Hello! I am Lauma Elza Miezīte MSc European Forestry second-year student from Latvia. I am currently studying at my second-year university – the University of Lleida. I will share the experience I had in this program from the very beginning.
When I was planning to apply for this program, my worries were not only about studies but also about life outside the university. I was worried about many different aspects. How will be the people from my program? Are we going to be friends? How is my apartment going to be? Will I get along with my flat mates? How is it going to be staying away from home for this long period of time? Will I like my studies? These are only some of the questions that were circling around my head. In this post, I want to share my experience mostly outside the university in Finland.
Before coming to Finland and my first month in Finland
Before going to Finland, my biggest worries were about the apartment. I received my offer at the end of June. At first, I was not very happy about it. It was in Karjamaentie, which is far from the University and there were five rooms in it. Now I can say it could not turned out better. The apartment itself was very nice and cozy. Almost half of the people from the master program were living in that area. I can only thank Elli and the apartment location for friendships that started with common dinners and crying on each other’s sofa.
I am a shy person and making friends is not an easy task, so I was worried about that aspect as well. Now I can say that the people I met in this program are just amazing. Everyone was open-minded, eager to get to know each other and start a new chapter in their lives. In addition, it was very nice that program coordinator organized get to know each other trip and dinners. It was a very nice experience with two days of getting familiar with Finland and each other.
Daily life in Finland
Finland is an amazing country. Living for almost a year there I had a great experience with beautiful nature and serenity you feel within its beautiful surroundings. Whenever I felt a bit down or I needed to think things through I could go for a relaxing walk in Joensuu’s forests.
In addition, Finland is a very safe country. I never felt unsafe on a street or anywhere else. My home country is not very far from there, I had no problems to adjust to culture or food. Comparing to my first weeks in Spain, in Finland everything was very easy for me. However, I cannot say that it was as easy for all the people in the program. Some of my friends coming from ‘’warmer’’ countries were struggling with how “cold” Finnish people seemed to them at first. For me, it is normal to keep distance, my own space and not to kiss and hug when I meet people for the first time. However, for them it was quite hard to get used to it.
One more aspect I have to mention is daylight hours. Basically, in wintertime there is no sun and daylight lasts for five to six hours. Even though it can get a bit hard and depressing, with friends around you everything is bearable.
Daily life in Finland was very nice, including (with) bike rides to university, walks in the forest, and get together dinners. One more thing that it is important to mention, in my opinion, is the financial side. In theory, Finland is always listed as one of the most expensive countries in Europe. However, I did not find a huge difference in prices between Latvia and Finland. Yes, some things were more expensive, but at the end of the month my spending’s were quite similar to the ones in Latvia, which was definitely under those 1000 euros.
International experience: benefits and struggles
In Finland, I spent only 10 months, but this time has changed me. I have been worried how will I adapt to such an international environment, but it was easier than I thought. This was the most international environment I have ever been in and it opened my perspective. I enjoyed meeting people from different countries and with different stories. The stories and experiences of different people I met made me look at the world differently. The key I found to good communication is understanding, respecting, and listening. We came from so different countries, different backgrounds, and values but managed to get along. Now I can happily say that I have friends in many different countries and one great advantage of that is when the Covid-19 crisis end I can go and visit them.
However, there were also some difficult moments. In my experience, good time outweighed my struggles; however, it is something that should be taken in account. Sometimes it was hard to be away from my friends and family in Latvia. I missed them. Sometimes when I knew that they were struggling, I felt helpless. In addition, sometimes I missed my culture, language, and food (Finnish food is quite similar but definitely not the same). I have found it a bit hard sometimes to go a long period of time without having somebody to talk to in my native language face to face. While I was in Finland this was not an issue as I had a colleague from Latvia, but now in Spain, I am struggling with this. There was so much I could learn from my peers in the program. For example, my background is in environmental science not forestry, therefore, sometimes I felt I was behind others but my friends always helped me to understand.
To sum up, I would like to say that I find my first-year experience in Finland and UEF great. I would not trade it for anything. There were some tough moments, but I think that’s life. I know how cliché this sounds but life is more beautiful outside the comfort zone, as I can justify it with my own experience. I had many doubts and fears before applying and before accepting the program. Sometimes I was changing my mind three times a day. Now, I feel extremely lucky and thankful for this experience. I have met people and learned things I would not have if I had stayed in my home country. I am also incredibly grateful for my family and friends back at home and their support.
I hope this post helped to get a glimpse of life in Finland and MSc European Forestry. I have attached some pictures of nature and us having a nice time. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me on my personal email: email@example.com. 🙂