Chapter 3 -Silver lining?

Ok! Let’s keep writing!

I should find a moment during the week to do this and then starting to tell things in a chronological order. But for now I have to write down a little bit more about my first weeks here.

I told you that it was a kind of shocking my arrival in Pieksämäki. It was uneasy to find my place in the school. And in addition to this, it was (it is) very hard for me to find a way to communicate with students.

Language could not be our mean of communication so… how solve this problem?


Well, it came out that there are other ways to communicate. In Italy we say di necessità virtù and it means that when you don’t have any other choice you are forced to use what you have to do your best, even if what you have is not that much. Maybe an English idiom which can represent this idea is If life gives you lemons make a lemonade. So I tried to use other ways “to speak”, like moving my hands, making sounds or putting Finnish words together as a baby. Hard to believe but it worked, and sometime it has been very funny! Though I don’t want to lie to you: it didn’t work always and not for everything. But for sure you can be creative and do your best to reach people around you. So, that is for sure the bright side of being far away from your comfort-zone, you can learn new things and challenge yourself. For instance, I learnt how many way I have to make people understand me and I think that this is an important lesson for me to use also in the future if I will work with Special Needs students, and also in Italy, because even in your own language often words are not enough to express yourself and you need more ways to make people understand what you want to say.

And with Finns who can speak English? Well, after a while people started to say few words in English, and then more and more. Now it is definitely better. I would say that the secret with Finns is to not force them. You have to be patient. I still don’t get it why people here don’t smile, that’s weird to me, because I think that smiling doesn’t cost anything (or is there a tax on it in Finland?  I don’t know they always complain about taxation so maybe…) but at least they speak to me now, so I don’t care too much about the serious faces. I have to say that in this case the bright side is that when you make a person smile you can really be proud. I’m so happy when I get “to steal” a laugh or a smile, it’s like a very big achievement. And you can imagine how hard it is to make good jokes in a different language. I mean sometime it is practically impossible to translate Italian jokes in English (and is so frustrating) but when you handle this kind of stuff….wow!

And for now…that’s all folks!

img_20161021_123212706I’m going to the train station (the famous one) with Isabel (my co-worker) since she is leaving for the week (the autumn break is starting today). unfortunately, I have to stay here (damn!) because I have to study! I really hope to survive the week, It will be booooring all alone in the School! 😛


Chapter 2 – Pieksämäki I’m here

Ok, the training camp could not be forever, I knew it!

But it is still hard to say goodbye to people you like. I left the Camp in Antaverkka wih a little bit of sadness and I reached Pieksämäki by train (remember the important train station there). Every Finn I met during the camp told me about Pieksämäki as a small village in the middle of nothing. So, I expected the worst! And…

… damn! It was cold and rainy that day! Do you know that kind of shower rain which is very annoying? I would say it was not a very good first impression for me considering also the premises.

The School was a desert, because most of the students were leaving for the weekend. So, you can imagine how it is to be in a big and empty place after being for ten days continuously surrounded by a lot of people.


Seurakuntaopisto, my volunteering work place

It was probably my real first cultural shock, even if seeing pasta cooked by Finns is a kind of a shock for an Italian guy (or I guess so, at least it was for me), but that was different, I really felt in that moment to be far away from home, from my friends and from my family. In addition to this, don’t expect Finns to be too extrovert or too smiling. I mean, of course not all Finns are the same (let’s go beyond stereotypes), and you always can find a person that is warming and nice, but I think it is part of the Finnish habit not to behave immediately so friendly. This doesn’t mean that Finns are not nice, they are but in a way that is different from the one of my homecountry and at the beginning this was so hard to understand.

And the language!!! You probably heard that Finnish is one of the most difficult tongue to learn. Well, they are right! Finnish it’s a very difficult language! So, I really hoped to meet people who could speak English. Yet, on my arrival in Pieksämäki very few people in the School spoke English with me. Most of them were just too shy to do it even of they knew the language. For others was just not possible, for example for some students with Special Needs. I have always been proud about the fact that I can listen to people and chat with them easily I can do this using my mother tongue and I could do this in my previous jobs. I was so frustrated because of this “communication-wall”.

So, it was hard at the beginning, but how I wrote before Finns can be nice and friendly in a different way and I will let you know about this in a new post.


Chapter 1 – Arrival in Finland

Well, I am not sure how to start writing about this experience in Finland. But I want to try!

Let’s say before starting that I am not an ethnology expert studying the habits and traditions of different cultures. I can talk about Finland referring to my own experience, so everything I say it’s just my opinion and it’s not the Truth about Finland. This is my own way to see things around me! But now, let’s start…

I arrived in Finland on  August the 15th and after almost two months here I am totally out of my honeymoon period so I can be more objective, or at least I think so.

I applied for an EVS Project in a School in Finland since I wanted to see myself the Education System of this northern country. Indeed, Finland Education System is considered one of the best in the World, the students here reach incredible results spending very few hours at school. Unexpectedly, I have been selected and now I am here in Seurakuntaopisto (this is the name of the school) in the little town of Pieksämäki.

But now, a step back! Because before my arrival in Pieksämäki I have to tell you about my arrival in Antaverkka, near Tampere, one of the main cities in Finland.

I landed in Helsinki the 15th of August and I spent my first night there. The very next day I reached the others volunteers nearby the Train Station of Helsinki, we were all ready for our on-arrival camp: ten days of training about Finnish culture and Finnish language but, most of all, ten days of fun. Even if we didn’t know it yet.


On my arrival at the Camp I was very quiet, trying to keep a low profile, thinking something like”Who are all these people?”, “Why are they staring at me?”… I hope you can understand me, this is my first time abroad not as a tourist and completely alone. Yet I had no chance to keep a low profile. As soon as we arrived at the camp the staff made us break the ice with some funny activities and interesting workshops. Well, in a couple of days we were already starting to get along to each other.

During the Camp I met wonderful people from all over the World: Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Honduras, Japan, Taiwan, Spain, India… It was amazing talking with them and sharing opinions and ideas. I learnt a lot during these informal moments together just chatting.

But I have also to mention the workshops prepared for us by the Antaverkka’s Staff. I can sum them up in the motto “learn by doing” and their have been very useful to “survive” in the Finnish everyday life.