Moving North – Part 2. Borrowed Miles and Lush Hills

Rishikesh Raut went on a journey to the essence of Finnish state of mind: Riding his bike towards the Northern Finland, exposing himself to the elements of the nature as well as its tough love. This is Rishikesh’s journal of his six days on the road. Day 4, Part 1: The Many Routes to Soil […]

TEKSTI Rishikesh Raut

KUVAT Rishikesh Raut

Rishikesh Raut went on a journey to the essence of Finnish state of mind: Riding his bike towards the Northern Finland, exposing himself to the elements of the nature as well as its tough love. This is Rishikesh’s journal of his six days on the road.

Day 4, Part 1: The Many Routes to Soil

As I was now riding towards Ylitornio the road began snaking through lush little hills. Like sleep sneaks in on a classroom-under-performer who has just started studying, Lapland pulled me in its lap without clear notice. The roads contributed to their act; they equally climbed and dropped, over and over. In retrospect, they climbed more.       

I was thanking and cursing their architects on an hourly basis, for the 40 km/h downhill blurs and the 8 kilometre per hour uphill battles. In retrospect, I mostly thanked.

Horses giving mixed signals.
Somewhere in the woods, enroute to Ylitornio.

Google Earth guided me through an unpaved path through a forest, as I stopped once to speak with uninterested horses and then to wet the weeds with personalized minerals. The little gamble had paid off as I avoided the extra miles. For an hour or so, I rode through the trafficless road’s median – as one does when they own a highway. 
After a million pedal rotations and 30 odd kilometres, signage showed I was approaching the Arctic Circle. This was the stuff of my geography lectures as a kid. As a grown up kid, I read about Mike Horn, the maverick explorer who circumnavigated 20 000 kilometers worth of this circle. And now I was going to touch it.

It is my suspicion that the Earth doesn’t care much for human ambitions. Mike Horn, Bill Gates, and The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari will all taste the same to the soil that will devour them. 

So I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t see red ribbons and scissors, as I biked through the forehead of our world.

Day 4, Part 2: Borrowed Miles

He was on the other side of the road. He crossed and overtook. Thereon, he raced me for a few kilometers as I neared my day’s quota of 100. We spoke no words with the other biker; the language of competition was enough.

During these six days of living by the E8 highway, I got addicted to letting strangers take charge of my bike. Motorbikes, cyclists, walkers – whether it was a thumbs up, a wave, a nod, a smile, a greeting. They had their own distance ratings. If only briefly, these exchanges with fellow beings were like a balm for the mind as the physique grinded. 

When a lone traveller traveling waterless through a desert has the liberty of sipping water only once every five hours, he will drink differently. He will swallow it instantly, but in that little instant when it is moving throatwards, he will know the quality, the essence of it. 

For hours on end, I would not see anyone, assuming all passing cars were passengerless. So even though I exclusively romanced the wilderness, whenever my eyes met another human, I bathed in the oasis of that fleeting connection, and let them ride my bike for me. 

At the Arctic Circle, close to Pello.
Day 5, Part 1: Opening Negotiations

I have a love-hate relationship with sleep. It’s like having a permanent toxic friend. She’s a pain, but I need her.

Some nights I don’t want her at all. I want to skip all the time I’m supposed to spend with her; being alive is just so much fun. And other days I want her for all-time. For reasons unknown to me, I want to be in her embrace until she has no more dreams to show. On those days, mornings become afternoons, and into evenings, after I have forced her further, she shoves me away, and leaves me to deal with the chunk of life I just missed. That’s what had happened on the first night out in Simo, when I had slept until 5pm, 14 or so hours. 

Every day after that was different. I planned to wake up at 8 in the morning, so I did. I wanted to do that and this, so I did. With no effort.  

But on this day, starting from Pello, the ride had begun with exertion. The sun concealed the little city with fat clouds, and the extravagant ball overloaded with flaming red could only penetrate a beggarly gray into the landscape. Its failure to show itself meant that mortal souls – especially those indulging in unreasonable unsheltered endeavours – would make music using teeth. So, I began bargaining.

Day 5, Part 2: Something Changes
“There’s no way we are doing a 100 today. No way. You’re cold and hungry. You didn’t finish your breakfast; you were impatient to get going. As you are riding on low fuel, the granola oats soaked protein powdered milk isn’t letting the oaty bits get to you through the bottle’s mouth. 
"Let’s just do 80. It seems right. 100 is a reach, it takes something extra.” 
“Okay... we’ll do 80 then.” 

When I had biked 15 kilometres from Pello, I was going to do 85 more. I remember reaching the crest of a bridge which stomached a railway line, (underly/overly) when the deal was struck. Like two egoistic men racing each other to an elevator button at-once – two thoughts arose. 

“Nice view, would be nicer – We are doing 100 – to see a train pass by.” 

A switch had flicked.

Day 5, Part 3: Eroded Possibilities

Exploring new corners on my bike, I thought about how much of my life is governed by my brain. The bastard has its own mind. By a mere whim, on mere impulses, it decides what I can and cannot do. The difference between possible and impossible is decided by which side the brain flicks the switch. 

If a mathematician was to solve the equation of a man’s life up to a certain point, of course, he can foretell what the man is going to do next based on the variables of his past experiences. But until such a boring technology is born it is safe to assume that the flicking of the mind switch can be manipulated. 

Our minds are masters of negotiation when dealing with ourselves. Whenever you negotiate with someone, you always aim for the highest value – by gains or savings. But when your mind negotiates with you, it always aims to lose value; unless you consciously push for higher value. 

“100 km sounds hard. Let’s do 80 km instead.” 
“This sounds hard. Let’s do only that instead.”
“Starting today is hard. Let’s do tomorrow instead.” 

Like expert negotiators do, the mind, armed with logic and science, tells us why the aimed value must be decreased. Whether to accept it, is a choice we get to make. If you accept the deal, no one will notice. No one cares. It’s like an Ocean eroding a beach, one sand speck at a time – separating it from Earth’s embrace for its ulterior motives. No one will care except the sand specks who dreamed of sunbathing.

So, knowing its nature, the Mind’s, is it possible to never negotiate?

Day 5, Part 4: Obvious Welcomings

As I swerved into the trail leading to lake Tapojarvi, the land smelled foreign. As every land always is, for its always changing, only too slowly for our unperceptive eyes. But with its sparse civilization and boundless woods, this land was more foreign.

Towards the end of every day, as I neared the target distance, the air would invisibly inject me with a serum of anxiety, using a syringe of anticipation.

These feelings arose due to the complete lack of assurance. “Soon I will rest”. And it meant putting faith in the graciousness of a major river, or an unnamed lake, as it would give me space to lie for the night. 

Before the customary dip into a gracious lake.

Men of the Sahara Desert, if forced at gunpoint to sleep and dream a fantasy of a homeland littered with a certain life-giving liquid, would perhaps imagine a typical Finnish landscape. So, finding a gracious water body in Lapland was always a game of promising odds. 

I was led by an unpaved trail through a jungle, and as I showed myself to the lake, a flock of swans or ducks or messengers of someone who wanted to say, “you can sleep here” flew off from before me, leaving for me, a little of their vast silver-grey kingdom of water, a little of their dew-laden soil and a little of their woodland’s breath…

Rishikesh Raut

Rishikesh captured his biking journey towards Nothern Finland in Autumn 2021. Now, he shares his thoughts.

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An unforgettable studying experience in Finland doesn’t guarantee a career here

Pursuing a higher degree in Finland is indeed an attractive and promising prospect for foreign talent. Why wouldn’t it be? The Finnish education system isn’t one of the best for nothing. This plays a major factor leading many students to also consider a career in their respective fields in Finland. Speaking of personal experience, as […]

Pursuing a higher degree in Finland is indeed an attractive and promising prospect for foreign talent. Why wouldn’t it be? The Finnish education system isn’t one of the best for nothing. This plays a major factor leading many students to also consider a career in their respective fields in Finland.

Speaking of personal experience, as I have studied both in my home country and in Finland, the difference is quite noticeable. In many countries, the students are forced to memorize a massive amount of information, and then take exams based on their ability to recall that information. They could get good grades, but if you ask whether they learned anything, it probably wouldn’t be much.

That’s not the case in Finland. During my studies here, I’ve never felt any kind of pressure from teachers. They have always been supportive and flexible. They’ve also made sure to design the assignments in a way that the student would actually learn from them, rather than rotely memorizing.

The exams were never a verbatim copy of what the teachers taught in the classroom. I think their purpose was to ensure that the students were paying attention. Even if you failed, you would get a second and third chance to make it right, which kind of takes a load off the students’ mind.

I think it is great that the system was designed to give second chances since you can never really know why a student performed badly in an exam. Another positive aspect is that second chances aren’t just in exams, but in the courses overall. During one of the courses I took, I remember being just a few points away from the next grade. To help with that, I negotiated with the teacher to do some additional work to get those points.

Some courses offered alternatives for passing them, like writing an assignment or taking an exam. In the case of a student not doing well in an assignment, they can choose to take the exams, and vice versa. Such alternatives can be found listed in the University of Oulu’s Policies for the Recognition of Learning, for example. So, to those of you who are studying in Finland at the moment, you’ve come to the right place.

However, if you’re seeking a career here after that, I would advise you to think again and do your research.

Many of the foreign students coming to Finland want to stay here and pursue a career. But how useful is it to bring foreign talent here? Foreign employment has been promoted widely through frequent career fairs and workshops, but nonetheless, a lot of the talent goes to waste.

I know many people, myself included, who graduated here, but are unable to secure employment with their Finnish degrees for one reason or another. The most common example of such reasons is the “insufficient language skills”. As a person who speaks Finnish well enough, I don’t think that’s a good reason.

In many cases, we are rejected for no apparent reason, or are simply “ghosted” by the employers. We never get invited to interviews, and we always get the standard rejection message “Thank you for your application. We have received many great applications, but you were not selected this time”. Because of that, we lost the motivation to seek meaningful careers, and by that I mean careers corresponding to our education and acquired skills through that.

We had to settle for menial jobs like cleaning, paper delivery, and food delivery, just to live day by day and meet our financial obligations. I honestly see no sustainability here in terms of ensuring that these foreign job seekers get to contribute to the Finnish job market in their respective fields.

A master’s thesis written by Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi from Lahti University of Applied Sciences talked specifically about unemployed immigrant graduates from Finnish higher institutions. In his work, he indicated that 58% of the participants in his surveys said that they haven’t met their career expectations in Finland. Furthermore, the study showed that 56% disagree on the fact that the job market is welcoming for internationals, and 28% strongly disagree.

Onwutalobi also highlighted a very critical point, which was in regards to the factors that helped in securing employment in Finland. A very small percentage were able to land jobs through applying or through career services (7% and 11%, respectively), while a total of 77% got their jobs through networking or personal reference. Employers say they are open to foreign employment, but are they? If a foreign student can’t even land an internship with these employers, or simply an interview, how can they land a job?

A very important question needs to be asked; are international jobseekers not needed, or not wanted?

We unfortunately have heard of true stories regarding discrimination and injustice experienced by people with not just one, but two or three degrees and a proficiency in many languages, including Finnish. This leads many to believe that the latter is to be true: international job seekers are not wanted. Of course, there are some success stories by people who have made it, but that does not mean that the issue is nonexistent.

If highly educated foreigners involuntarily see a need to deliver food and newspapers, rather than working in their respective fields, then there is a major issue. Many individuals, Finnish people and foreigners alike, have highlighted this issue on a plethora of social media platforms, most notably on the employment-oriented LinkedIn. Hence, the issue’s existence is being acknowledged widely. However, has it been addressed sufficiently? Has there been extensive efforts to alleviate this issue?

We have yet to be proven wrong, but I sure hope we do.

Moaadh Benkherouf

A master's student in Northern Tourism at the University of Lapland, with a background in Environmental and Civil Engineering.

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Part 1. Cultural Shocks: Is the grass always greener?

(Mis)understandings amidst the endeavor of a foreigner adapting to Finnish culture. “Place where you be, do as you see” says a Peruvian saying. It is quite useful to blend into any cultural environment by being aware of the differences, to identify them and replicate them. Better to ride the beast than letting the beast ride […]

(Mis)understandings amidst the endeavor of a foreigner adapting to Finnish culture.

“Place where you be, do as you see” says a Peruvian saying. It is quite useful to blend into any cultural environment by being aware of the differences, to identify them and replicate them. Better to ride the beast than letting the beast ride you, isn’t it? I mean, either you are an international student or a local with international friends, this close contact with someone from a different culture for sure would have some impact on you.

This change is not accidental, neither exempt of conflict. Since we are social beings, we try to mix with the people surrounding us. At the same time, when hitting a new place, we are carrying our bag of beliefs and perceptions. In my own experience, after living in Buenos Aires for some years I went back to Lima with my voice volume a few levels higher, and a more straightforward attitude. If I left Peru being a quiet and reserved person, I came back as a loud and straightforward one.

What is happening to me here in Finland? A mix of everything. First living in Oulu and now married to a Finnish woman, I have Finnish culture in and out of home. And that has created some interesting, funny, or awkward moments. In any case, they helped me to learn more and get a deeper sense of how to behave in the local environment.

Trust above all

Sometimes I tell my wife that to take her to Peru I must train her, to change her trust beliefs. I mean, it has many lovely traditions and people are warm and celebratory, but it also has a problem with respect and trust. And same in most of Latin America. To give you an example, when I was 17, I was robbed two blocks away from home. Concerned, my mom called the police, and then I had this dialogue with a lady police officer:

OFFICER      Did you try to run?

ME                No.

OFFICER      (a little bit surprised) But you tried to knock on someone else’s door?

ME                 (shier) Mmm… no.

(Long and uncomfortable pause)

OFFICER      You need to learn how to defend yourself, young man.

I was embarrassed. Double embarrassed, for letting myself be robbed and for the later reprimand. It was my responsibility to take care of myself, which also included being aware of the potential robbers. Something similar happened in my university. If my belongings were robbed, it was my fault for not watching them. So, I learned how to go around the city, always aware of the surroundings.

With that background, you can imagine now what a big deal it was for me to leave my jacket on the hangers during winter. Yep, leaving them unguarded, in no locker. Free for anyone to take.

It took me almost half a year to gather the confidence to leave it there. It was a cold day, and I could barely focus on class, imagining myself going back home just with my shirt. Walking down back to the green rack, my heart was pounding. When I found it, I felt like a parent picking his child after the first day at the daycare. Joyful and relieved.

Since then, I am more confident about leaving my clothes in the common areas or leaving my backpacks on my seat while going to buy food on the train. However, I still lock my bike. Several posts on Facebook suggest robbers here do not care about money or laptops, but their obsession is those devices with two tires.

The nuances of the system

When I go to the hospital emergency room, I know where I must go just by following the lines on the floor (red, green, yellow, black). I know what percentage to pay for taxes and what my retirement fund is. In need of a bus, I know at what time it is coming.

The system here is planned and effective. So, when I got appendicitis and was taken to the hospital, I thought that everything was settled just by giving them my personal ID. Convinced of this, I had a pleasant stay at the hospital, thinking of how well articulated the system was: just with my ID they were able to contact the insurance company that I put in my migratory application. Success. I left the hospital with this feeling. But unluckily it did not last forever.

It was a day like any other when I received the bill. It was not only for the operation, but also included the penalties for late payment. I was perplexed. I left the hospital with no one telling me anything about a bill. Now I also had to cover extra costs. Why did the nurses not tell me this? I asked this to the people in charge of the bill. “It is not their job”, they replied. And I got perplexed again.

In my previous hometown, although there were abysmal differences between the private and public healthcare system, they both shared something: if you owe them something related to your treatment YOU MUST PAY before leaving. With this background, I was struggling to understand how here everything was so different.

Although grateful for such a lovely attention, I felt a little bit bitter because of the misunderstanding. I mean, after receiving an explanation in the integration course about sexual consent and that I could not circumcise my children without the doctor consent, I was expecting something a little more detailed. Especially when there was money involved. Anyway, I paid straight away and began the process with the insurance company. However, some weeks later, there was another bill. And in this case, it came after they took the money from my bank account. This time I was just furious.

By the point I got the bills, I came back from another country after declining a doctorate position offer. What if I would have left Finland and stayed there? The local services would have lost the money. Maybe even got the impression that this guy with a foreigner name did not want to pay it, when in reality I was not even aware of how the system worked and no one explained to me.

After that I make no assumptions. Even if I sound dumb, I always ask all questions to avoid problems. It feels a little bit like back in school, when asking teachers the questions that my friends did not dare to ask to keep looking cool. Since there is enough cool here, I don’t have to worry about that.

Around flexibility

Studying my Bachelor, I used to have a friend who invited me to go for a beer whenever we met. “Now?” was my usual response, and it always preceded her laugh. For her I was a manic who had to plan everything at least a couple of days ahead. And in that sense, I feel that Finland and I had a wonderful relationship.

Do you remember that application that I said I declined? Well, one of the main reasons that led me to make that decision was the lack of planning. I could not get paid, because I did not have the local ID. To obtain it required around two months, but I only received the acceptance letter from the university two weeks before. After having lived in Finland for a couple of years, that was just impossible to bear.

However, during my studies I also unveiled some other aspects that differ from the usual Finnish thorough planning approach. I explain, before coming to Finland, I used to work as a university teacher in Peru. Mostly with experience in profit-oriented organizations, I was required to grade students several times during the semester. More exactly, three to four grades for practical exercises, and two for mid and end-term tests. And the administration assessed me, according to my compliance with the academic calendar. So, if I was late entering the grades, I would get a call from the coordinator to have a “nice chat” about my performance.

After these experiences, I was somehow manic to deliver all my assignments on time. I could eat or sleep later, but it had to be a well done and punctual delivery. So, you can imagine my surprise when hearing a teacher saying:

TEACHER     Just deliver it when you finish it

(Long pause of disbelief)

ME                 What?

TEACHER     Is it not clear?

ME                 So, no deadline?

TEACHER     No, just finish it.

And those words bring pure joy and bliss to my heart. I disliked that course from the bottom of my heart, but now I had until whenever I pleased to complete the final task. Not next week, neither the end of the semester. No, it was just me and my free will to deal with it. Well, kind of, because I still had to finish the university in two years or pay the corresponding fees.

I did not think about that task again until my classmates started to wonder why we did not get the grades yet. Then, I made peace with the course and deal with the assignment. I finished it during the weekend and send it. It was 67 days after the course finished (I just counted them again for the purposes of this article). The next day we all had our grades. I got a 5, but the guilt of delaying everyone else’s grades made me promise never to delay an assignment again.

With this article I do not pretend to make a generalization of the Finnish society, I just share things according to my own experiences during my time here.

When I came here, I thought that Finland was heaven on Earth. Now, I realized that as any other society, it has its pros and cons. Most of my experiences here had been sweet, and the few bitter moments did not alter my perception that this is a really organized country that cares for people. I am now curious to see how Finland would look in a few years, when more and more foreigners settle down on it.

Pablo Santur

Learning specialist in thesis writing mode. Former TV scriptwriter. Foodie. Anime lover. Twitter: @pablodsantur

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Technology: Master or Slave?

“Moustafa, you need a break now. In order to be able to focus, I suggest going for a short walk or a five-minute meditation” says an artificial intelligence (AI) agent to me after continuous work that lasted for a couple of hours. Sounds like science fiction, does it not? Well, it isn’t! This is actually […]

Moustafa, you need a break now. In order to be able to focus, I suggest going for a short walk or a five-minute meditation” says an artificial intelligence (AI) agent to me after continuous work that lasted for a couple of hours. Sounds like science fiction, does it not? Well, it isn’t! This is actually one of the recent applications of AI in well-being that is achieved by using different wearable sensors and Machine Learning (ML) models that learn from these sensors’ readings. AI and Data Science applications nowadays can guide students and employees to take a rest or relieve stress even when they do not feel they need it depending on their brain activity.

Are you a Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, or Messenger user? Were you affected by the 6 hours when all these apps were down? Have you ever thought about how social media can control our lives subconsciously? Being a student nowadays, we are almost always part of the Internet world. Most of the time we are connected to at least one online application whether attending lectures in Microsoft Teams, submitting homework using Google Docs, listening to music via Spotify, watching series via Netflix on our laptops, or scrolling through Facebook or Instagram feed.

In fact, and according to a Pew Research Center study, around 30% of experts voted that the always-connected life will be harmful to teens and families through the next decade. Meanwhile, 47% of the experts disagreed. They believe that this would serve the people’s well-being and a small percentage of experts believe that there would not be a noticeable difference. According to the same research, experts have concerns regarding the challenges the digital world and technology would result into such as the lack of analytical skills, losing the ability to focus for a relatively long time, and lack of general creativity towards generating solutions given that people will be always influenced by what they see and interact with in addition to the increase in stress, anxiety, and depression.

The more technology evolves the more hopes and fear arise. How we use technology controls the direction!

According to the Global happiness and well-being policy report published in 2019 by the Global Happiness Council, well-being has a clear correlation with the employees’ productivity and retention and as a result the whole working environment. With the help of technology, most of the companies and educational institutions were able to transform into remote work overnight. As much as that was beneficial on many different levels, it also helped in vanishing the line between the work and life balance. According to CNET news, and as of May 2021, there was a 2000% increase in weekend Zoom meetings and a 700% increase in weekday evenings’ meetings on the platform since February 2021. In addition, huge spikes in email usage between midnight and 3 AM were reported by the privacy app maker, SurfShark.

Other concerns were also regarding the direction the big tech giants are adopting based on scientific experiments on dopamine. They work on producing different products that activate this chemical in human bodies which makes the customers stick to these products subconsciously such as video games for teenagers. Other studies conducted by the UCLA brain mapping center, stated that certain brain regions of teenagers are highly triggered by the likes they receive on social media which is one of the most important reasons for social media addiction.

Technology can also have a positive impact on well-being in different areas and domains. In healthcare, for instance, wearable sensor devices and fitness trackers can help and save many patients by helping healthcare professionals monitor their patients on a daily basis preventing health problems way before they occur due to the different sensor readings and metrics.

In education, Natural Language Processing (NLP), which is one of the biggest areas under the umbrella of AI, can be used to customize classes to students based on their understanding levels and progress. The ridiculous routine of administrative matters can be solved and tackled using AI which can result in freeing more time for teachers and professors to interact with students directly.

In the job search journey, which has become an essential part of everyone’s life nowadays, technology and AI-based tools made great progress in matchmaking talents with the right opportunities for them. Recent studies proved that well-being and job security have a clear positive correlation.

Being an AI student and working as a data scientist, I can say confidently that there are a tremendous number of applications of AI and data science that can revolutionize the well-being world but it is all about who will have the right to use these applications, how they will use them and for what purposes. Having access to this amount of data and powerful applications can be tricky and lead to disasters in the wrong hands. On the other hand, maximizing the benefits of the digital world without being controlled by it will be one of the most important challenges that we need to accept, understand and work on a concrete solution for.

“Technology itself is not going to do anything if we are not empathetic. First, we need to understand the needs we are trying to address. And then technology can be in service of those needs.”

—Juliana Nunes, global head of HR, Enterprise Technology, Johnson & Johnson

Moustafa Khairi

A Machine Learning thesis worker at Nokia and a Computer Science master's student at the University of Oulu. Also, I am the Founder and Lead of Google DSC in Oulu, Slush group lead, and next president of AIESEC in Oulu.

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Before getting the job

The path to get a job is full of ups and downs. It is not an easy task, especially when facing unemployment in a different country, and lacking a professional network. This is a short story of my journey to get my first full time position in Finland, and what I learned along the way. […]

The path to get a job is full of ups and downs. It is not an easy task, especially when facing unemployment in a different country, and lacking a professional network. This is a short story of my journey to get my first full time position in Finland, and what I learned along the way.

Maybe you, like me, have heard tons of stories about what a struggle is to find a job in Finland (even more in COVID times). Anger, frustration, and fear are some of the many emotions I remember when talking with people who had already gone through that path. I did not want the same, so I did my best during my study years to pave my way to a job, as smoothly as possible.

When finishing my studies everything was ready. Or I thought it was. But in the end, as often in life, a sequence of unexpected events put me in the situation I was more scared of. Back then I had to face the upcoming ending of my residence permit with no job and just enough savings for some months. A foreigner job-seeker with a strong determination, which was tested several times in my pursue of a full-time job to make a living in Finland.


I came to Finland with the sole goal of finishing my degree within my two-year scholarship. The idea of staying here came after meeting my (now) wife. We agreed that this cozy Nordic country was more convenient for our future plans. Hence, I had to carefully prospect my next steps. If coming here took me a couple of years of planning, to get a job without a network and knowing the language was not going to be an easy task. Anyway, I was happy to face it.

After living here a while, I realized that regarding humanities, which is my field, Finnish was a huge obstacle to get a job. Also, although I have a reasonable previous working experience, since my mother tongue is not English, I was in disadvantage to native speakers when applying to job positions asking for “native or almost native English language skills”. I mean, I am proficient, but I make mistakes every now and then.

Therefore, I considered as the most suitable option, to apply for a doctorate position. I enjoyed doing research, I had previous teaching experience so it seemed like a good option. But to get the study rights to a doctorate position and to get a paid position are different things. A job does not just fall from heaven. So, I went back to planning stage, prospecting different research groups in Finland and also nearby countries, just in case.

Luckily, after writing many mails, research plans and motivation letters, I got a paid doctorate position. It was not in Finland but close enough to have a reasonable long-distance relationship of visiting my beloved once or twice monthly. Also, it was aligned to my previous line of inquiry. I was happy, and for a moment I felt in heaven. Little did I know, it hasn’t all been said yet.

So, I declined the offer and came back knowing my plans for the next four years were crashed.


After arranging all the papers, saying goodbye to my friends, making plans with my partner, and stressing over COVID travel, I arrived at the new city. Then everything started to crumble.

I knew that part of my income would come from the government, but I ignored that it was a grant that in some cases was denied. Even doctorate students who got it, did not get the money until they got the local residence permit. But the tricky thing was that the process takes two months, and I got the acceptance letter barely 15 days in advance. The cherry of the cake? My boss and my coordinator told me different things when asking them about it.

All those incidents were red flags for me. I have worked in organizations with similar problems before, and I have to say my experience was not good, to say the least. A piece of advice: if you detect them, stay and contribute to fix them or leave immediately. Also, after living in Finland for a couple of years I realized that at the bottom of my heart I love order and clarity. So, I declined the offer and came back knowing my plans for the next four years were crashed.

This time I had not chance to do some prep-work or plan. After deducting the travel expenses and money spent on preparation for a 4-year stay, I had enough savings for some months. The clock was ticking, and I had to start looking for a job straight away.


Back in Oulu, I knew my next step was to register as an unemployed job-seeker in TE-Toimisto, which is the Finnish employment agency. However, this was not an easy move to make. From my perspective, asking for help to get a job from an institution meant to me not being able to find it by myself. I felt kind of defeated. And while attending the language course, one thought was still echoing in my head: what if you don’t get a job?

Before I finished the university, I met several people who struggled professionally here. It was not easy to listen to them and witness their frustration. All of them had relevant professional experience and English was almost a second native language, however they could only get a job as cleaners, dishwashers, or fundraisers. In such positions, I felt their energy was drained twice: for doing the job, and for coping with the idea they could do better.

I could feel this feeling nesting in me. And I was fighting it when applying for different jobs and getting interviews invitations. In some cases, I got to the third, fourth or fifth interview but then an email beginning with “Unfortunately…” dropped me back to that feeling again: resentment.

At some point it became overwhelming, and it was difficult to manage. I blew up interviews, vomiting my frustration or bragging about my skills. And the consequent rejections drown me even deeper. Somedays I could not recognize the resentment and sadness in my eyes looking at the mirror.

I started to blame myself for leaving that doctorate position. Many times, I found myself not paying attention to the class but desperately searching for jobs online. Several months later, there was not yet a real offer on the table, my savings were almost gone, and my only real option was to deliver food. My self-confidence was crumbling when I complete the registration form of one of these companies. Like preparing myself in case that real job I was looking for did not happen after all.


During my job-hunting process, countless times I felt like quitting. And every time, the encouraging words of a beloved one arose to support me. Despite the problems at home and discussions because of money issues, my wife always pushed me forward. Kind words and caresses before sleeping helped me to overcome frustration and sometimes despair. Same with my parents. Them telling me their anecdotes of raising three children during a tough economic crisis. If they could cope with that how I could not overcome this?

Friends also played a key supportive role during this process. Some of them encouraged me to explore other fields, introduce me with people that could help me, or even invite me to collaborate in projects together. Moreover, they were also a source of inspiration to realize what I really wanted.

Amid my struggle, my initial search for jobs related to my field was broadened towards positions such as content marketing, coordination, or audiovisual production. But through some deep conversations, I could realize why I decided to leave positions related to media and use that expertise in educational settings. Based on my own experience as a student, I wanted to create a rich and nurturing experience for my students. One beyond learning content but helping them to grow as human beings.

When realizing my purpose I looked in hindsight. Every time I took a job just because of the money I did not enjoy it at all. It was just money. I felt uncomfortable not giving my 100% because, conscious or not, I was seeking the job I wanted to be in. On the other hand, when I have found a job aligned with my values. Oh my god, that was heaven. And that was what I was looking for.


After reaching that clarity, I got a job interview for a position as a lecturer. This time I did not hesitate to express my ideas and beliefs. I wanted the job, but I was also confident in my approach, and why I wanted the position. I wanted to help, and I had a certain idea of how to do it. I left that conversation with the confidence that whatever I got the position or not, I said what I honestly believed.

A couple of days letter, I found in my inbox an email starting with: “We are happy to announce you…”. My wife got worried seeing me crying, but few minutes later we both hugged and laughed. That afternoon we celebrated – worries were finally over after almost 8 months of stretching our budget to unexpected levels of creativity. Let me tell you, trying to have a balanced diet with a narrow budget is certainly a trigger for inspiration.

Now I have a job for one year. What would happen after that? I don’t know. I will do my best to keep it, but unexpected things can happen anytime. Life cannot always be happy, so more likely I will face times of uncertainty in the future too. So, now I will enjoy this new job, time with my wife, and the yoga classes, which were an additional resource to keep my mind focus on difficult times.

Pablo Santur

Learning specialist in thesis writing mode. Former TV scriptwriter. Foodie. Anime lover. Twitter: @pablodsantur

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Halloped represents the students’ voice in the decision-making – You can be the one to start the domino effect

"If the students are not included in the decision-making process, their voice can easily be forgotten", writes Sanna Kangasniemi. According to her, students’ viewpoints and visions should be seen and heard in the university.

In Finnish

What to do if the the quality of food has declined, the weight of the curriculum is too heavy, or the schedule doesn’t match the reality? You can contact a halloped, the student representative in the university administration. Hallopeds do valuable work for a better university and act as student representatives in working groups and administrative bodies.

If the students are not included in the decision-making process, their voice can easily be forgotten. They really are worth listening to — after all, students are the best experts on their studies and everyday life.


Both public universities and foundation universities in Finland are based on an idea of an academic community, and in the community’s core are professors, university staff, and students. This is to make sure that the academic community uses all their know-how when making decisions. These three groups also lead the University of Oulu by representing in different bodies according to the Universities Act and the Regulations of the University of Oulu. Hallopeds are exactly what is needed to ensure that the students’ viewpoints and visions are seen and heard in the university.

As student representatives, hallopeds have the chance to familiarise themselves on how the management of a big scientific institute works. Hallopeds learn meeting and negotiation skills and broaden their own views on decision-making in different administration levels. There are many places where student representation is needed. The University Board of Directors has the highest decision-making powers in the university. Among other things, the Board decides on the essential objectives for actions and finances as well as on the strategy. In addition to the Board of Directors, hallopeds get to represent in the University Collegium, Education Council and Education Management Group, the Faculties’ boards, councils, education committees, and degree program teams. There are also Health and Wellbeing Working Groups, Equality and Diversity Working Groups, and two Restaurant Working Groups.

Hallopeds learn about the University’s quality management and personnel matters as well as education development. The student representative also gets to connect with other representatives in the academic community. Discussing and exchanging views are valuable part of the job.

Besides the internal administrative bodies, the student representatives influence in bodies external to the University of Oulu, such as in the boards of Uniresta Oy, Oulun ylioppilasapu ry (“Student Help Association in Oulu”) and PSOAS, in national FSHS Council and in local Board of Directors of FSHS Unit in Oulu. So, the students’ voice isn’t limited to the university’s walls.


I have myself worked as a student representative on the other side of the dual model, in the university of applied sciences. I participated in decision-making process in internal and external bodies, like campus’s student well-being groups, campus’s study collegium and degree program team. As a student representative, I quickly noticed that not everything is as simple as it seems to students. For example, in the Oulu University of Applied Sciences the need of another study psychologist had been recognised and acknowledged, but it took over a year of lobbying and multiple inquiries and consultations between different bodies to actually make the decision of hiring a study psychologist. The university is run by a huge administrative machine that observes and makes decision which have an effect on, among other things, students’ well-being, education quality, and university’s reputation.

However, I have noticed that even a one small decision can have a domino effect, where one thing or person causes a chain of events. That is why I encourage everyone to apply for halloped: you can be the first domino to cause the change. 

 There are over 100 student representatives in the administration chosen by OYY’s Executive Board or the Student Council. You can apply for halloped from the beginning of October at

Translation: Essi Ranta.

Sanna Kangasniemi

OYY:n sosiaalipoliittinen asiantuntija, jonka mielestä jokainen päivä on mahdollisuus.

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