Blog entry 1 - Helsinki, show what you can
“Could you take me to the train station?”, I wrote my sister two weeks before my adventure “studying abroad”, after that I thought about how to handle saying goodbye. “And my parents? They’ll surely want to bring you themselves! The goodbye won’t get easier like this…”, she wrote back. I absolutely don’t like farewells. They have something briefly absolute and I didn’t like the image of waving at the train station in the train and saying “Good Bye” so much. Although it was just a fare well for 5 months and I was really happy, it was only a fare well for 5 months. Will my little niece ever recognize me when I come back?
When the train departed and my family was waving good bye, fortunately the worst part was over although the search for a place in a completely crowded train towards Hamburg airport, with a 30 kilos heavy suitcase, a backpack and a bedroll in my arms didn’t feel better.
As fate willed, I found a place next to a girl with whom I immediately got into a conversation. “Where is your journey taking you?” – To Helsinki! She told me about her trip to Australia, her year as au pair in America and her countless city tours over the whole continent. “Again, one of those who have already seen the whole world”, I thought. Why is that such a hype these days? Is it the desire for freedom, individuality or just to keep up in the modern “open-mind, live your life – it’s too short” – generation or to prove oneself? Is it the free ticket for 6 months “party-hard”, everything without pressure and obligations, what many associate with studying abroad?
If those were the reasons to study abroad or doing something similar, I would urgently overthink my living philosophy because if you just can fulfil yourself abroad, that would be after all very sad and mostly not of long continuance.
But what is it that makes studying or staying abroad generally that attractive? It is a chance; a possibility to develop; to improve your language knowledge, broaden one’s horizons and get rid of one’s tunnel view. And at the end to challenge oneself. I’m sure everyone will agree with me. My expectations were high and so I decided to go abroad in the third semester, it felt right. The city of my choice was Helsinki, after all the Finnish shall be quite eminent for their social work and the lectures were in the English language.
Finland has only 5 million inhabitants, I like comparing it with the population of Berlin, which makes me smile a bit considering the comparison of the area… that’s almost like David and Goliath. Helsinki is the biggest and most liveable city of Finland. The capital and its surroundings are very fascinating, especially for families and workers because in summer it offers much and in winter it isn’t as frosty as in Lapland in the deep north (-30 degrees!!!).
Today is the 15th of September and I’ve been in the wonderful Finnish capital for over one month now and I’m feeling completely contend. Until now we have had marvellous weather, which isn’t natural for this time of the year. I took it as luck and enjoyed the sunny time a lot. I can’t say yet what the cruel winter can offer, but the charm of the northern landscapes with its divine indescribable national parks will also offset a cold winter. In addition, the real winter will arrive in January, but unfortunately I’ll be back home by then. Actually, it is a pity, because it isn’t exactly that what the northern countries represent, and what you have to absolutely experience? We’ll see what I can say in November and December!
I started my journey in the end of July. I planned and organised for a long time and wanted to gain as much experience as possible. So I, being already “up there”, decided to take advantage and flew first from Hamburg to Stockholm. I spent 10 days in beautiful Sweden and got a first impression of how the northern people are. Although you can’t compare Swedes and Finns. There are everywhere such type of people, but the Finns say themselves that they are generally sometimes perhaps a bit rugged and cold, but as soon as the first words are exchanged they defrost and perhaps wouldn’t walk through fire for you, but at least take a detour to show you the train station and the next bus stop. Just modern Vikings.
The trip through Sweden was gorgeous! I don’t regret it, although I had less time to prepare mentally for it and this way I just had a few days after the exams to spend time with my family and friends.
On the 8th of August I finally arrived at the end station Helsinki. I arrived at the airport Helsinki- Vantaa in the evening and was welcomed cordially by my tutor Sutida. I somehow forgot that the Finish time is one hour behind the German time. 10 pm in Germany is actually 11pm in Finland!
In the forefront, I applied for a student room in HOAS (the organization which is responsible for the student dorms) and got an assurance. That was really lucky because finding a room by oneself is very difficult and expensive in Helsinki. I met students who had to pay double the rent for the same type of room as mine.
I spent the first days with getting to know Helsinki – the White Chruch, which was designed by a German architect, is probably one of the most popular sightseeing- monuments of Helsinki. And I also of course tried the little Finish silverfish at the Market-Square at the port, which however can’t be called a calorie-reduced diet! This greasy taste adventure definitely paid off!
The University officially started on the 10th of August. Although we just had reading week until the end of August, which means that we had to read the given literature from a list and write an essay on it. What? Already an assignment at the start? Great, that started well, I thought. On the 22nd of August I finally started the contact teaching, quasi the normal lectures and eventually also got to know the other Erasmus-students. I was surprised how fast we grew together.
The first day of the teaching contact was already very exciting. The Finish students address their lecturers with their forename. So I had the honour of being taught by Lauri in the first lesson. I expected a woman.. well, who would have thought that this was a male Finish forename!! The students certainly already knew each other and greeted themselves with a hug or a hand shake. Afterwards we had a short introduction of participants so we, the ten Erasmus students from Germany, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands and Italy, were able to get to know the other students and of course the other way round.
I felt immediately at ease. Ever since I knew that it would be an interesting time with interesting people…