Four months went by and it’s June already, which means that my traineeship at the International Office in Joensuu is over. Every student who went to study or work abroad will agree that it is an unforgettable experience. Here are my reasons why the stay in Joensuu was the best thing I could do during my last semester at university.
- People at the office
As I later found out, my task at the university administration department was to stir up the waters a bit and bring some element of internationalisation into the offices. Haha… I think that everybody coped with my presence and my non-existent Finnish quite well. All the people that I met in the corridors or offices at the UEF were very kind, helpful and open-minded. And even though all of them were far above me in knowledge and experience, everyone treated me as their equal. The people I worked with were patiently answering all my questions and helped me boost my confidence, which is the best thing anyone can do for you.
2. People outside the office
One of the biggest advantages of doing an internship at university is the fact that you get work experience but can still stay in contact with other students and foreigners. Joensuu is not a big town but the amount of internationals is significant. And even if you are not the biggest party-goer in the world, after a few weeks, wherever you go, you will meet somebody you already know. In addition, I hadn’t become friends with so many natives on any of my previous stays abroad as I did here in Joensuu. Finns are really not that shy as they claim to be. 😀
- Work experience
This traineeship gave me a hands-on experience of the day-to-day work in an International Relations office, an experience that I would have never got back at home. I had an opportunity to learn various tasks, observe how things work and are done elsewhere, participate at various unforgettable events (SciFest!!!) and meet many inspiring and remarkable people of diverse backgrounds and professions. This traineeship also kind of ruined my future professional life, because my expectations of a potential employer are very high now and I will compare every job to this work experience.
4. Finnish traditions and lifestyle
I enjoyed Finnish winter, spring, as well as unexpectedly hot summer. I swam in icy water, went to sauna more times than in my previous 24 years, tried snowshoeing, went bird watching, listened to Finnish music from Jean Sibelius to Antti Tuisku, experienced Finnish Easter and Vappu, made lettu, ate mämmi, munkki, salmiakki and reindeer meat, drank sima and lehtikuohu, learnt that distance is relative and also to appreciate and see green leaves and grass where they are not. 🙂 I visited two schools and got the glimpse of the renowned Finnish education. I witnessed the Finnish sense of equality, justice and truthfulness in practise and wished it was more like that back at home. One Finnish habit that, however, better stay here is drinking milk with lunch. Ei, kiitos!
This was probably the most intensive stay abroad, since I spoke my native language very rarely and had to speak English all the time. I had also several opportunities to speak French. In addition, everyone around me spoke Finnish, and believe me, it really sounds nice to foreign ears. As for my Finnish, let’s say that I understand when people are talking about food, in most cases I can tell if a given Finnish first name is male or female one, can use the expression ‘no niin’ in various situations and know some very useful Finnish administrative vocabulary.
- Relaxed atmosphere
Finns are very sporty people, so you start to be more active yourself. No school related issues, no stress at the office, woods, lakes and beaches everywhere you go and fresh air. Plus besides work you still have plenty of time to travel and discover new places. All this means that I feel as relaxed as I have ever been.
I don’t know if I end up working in the field of international relations, nevertheless, I will always encourage everybody to go abroad because it is an incredible experience and it will change you for the better. Anywhere you go, you will start to see things that you would like to transfer to your home country, but you will also start to appreciate more what you already have at home. In addition, I know from my own experience that true friendships and relationships that you had before Erasmus or even those which you made during Erasmus will last. There is nothing to lose, just to gain.