"What I love most about Finland is the fact that everyone is so friendly and helpful. It astonished me how well they all speak English in here," says doctoral student Federica Tesini.
Tesini is studying her PhD in the field of food chemistry. She is originally from University of Bologna, Italy.
Top university and new experiences
There were several reasons why Tesini wanted to come into Finland – out of all places.
"I chose Finland and the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry because it is internationally known that it has really high quality and top-notch research in food sciences. Especially in Italy, they respect your PhD degree more if you’ve done part of it abroad."
Tesini also wanted to brush up her English and experience a whole new culture with a different climate, social norms and way of living. Unlike her friends, she didn’t want to go to other Mediterranean countries near her home, because she wanted to challenge herself.
"I think a complete change of environment is a really good chance to grow as a person. I came to Finland without any pre-existing knowledge of the country, language or had any social network. But that’s the beauty of it – to build a new successful life from scratch. I did it, and it was wonderful. I would do it again," Tesini beams.
Hard work for a thesis
During her four months in Finland, she worked in the Deparment of Food and Environmental Sciences, in Viikki campus in Helsinki. She did both chemical and sensory analysis of her research subject, fava bean.
"I worked in a research team with a few professors. I did most of my work in a laboratory, and currently I’m working on a paper about my findings. I got the most challenging part of my thesis done, and now I have only some finishing work to do when I go back to Italy," Tesini describes.
From South to North
Tesini arrived in Finland in snowy March. The weather and the culture were shocking at first, but she slowly started to adapt into it.
"I’m used to the Mediterranean sun, so the Finnish spring took me by surprise. But towards the summer it got better – the nature is so lush and green now, and I can see squirrels and rabbits running outside. In Italy, I live in a city center so I mostly just see buildings and other people," Tesini says.
It took a while before Tesini got used to the famous Finnish silence.
"I quickly learnt that it’s about respect – others respect your need for space and time. If you sit next to someone in Italy in a bus, you automatically start talking. In here, that doesn’t happen. Finns don’t want to bother you, because they want to value your time and privacy," Tesini says.
Funny mishaps and sauna
Some funny mishaps are bound to happen when two cultures meet. Tesini had a few, too.
"I was congratulating a colleague quite shortly after arriving, and automatically gave her Italian kisses on the cheeks while hugging her. But she wasn’t used to that so it was a bit confusing for a while," Tesini says, amused.
She also fell in love with the Finnish sauna.
"In here, going to the sauna is a very casual thing to do. In Italy, you would usually need to go into a spa for that. I loved it, I went to the sauna all the time here."
All and all, Tesini had a great time and she thinks Finns are very punctual and effective in everything they do.
"Everything works so smoothly and simply here. For an international student, it’s very easy to come to Finland. Relationships are also easier to manage too. I was invited to our research team’s floorball team and knitting club and we also travelled to Estonia – there’s so much leisure time activities here at the university. I wouldn’t give this experience away!"