It’s again that time of the year when new students arrive in Turku. The first busy weeks are filled with joy but how to maintain enthusiasm and avoid the culture shock when the days get shorter and the exams draw nearer?
For sure you want to feel at home in your new city, just like every new student. That’s how I felt when I arrived in La Coruña, Spain 10 years ago.
Having routines and something familiar in your new home makes it easier to adapt and feel happy. This can mean making your new home cozy, bringing some items that remind you from home, getting a hobby that you used to have back home, finding new favorite places, cooking your favorite food, you name it.
Finding local friends doesn’t happen automatically and you should not feel frustrated. Us Finns are often blamed for being too shy and not making enough eye contact. I hope you don’t give up too soon. Talk to your Finnish colleagues in the classroom and find out if TYY’s organisations have something to offer. Interaction goes, however, both ways, and it’s not your responsibility alone.
Getting local friends pays back. Someone who would explain the local habits and traditions, and wait that you return for a visit one day. Start with getting to know your tutor, who knows, you might become life-long friends. Through your tutor you also get to know more locals.
International students these days face also another obstacle: technology. Through social media, your mind easily wanders somewhere else although you should focus in present! Sometimes I wonder I was very lucky that I did my exchange before smartphones existed. It was much easier to live the moment without constant social media updates. International students these days are somehow in between two countries. Difficult to forget people back home, difficult to live in the present.
Living abroad is not always fun and after “the honeymoon period” you might question why you ever left your simple life back home. Feeling tired, down and homesick from time to time are normal feelings and should pass.
Little by little Finland will be your new normal. Learning to live outside your comfort zone will benefit you later on in life and I’m sure you learn to appreciate your home country in a bit different way than before.
I hope you enjoy your time in Finland. Don’t stress about it too much. After all, the reverse culture shock might be much worse than culture shock you experience here. That’s what happened to me when I came back from my exchange year.