoon I landed in Joensuu (a town whose name was not familiar even to my friends who had spent some time in Finland in the past) and moved to a house which is not typically Finnish according to my flatmates. To me it looks Finnish enough – there is a lot of wood, a sauna and Moomin towel in the bathroom.

The first weekend in Joensuu, I decided to attend an event called Surviving winter in Finland organised by a local organisation for international students. Luckily, I came to Finland after the (for me) unimaginable period of -30˚, but some surviving tips could still come in handy. The event also included a truly Finnish experience – a sauna and swimming in a lake. After a few attempts I ended up in the icy water, something nobody who knows me and my sensitivity to cold well could believe. The reactions of international students to this experience in turn provided entertainment for the Finns present, so everybody had fun. And fortunately, I did not get pneumonia before my work placement even begun, so it counts as a success.

I have spent four weeks in the office so far and I can safely say that I could not have asked for a better place or better colleagues than the University Services department at the UEF. Everybody is really nice, friendly and helpful. The work is varied and I can use what I learnt at school or during my previous work placements, but I also learn new things every day.

Finns say about themselves that they are shy and afraid to speak English. Okay shy, but compared to whom? To most Czechs, Slovaks, Germans or French? Definitely not. One advice – if you still happen to meet somebody who seems really shy (no matter the country they come from), start to do ‘weird’ things in the kitchen related to the preparation of your national dish. It will make speak even the shyest of Finnish flatmates. And as for the English… I am not an English native speaker either! I make a lot of mistakes. And I think I can safely say that people in Finland speak better English than half of the London population.

Even though everybody can speak perfect English here, I wanted to learn some basics of the beautiful Finnish language and enrolled in a Finnish language course called Survival Finnish. (The word ‘survive’ again… Do people just have to survive in Finland?) Finnish is said to be one of the most difficult European languages. What makes it quite hard for me is not the grammar (since Czech has pretty complicated grammar as well), but the fact that the vocabulary is soooo different. I am looking for even the smallest resemblances with the languages I know or details that could help me to remember the words.

My first month in Finland was so full of new experience that it would make up for a really long blog post, so I will Finish here and save something next time.

In the meantime I will not just survive but enjoy my longest winter ever.


Barbora Štivarová
trainee at the UEF Development Services