My first day (night) in Finland

Even though this happened around five years ago, those memories are still fresh on my mind like they just happened yesterday. This is just one story of one girl making the biggest step outside her comfort zone in her life. Just a simple trip… simple day and night… for someone. Not for me – the girl living this story.

What does not kill you makes you stronger

I remember the moment I started to think about going to study abroad. I realized that there is an opportunity to study in a foreign country even without having savings for education or wealthy parents. It seemed that my teenage dream to visit Finland was reachable. Somehow. Even though I had a bad level of English and a difficult situation at home. But it was. I guess I needed the point to burn out in order to make radical decision, say to myself “well you are gonna do it now or never… with or without your approach to English” and take a chance.

Who would guess this would change my life entirely.

Say goodbye to your old you

After buying expensive flight tickets to Joensuu (I did not know how to search for cheaper flights), finding accommodation one week before my arrival to Joensuu (because there was nothing for me from Elli) and loaning money from F&F (because my Erasmus scholarship had delay) I was standing in Vienna Airport in pants I broke when taking luggage from car, looking at my mother and godmother crying. Calling with grandmother who doesn´t have understanding for my dark humor and was panicking (I showed her my diary and told that if my airplane will fall, they should look for the diary and sell it, because I will try to write some details from the flight there :-D). Their daughter is going on her first flight at 23, having no clue how airport is actually working or how is she going to manage her first night in a country 2000 km away.

The flight was actually really nice. Except we had delay and therefore we had to run to the airplane to Joensuu waiting for us. And on the way while running, my wallet got broken and all my money and documents were lying on the floor. No stress… I was reminding it to myself during the whole packing and travelling process. It is going to be great!

…I thought so until migraine during the Joensuu flight did not prove me wrong.

“What and embarrassment! Hole on the pants… no scholarship yet… no experience of talking in English with someone else than my English teacher… broken wallet… barely catching my breath after the run to the gate… can it be worse? Ah yeah! I was sick and on antibiotics expecting to sleep some days on the floor in my empty apartment… “ – my migraine is always so honest 😀

Literally the dark side of Joensuu

I am looking out of the window. It seems we are in our destination soon. But wait… it is too dark outside. Not so many street lights signalizing we are arriving to some bigger city. Just darkest dark and blinking light of the airplane. But yes, we are here – we arrived! Joensuu airport was third airport I have seen that day and it was the smallest one. The funny thing was, that I did not have accommodation arranged yet. I met very nice girls from my country on Facebook looking for accommodation and we realized that our only option is to rent a family flat together. But we could manage it only the next day. However, I had good luck, because my great student tutor offered me to stay overnight at her tiny studio with her and her cute doggy. There was one more challenge to pass to go to sleep – find a way to my tutor´s house. Thankfully, I did not miss the bus from the airport, but honestly, I had no clue where should I go. I did not have any smartphone with GPS. Just address of my tutor about which the bus driver did not have a clue. Bus driver was actually the first Finn I had some interaction and from whom I made some kind of first impressions about Finnish people. With my confusing English I asked him to tell me which stop is the nearest to the address or at least the city center. He was so kind and even helped me with my luggage.

I am almost there

Bus trip seemed so long. And I could see just flatland silhouette, some trees… I felt we are going straight somewhere without so much turning. Bus was not stopping so much neither. We approached some settlements and I was looking at those cubic buildings in the night, with light in some windows. Those moments I turned back in my mind and was thinking about my family thinking of me having my first trip abroad myself. How they are just nervous and waiting when I am going to call that I arrived safely. And then thinking of people over there in those houses sleeping, maybe studying, drinking tea or watching TV. Oh, how I wish for being now in their place.

Be About – that place I saw as first when I took off the bus. The bus driver helped me to unload the luggage and even showed me by hand, which direction is probably the street I am looking for. And left. Right so now I am facing some bar with plenty of people having fun outside. It is good to know, there is night life in here! It did not seem like that just few minutes ago. My tutor found me! I could not say where I am, just that there is some About club. It would be pretty interesting trying to find the address myself in the conditions I was.

I had to pinch myself to believe that I am in Finland

I did not remember even the way we went. I had another excitement – my first actual English conversation practice started! 😀 I tell you, such experience is more than 5 years of memorizing some English language rules. But I made it somehow. And my tutor was great, she was like an angel in that whole situation. On top of it, my night was better than I expected, because her doggy came to sleep with me on yoga mat and sleeping bag! Like I used to sleep with my own dog at home. After talking with my tutor, I fell asleep fast. I was excited for a new day. What is was for me? For now, everything went fine and I am all right and even had place to sleep. And after a phone call that my parents were waiting for, and the phone call they paid then also to my grandparents and godparents, they all went to sleep finally! How amazing! I felt the great power of family supporting me through their own fear. That gave me courage to step freely into the adventure, which just started.

In the morning, I had to pinch myself to believe that I am really in Finland. It was a long day in front of me. Long months, which at the end showed to be too short. But that would be another story…

Daniela Tináková