My story in Finland

The writing has participated in TYY's "Unforgettable experience as an international student" writing competition. The text has been published in translation in the Tylkkäri issue 4/2023.

From the moment I set foot in Helsinki airport, I realized my story had already begun long before. After years of hard work and effort, I finally found the space I thought belonged to it. My colleagues and I were striving to make a difference in the context of the educational system which thinks that students and children are like a company product or soldiers. However, when the pandemic hit and turned my work life upside down. 

This forced leisure time became an opportunity for me to reflect on the past. Whenever the topic of further education came up, my heart would race. The years of work and study in the field of child education, through self-study and participating in workshops, fulfilled my needs. But I realized how quickly time had passed, and I had forgotten my aspirations. 

Touran Mirhadi, one of the great women of Iran who revolutionized education in Iran, says, "Turn your big pains into big actions." I took a step towards this great endeavour. I spent hours of the day searching for universities and majors. I started applying for the year 2022, and Turku University caught my attention. Since my educational background was in the arts, I have to start with a bachelor. 

Upon arriving in Finland, we read the news of Mahsa Amini's death through the media. We didn't have the mental strength because of the news. However, with its minimalist design inspired by the Nordic countries, the Helsinki airport appeared empty and tranquil at first glance. Initially, I felt a bit uneasy and lonely, but soon I began to sense the vastness of personal space. In the airport restroom, I could hear the chirping of birds and felt that some birds had entered the airport, singing their peaceful songs. 

In the morning after a light breakfast. With the information we obtained from the airport staff, we headed towards the Kamppi. We wandered around the Kamppi for about an hour, unsure of where to buy tickets or where the buses were. Finally, a lady guided us to R-Kioski where we could purchase tickets. We boarded a bus and arrived in Rauma around 2 PM. We knew where we had to go, we searched on Google Maps, but there was no means of transportation available. Tired and worried, we dragged our luggage and bags, which were the only remnants of our lives, behind us. A 10-minute walk turned into 25 minutes. We handed over the student apartment´s keys and the 25-minute walking turned into... I don't know how long we were on the road, but it was so difficult that I couldn't appreciate the beauty of the Rauma along the way through my wet, teary eyes. 

My hands were blistered, and sparks of doubt began to ignite. As we reached the steps of the dormitory, a man noticed our belongings and realized we were newcomers. He had come to Rauma with his wife and daughter. He kindly offered to place our suitcases in his car and accompanied us to our unit. His daughter sat in her car seat, and her smiles and playful gestures momentarily allowed me to take my mind off Mahsa Amini. This was my first interaction with children in Finland. I didn't know what to call the new place, a house or a dormitory? 

During the last few months that we were in Iran, we decided to reconstruct our house. We packed our belongings as if we were going to move soon. I didn't feel good; my house in Iran was deteriorating, and our place didn’t feel like home here. I felt like I had lost everything at once, my home, my beautiful yard, my city, my family, and worst of all, my country. 

Two days ahead was the weekend, and I had to prepare myself for Monday. On Monday morning, I went to my coordinator’s room. I found out that I still hadn't been assigned to the courses because I couldn't access my email. It seemed like everything was conspiring to make the situation more complicated. It was September 19th, and the classes started in the second half of August. Some courses were almost finished. I could not submit one of my essays, the teacher said that I hadn't attended an important event. I told him that I had informed the university and was supposed to coordinate with the teachers to have the necessary collaboration, but he didn't accept it. 

Every day, I was faced with a new problem, and with each new problem, I felt like I was sinking. The next problem was paying student insurance. I didn't have a bank account, which means I was not registered in the Finnish population system, and I didn't have a social security number to open a bank account. Where should I go? I didn't know. I had lost my appetite for food, and I couldn't sleep at night. The internet in Iran was cut off, and I didn't have anyone to share my concerns with. I couldn't put too much pressure on my husband either; he was just like me. When I left our place to university, tears would flow as I walked. I had no news from my family; the only news I heard was from the media, and they were all bad news about arrests and killings. 

I felt a sense of guilt for being away from my countryman. I felt like I had left my country and my family alone in this critical moment. I didn't know how to recharge my mobile phone to make a call. Everyone I asked seemed unaware, even the company that owned the number.  

My place of residence had nothing to offer besides. Not even a bed where I could entrust my tired body and restless mind. All around was filled with coldness, darkness, and darkness. Before coming here, I knew that in Finland during the Autumn and Winter, the sun rises late and sets early. When you are so weak every little thing bothers you. 

Depression and feeling overwhelmed made it difficult for me to find the strength to continue my path. One day, as usual, I was crying in the library, one of the students approached me, embraced me, and shed tears on me. At that moment, I felt a supportive circle forming around me, helping me get through those difficult circumstances. In particular, my tutor and coordinator showed great empathy and helped me to overcome those circumstances. Now, I have completed one year, successfully leaving it behind. While those days, I thought about returning to Iran. 

Elaheh Nasouti