Finland: So different, so magic

My experience in Finland ended just over a month ago, but I still miss that Country, so different from mine but so magica and evocative.  I’m a 24 years old Italian girl and I have been in Finland for two months, February and March. I came to Kuopio for work, thanks to a collaboration between the University of Pavia (where I studied and graduated in Pharmacy) and the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio. I left Italy full of curiosity and I returned with a bag
full of good memories and friendships, that I’ll try to maintain despite the distance.

During my stay in Kuopio I worked at the Ophthalmology department, located in the building called “ Canthia” and i could see that the University of Kuopio is very well equipped and suitable for students. There are so many aspects about Finland that have fascinated me, although some were very different from the Italian ones; now I will try to summarize what most impressed me about this beautiful Country:

Weather: obviously the climate is very different from the one in my Country: in Italy infact, even in winter, we never reach -18 / -19 degrees, but anyway, it is nothing that cannot be solved by a heavy jacket and thermal clothes. Moreover, very often, on colder days there was a beautiful sun and this contrast between snow and light made the landscape even more magical. I had never seen so much snow in my life!

People’s lifestyle: In Italy people are very expansive, talkative and sometimes “noisy”; in Finland instead, I had as a first impression that people are more reserved and introverted; in reality I discovered that they simply need someone else to take the first step by starting a conversation, to which they will then willingly participate. Also, Finnish people are very kind, and they never back down if help is needed. When I arrived in Finland I knew absolutely no one, and the members of my laboratory made themselves immediately available,
making me feel at home and recommending places to visit and activities to do in Kuopio. Moreover, Finnish people seem to take life more lightly and try to organize work in such a way as to dedicate more time to their family (a value they really care about) and to their passions and hobbies. For example, they really love nature, being outdoors, practice sports (like ice skating, skiing and snowshoeing) and relax in the sauna.

Coffee and food: for an Italian like me, coffee is an important issue. The Finnish coffee is definitely different from the Italian one, infact it is much “longer” and less intense but I have learned to drink it every day and appreciate it! In addition, Finnish desserts are very tasty, often rich in cream and cinnamon. In my laboratory there was the habit of “Pulla-Friday”: practically every Friday someone brought a dessert and after lunch they all meet to eat sweets, chat and of course, drink a lot of coffee. This is a tradition that I would
certainly like to export to Italy!

Landscape: Kuopio is located in the so-called “Finnish Lakeland”, and offers striking landscapes, especially when the forests are covered with snow and the lakes are frozen: it really seems to be in a fairy-tale landscape! Kuopio also gave me the breathtaking emotion of seeing the Northern Lights, which has always been one of my dreams. During the two-month stay in Finland I also visited Helsinki and Tampere, but the place that excited me most was Lapland:
I went there with a trip organized by the Erasmus student association Kisa (this group of students organizes many activities, and i found it very useful as it allowed me to meet many people from different countries ) and during this trip I had the honor to know the real Santa at the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, take a safari with reindeer and huskies and discover pristine lands that until then I had only seen in photos or on documentaries.

I really hope to return to Finland, maybe in spring or summer, so that I can see a different landscape, with forests without snow, lakes without ice and midnight sun!

Irene D’Angelo