Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you slept well and enjoyed the morning with your favourite breakfast and the sun greeting you. I woke up shortly after six and made my way to the stables again to take care of the horses. In contrast to yesterday, this morning it wasn’t raining, but the fields were covered in morning mist and the sunrise looked so very magical. The sun rays made their way through the trees and created an enchanting view while I made my way to the farmstead. I was done with work quite quickly and enjoyed some waffles from the previous day, they have been a little chewy but delicious after two hours of work. Afterwards, I enjoyed the sun and went home to have a real breakfast and rest a little longer in bed.
Now I am sitting here at the open window and decided to finally write about the ten things that my stay in Finland taught me. I wanted to write this post for a very long time now, but somehow I didn’t feel ready yet the past two and a half months. But since at the end of this month it will be one year ago that I packed my suitcase and went to the airport to fly to Helsinki, I now feel fine with telling you what I learned during my time abroad. So here are 10 things that my year in Finland taught me and that made me into the person I am now!
- 1 | SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO GO – When I left the home I grew up almost twelve months ago, I was ready to go. I was ready to leave everything and everyone behind and start anew. Of course, I did not leave my family behind and I knew it was just temporary but still, I felt like this was my chance to start a new beginning. To finally go to the north and start a life in a surrounding I feel home. I have never been to Finland before but I already knew that it would feel like home, I just knew it. I left Germany with a light heart and leaving all my troubles and all my sorrow here I went there with an open soul and an open mind, free to absorb every single new experience and adventure. And after the first few weeks and also now that I am back home, I realized that sometimes you have to leave things behind, you need to go to get some distance between you and certain people, certain places – even certain troubles that are just in your head. Moving somewhere else often offers you a clean canvas you can start re-painting from the beginning – a whole new start. That’s what it has been for me. Finland has been a new start for me.
- 2 | YOU ARE NOT ALONE – A thing I missed the past couple of years and the reason why I started to share my thoughts and passions here and on other social networks has been the lack of people I am friends with in my hometown. In the town I grew up, I have no friends that share my interests, that have the same hobbies or with whom I could meet to have a walk in the woods or a painting session for example. I like to be on my own, but sometimes I wished I would have someone to share the beautiful things of life with. When I came to Finland I stayed at Tiina’s place for the first couple of days since I got the keys to my apartment only a few days after my arrival. We already got to know each other via messenger before I flew over and got along very well. But when I think back now, I would have never imagined that this sweet little fairy could steal such a big part of my heart and become my best friend. I remember all the wonderful and funny and crazy hilarious moments we spent together. All the adventures in the forests, pizza on the sofa, talks about men and troubles, open-mic gigs where she was my biggest supporter in the front row, snowy adventures in the Nuuksio Nationalpark – the list is long and full of precious memories. But Tiina is not the only one I took to my heart. I met so many amazing people who changed my life. Two days before I left Finland we had a farewell picnic together where we sat at the cliffs and talked and shared snacks. While I was sitting in the wind, the sun shining on my back, I was looking from one to another, and my heart was crying a little while I was smiling and so incredibly happy to be able to know those people. I hope they know how much I love them and that they made my stay unforgettable. The tenor of this point is that you are never alone, there are so many people out there that share your passions and mindsets, sometimes we just have to search for a little longer!
- 3 | FINNS ARE NOT THAT SHY – According to the previous point, I have to correct a prejudice about Finns. Although I have to say that I have been pretty over-enthusiastic because of my overloaded happiness to be in Finland so I started conversations with many people on the streets (although I am not that social usually), the Finns always been really open and kind and not shy at all. I expected the Finnish people to be very secluded, not very talkative and quite since everyone told me so but I experienced quite the contrary. Some reason might be that I integrated quite easily but everyone I’ve met has been so open-minded and kind, and really talkative. The entire atmosphere in the city has been so different to the one here in Germany. Everything felt… warmer somehow if that makes sense. That’s why I took the Finnish people to my heart very easily. Actually, when people asked me if I made any Finnish friends, I realized that I made o n l y Finnish friends, maybe because deep inside me I felt comfortable in that culture and did not want to hang out with international students. I experienced Finland in a whole different way seeing things with the native eyes if you know what I mean. And I am very happy about that.
- 4 | FINLAND IS UNDERESTIMATED – Additional to my little love letter above, I have to say that Finland always drowns in the shadow of Sweden and Norway. Every time I mentioned that my intention was to go to Sweden for my study abroad Finns told me I should better not mention that in front of them. Of course they were just joking but still, I realized that people always just think about Sweden and Norway when it comes to the Nordic Countries because those two are the most popular. Before I applied for my study abroad I haven’t really thought about going to Finland myself, because it is somehow unknown and underestimated. But I think, that is more than wrong, because my time up there was the best in my life, and I did not regret for a single second that I haven’t got to Sweden. Yes, my plan is still to move to the north of Sweden but because of totally different reasons. I fell in love with Finland from the first second and now that I left my “second home” I wish that people would appreciate this beautiful country much more because its nature, culture, and people have so much to offer, it shouldn’t be a secret! I hope that Finland got a bit more attention perhaps by sharing my adventures with the world.
- 5 | INDEPENDENCE AND COURAGE – I have always been quite independent because of my travels before but this has been the first time I have been living on my own for a longer period of time. To be honest, I enjoyed it to its fullest. I’ve always wanted to live on my own, to have my own space and to do things like I want to. But not only having my own apartment, also managing a life on my own let me grow a lot. I’ve been in a foreign country with people I don’t know. A culture I didn’t know, a new life I had to find my way into. And it has been easy! It felt so natural to be on my own and to find my way into the new environment. I felt so free and strong and grown up! Every challenge I had to take I mastered with joy and excitement, even when things didn’t go how I planned them to. My time in Finland made clear that I can survive on my own and that I can manage things and that has been a damn good feeling!
- 6 | SELF-CONFIDENCE – Because of my inner growths that I experienced I became braver and grew even more by challenging myself every day. One of my biggest achievements has been my performance at the Open-Mic nights in Siltanen, a lovely little bar in Helsinki. The first time I went there with my guitar and my own songs, I have been so very nervous I stuttered a lot and made many mistakes while playing but the applause afterwards and the appreciation of the people made my endorphins going crazy! I went there a second time and even though the third time I performed there on Halloween went totally wrong, I still felt incredibly proud of myself. The last time I performed at the Open-Mic night I did it for my friends which came to listen. It meant a lot to me and when I am looking back now, I owe it to them that I even went up on the stage, because their support made me feel strong and self-confident! Also in some personal matters, I learned the past couple of months that I have to respect myself enough and fight for my own value, and sometimes have to let go of people who treat me wrong. For myself that is the most important lesson, I’ve learned during my time in Finland because it saved me from a lot of pain and it surely will in the future although I had to learn it the hard way.
- 7 | BODY LOVE – Finland is known for its sauna culture and although I haven’t been a huge fan of sauna before I went to Helsinki I fell in love with the hot air very quickly. I went to the Helsinki Sauna Day twice where my friend and I visited a tent sauna right at the ocean and the really famous Sompa Sauna in the industrial area of Helsinki. I’ve spent many hours talking with friends in the small, hot room and remember the sauna with Tiina where we drank cider and cooled down outside under the open sky. Finland made me love my own body, the time in the sauna made me realize that we all have only one body, which carries us around, which makes us survive, which makes us live! Our body makes us able to go on adventures, to breathe in the fresh air and every heartbeat should be appreciated. I learned to love my body how it is. Since I do not judge other people’s body, I lost the fear of others judging mine – and seriously, when you are sweating with other people in a small dark room with 90 degrees you have other things to think about than whether you are naked or not! Hihi
- 8 | EVERYTHING WILL WORK OUT – In November, after living in Finland for three months, I realized that I didn’t wanna leave. One morning I woke up and sat on my bed and the thought of leaving my friends and my place behind broke my heart so I wrote an email to the student service to ask how to extend my stay. A few mornings later, I woke up to their reply that I missed the deadline for extension and they are sorry that they can’t do anything about it. I guess I don’t have to explain the panic I have been in. I immediately started crying and panicking before I’ve put on clothes and went out of the door without breakfast, rushing to the office of the student service, waiting in line before it was my turn. I talked to the woman who tried to help me, tried to stay calm and after some issues and paperwork, she extended my stay in the end. I guess I don’t have to explain THAT FEELING of relief when I’ve held the papers in my hand that confirmed another half a year in Helsinki. As I sat on my bed again that evening I realized that I didn’t need to worry so much after all, that I always worry too much. But that’s not necessary because everything works out in the end, I just have to trust. Everything that happened to me the past year, and I don’t only mean all the good grades I’ve got although I wrote my assignments only on the last day before deadline, I mean all the personal matters, all the rocks that rolled into my way, proved that everything worked out in the end every single time. So now, I am so much more unstressed about life and problems it brings. I now try not to worry too much about everything because I trust that I will figure it out – like I always do.
- 9 | WINTER CAN BE DARK – You might have read my post about Winter Depression I wrote at the beginning of Spring a few months ago, where I talked about my experiences with the Finnish Winter. Enjoying lots of fairy snow and enchanting moments in the winter wonderland of Nuuksio, Winter brought also lots of darkness, which had been really soothing while knitting and making hot chocolate after a long winter walk, but after a few months also has been affected my mood as well. Everyone who tells me that the northern Winters are long and dark and one easily gets depressive, I can agree with now. Yes, the northern Winters shouldn’t be taken so easily, but I have to say that I still like the darkness. Many people do not understand when I tell them that I feel so much more energized in dawn and at night and that I liked the darkness. The only thing I also did complain about has been the grey, rainy days at the end of this Winter because those also made me feel depressive in the end. A winter with short, sunny days and long dark nights is something very romantic and calming for me, but as much as I enjoyed it, I also have to admit that my body (although it has been the first long dark winter for my me) missed the sunlight, which just became clear when Spring arrived and the sun came back. The mood lightens up and you realized that you might have been a little winter depressed even without recognizing. But all in all, after every long Winter comes a beautiful blooming Spring and one even appreciates its colors much more after the long white period.
- 10 | THE NORTH IS WHERE I BELONG – The last point is probably the most meaningful one. My time in Finland made me realize that I belong to the North. Wandering under the Finnish sky, watching the Nordic landscapes passing by on my train ride through the Finnish countryside and admiring the northern lights in the cold winter wind in Ilomantsi at new years eve made me realize, that this is my home, this is where I wanna spend the rest of my life. I can’t put into words how much my wish for a cottage in the woods in the North grew after my time up there, but everyone who followed my journey here the past few months might have noticed how determined I am about it and how much I work for it now to realize my dream. Not only the Finnish nature or Helsinki, but the Finnish people showed me that I finally have to leave my hometown to go where my heart was always leading me to!
Recapturing all these moments now one more time, I have so much love for every single soul I call my friend and every single moment I was allowed to spend with them, to spend in the Finnish nature, every tree I saw and every new moon I saw rising above from my window back in my apartment. I am so proud of how much I grew and how strong I became and I am so thankful for these experiences. They prepared me for everything that comes now, they made me ready to chase my dream!
Have you ever been to a place for a longer time which taught you life lessons? Tell me about it!