“I initially came to Finland to experience something new during a gap year after finishing my upper secondary school. I have worked and studied here ever since. It’s been six years now. I would say that perhaps it is the innovative opportunities for studying and education in general that brought me here.
Coming from Estonia I found the social structure and system here to be quite supportive of my growth. There were many opportunities. Yet, I experienced some difficulty in settling in – particularly to find a place to stay. When I got married to my sweetheart from Estonia, it suddenly became a whole lot easier to find a place, because now we were a family.
Experiencing change can have a positive or a negative impact. When life doesn’t go as I expect it to, I can either become bitter or embrace the change. As a result of living abroad I think I have grown as a person – expanded my horizons, learnt new languages, acquired new experiences and become more mature socially.
In my experience learning the local language and facts about the culture is needed for a good integration. In the case of Estonians in Finland, compared to other immigrants, our language skills are considered too high for basic Finnish language courses. Estonian and Finnish are similar languages, but still quite different. I had to learn Finnish by myself, I managed but it took me quite some time.
Also, I find that when people are accepted as they are it encourages them to embrace the culture of the host country. Maybe some don’t want to integrate, because they don’t feel respected as human beings in the first place?
I hope that every person realises that preconceived ideas about another nation have to be personally conquered. We may have them, but it is altogether different when those ideas are actively lived out or people are mistreated because of it. Nobody wants to be mistreated abroad, so it is a wise idea to be friendly to those newcomers instead, in every sense of the word. Perhaps people should ponder for themselves, if he or she wishes to contribute to the betterment of the integration in their society, or spread hostility instead. I personally find that I can only be one or the other.”