Finland: The most peaceful and secure nation ever

Writer: Mpho Kotlolo

My name is Mpho Kotlolo, and I originate from South Africa. I went to Kuopio in early April of 2023, which was my first international trip. I knew I was in a new country when I heard the cabin crew proclaim “Tervetolua” as soon as I landed at Kuopio airport. But I was excited to see the snow, so I wasn’t afraid. I stepped outdoors as soon as I landed at Kuopio airport to experience snow for the first time in my life and to feel it with my own hands. I sobbed, giddy with happiness and gratitude to God for his grace, that my desire to continue my education overseas had finally come true. When I first arrived at Kuopio, it was freezing, but I was unable to feel the cold because I had the impression that I was in a dream. I was first exhausted from transiting or switching between fights, but being in Kuopio gave me a sudden surge of energy.

Finland is indeed an exotic country. What surprised me immediately after my arrival in my apartment was that my house wasn’t fenced, and that’s how I understood why this nation was referred to as the happiest and safest country ever. I felt secured. Even my study environment (apartment) was convenient, with beautiful portraits on the wall.

Intellectually, I found myself compatible with the country because I couldn’t wait to wake up the following day to go to the university to meet my academic leaders and fellow researchers. My induction day at the university was magical, and on that day I made friends, and I was right away invited on a WhatsApp group so that I could readily connect with individuals both socially and academically. So basically, I received the warmest welcome ever, and that made me feel at home and like I belonged in Finland.

Finland has a unique atmosphere that might easily confuse you. We had “midnight sun,” which is when the sun doesn’t set completely, and Northern Lights. I was so delighted to witness the wonders happening in this Nordic nation that I was unable to sleep. In my case, I took advantage of the “midnight sun” to carry out my day’s tasks leisurely.

A girl on a boat in summer.

The air in Finland is clean, and the country has an abundance of woods, evergreen trees, and stunning lakes, and that helped me to reduce mental stress as I was spending most of my time in the woods (forest). The safest country on earth is the forest, where you can meditate and unwind in solitude without threat or hindrance. I learned more about myself and my abilities in wood (Finland’s forest). It gave me the freedom to concentrate, self-time, and rekindle my love and unity for my family. In fact, it invigorated and soothed my mind, which eliminated any external obstacles like tension and allowed me to think clearly and act astutely. Finland turned me into an outdoor person because I spent every weekend going to new places, such as galleries, museums, and catteries. I enjoyed skiing and making snow angels in the winter and picnics in the summer.

I was amazed by the University of Eastern Finland’s ability to translate their research findings into innovative and marketable products. My faith was further strengthened by the self-assurance and research strategies of young scientists and researchers. The number of doctorate researchers at the School of Pharmacy astonished me the most, and it inspired me to work hard and continue my studies. The University of Eastern Finland has access to resources that make research easier to perform, as well as advanced machinery or technologies for a range of research initiatives.

Finns are gregarious, extraordinary, and eager to assist others. It didn’t feel as though I was a non-citizen. On December 6, 2023, I participated in Finnish Independence Day, and I recall finding the activity to be fascinating and mesmerizing.

The opening of the Christmas market was the greatest day of my life. Whoa! I felt like I was in a movie, Oh My God. Everything was breathtakingly wonderful, and I kind of wished that I might get to experience Christmas again sometime. My desire was fulfilled. I had never seen Santa before, but Finland granted me an incredible opportunity to hold his hand and take a photo with him.

Santa Claus, and two ladies dressed in red and white.

Observing how people around the world celebrate Christmas touched me. I even went out and purchased myself a Christmas sweater because Finns made me realize how pivotal Christmas is. On December 24, when a Finn family from the church invited me to celebrate Christmas with them, I truly witnessed the unconditional and genuine love of Finns. I relished every second I spent with them in Finland’s countryside. I recall enjoying a traditional Finn meal at a round table with them. I enjoyed the smoked salmon fish, glogg drink, and different types of pastries, for example, ginger bread, while singing the Christmas carol, Joy to the World, and jingling bells. My first white Christmas away from home, but literally, I was home because I didn’t feel that I’m in a foreign country. When Santa arrived with gifts, I had a childlike feeling when he gave me my gifts.

I truly benefited massively and tremendously from studying at the University of Eastern Finland, since it exposed me to innovative technologies that were not widely available in Africa. The University of Eastern Finland gave me the solid experience I needed to grow as a young, inspiring researcher, expand, and enrich my knowledge that can be valuable for the world and my country, South Africa, in terms of technology transfer. Nevertheless, it allowed me to explore new disciplines. Staying in Finland taught me to adhere to regulations and to take responsibility for my own country as well, for instance, keeping the country free from pollutants (how to keep my environment friendly), boosting the economy, or sustaining economic growth through adherence and integrity.

Mpho Kotlolo was a research exchange student in the School of Pharmacy at UEF in summer and winter 2023 from the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in South Africa.This research visit was part of the activities implemented by UEF and TUT under the framework of the Southern African and Finnish Higher Education Institutions’ Network for Health and Well-Being.