When I told my friends in Italy that I was going to spend a year in Finland as an exchange student, some were convinced that I was diving into a black hole of depression. The Finns themselves are perplexed at the thought of anyone from abroad coming to study at a place where the sun doesn't shine for 7 months. I remember evidently; it was 02:00 and I took the bus from Helsinki city center to head back to the Espoo school campus.
Even though I am irreligious, I believe some great power led me to Finland at this significant point of my life. My life was full of what I can do, what I had to do, not what I wanted to do. Like others, there were some happy moments and sad moments. Every time I got stuck in a swamp, I tried to comfort myself by reminding myself, “C’est la vie.” In Korea, everything is crowded and tightly rushed, unlike spacious leisurely pace of Finland. But now I am here in Finland, doing what I want to do. I even feel as though I am getting spoiled.
A working democracy is based on an informed society. For that to work, the process is equally as important as its outcome and its recycling:
I eat a sausage if it is tasty but I will not do so if I know it’s made out of rat meat, it involves cruelty, unfair trade, etc. The same applies to the plan to build a Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki, Finland. At first glance, anyone would love to have another cultural institution nearby. But this Foundation is the rat sausage we should be banning. Here is why:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
As I bought my one-way ticket to Finland and boarded the 15 hour long flight, all I really knew were of the thousands of lakes, cold weather, and free education. The pre-travel chaos had left little time for research, so when I landed in the Helsinki airport to find it completely abandoned except for the handful of passengers on my flight and a couple of weary-looking customs officers, I had my first inkling of how quiet my stay was going to be.
Finland really feels like a second home to me, although my home country is located about 2,000 kilometers southwest from here. Slovenia, located on the sunny side of the Alps - as travel guides say - has became more and more popular for tourists. Unfortunately, under the nice touristic surface there's a big problem of unemployment for young, educated people. This is the main reason I returned to Finland, where I first did my exchange program as a journalism student in Helsinki.
A recent survey, done in Scandinavia on our fellow Scandinavians, was not so flattering towards the Finns. We were the least desirable company to travel in. Is it perhaps mainly due to the reputation of - or actual experiences with the heavy drinking associated with the Finns? It appears to me at least that the drinking culture here has been changing for the better throughout the years. The drunkards are less visible in public places. Then, of course, there are the ferries to and from Tallinn. So many intoxicated people, mostly young.
Ever since I was 2, my parents would take me to Finland every summer for a relaxing vacation away from the big city. I loved those trips, as the Finnish weather and nature are truly beautiful, and I always looked forward to the end of the school year specifically to come here. So when my parents asked if I would like to move to Finland at age 11, I said "yes" without even thinking. When we came here, I realized exactly how much I loved this country. I was exited to live in this majestic place.
On December 28th, 2012, I left my life as I knew it behind in the States and, as my dad recalls, I practically ran to the gate to leave for Finland. He says I never looked back towards his direction as I disappeared through the security checkpoint. I’m almost certain that moment hurt him and it wasn’t intentional, but I was determined to go. I needed to go. I don’t regret my move or any part of life’s journey in general, since it makes us who we are and who we ultimately become.
I dislike being told no.
The idea that there might be a perception that I'm not good enough grates on me to such point that, invariably, I have to prove that this isn't the case.
On a Sunday night in Helsinki, a day before returning to Berlin - where I resided and worked as an editor-in-chief for over a year - I sat in my hotel room reading a computer screen that was essentially telling me I wasn't good enough for Finland. That as an expat, I wasn't cut out for employment in Helsinki.