In April 2015 I became a Master of Social Sciences at the University of Tampere. My major is Journalism and Mass Communications that was part of the programme called European and Russian Studies. It’s a joint programme in which International Relations, Journalism and Cultural Studies are combined but you can major in one of these three areas. In our group we had students from Finland, Sweden, the USA, Belarus, Italy and Nepal. We got along very well together, became close friends, helped each others and met very often outside the university walls.
When I came to Tampere in 2009, I joined the board of UTA student associating ISOT (International Students of Tampere). We arranged a lot of events for students to meet, network, and integrate into the Finnish society.
Apart from being a volunteer in ISOT, in Tampere I also started to work as a music blogger covering Finnish acts for British, German and American online magazines. This experience resulted in my writing for Rolling Stone Russia and interviewing the likes of Marylin Manson, Korn, Deftones, Mastodon, Sick Puppies and Down. I also worked at music festivals as a journalist (Flow, Pori Jazz, Blockfest, Tammerfest, etc) and took part in such an international event as Tampere Music and Media Conference two times.
When I moved to Tampere I started travelling much more than before and have visited around 20 countries by now. Tampere has its own international airport with very affordable airlines and good routes and it makes travelling easy. Thanks to ISOT, university exchange programmes, internships, etc. I have a thousand of international friends all over the world.
I can say that in Tampere I finally started to understand what life is about. I came back to my favourite thing – music, to playing it (I learnt to play the guitar here and I can also play the piano and I sing). I even took part in OurVision which is a sort of Eurovision for immigrants in Finland. I’m happy in Tampere. I like that people respect my private space here, that they follow the rules, that “a small person” is important here with however small problems he or she has – it’s the government for people by default. What I actually needed was time and space.
I like that it is safe here, that you can trust people. I like it that the Finns hate small talks as I hate it too with all my heart. Being a PR manager you learn to be an extravert who can easily be an icebreaker and a master of lovely small talks. I’m a total introvert – I need time to recover from communication. I like that I can sit in the bus and no one will sit next to me instead of being squeezed into the subway train like in Moscow. I like that when I lose my bus card in Tampere, someone finds it and returns to the bus company for me to have it back. I like it that I can go anywhere in Tampere by bike and reach my destination within 10-20 min or walk and be there in 30 min. I like it that I live near the most beautiful lake in world Näsijärvi and can take long walks around it.
Russia and Finland have common culture and history at some point. That’s why Finnish culture was never exotic to me – it was understandable and sort of part of my own culture. In Tampere there is Lenin museum even and Moomins’ museum (I had books about moomins when I was a kid and watched Russian cartoons about them). The food and nature are very similar to Russian ones. I just don’t feel much difference, especially in Tampere and Helsinki (where the architecture is so similar to the one in St. Petersburg).
My cultural shock was that I could finally relax and switch off my alert mode. I could just enjoy simple things in Tampere. I could see rabbits and squirrels running around the university and my home. I could be myself without caring for a status, brands, if I wear heels and make-up or not, if I’m single in OMG 24 years, if I graduate in 2 years or 5. Another big cultural shock for me was when I participated in Student Demonstration arranged by the Finns who protested against tuition fees for International Students. That was mind-blowing! And it had a great impact – the politicians came out of the parliament to talk to the huge crowd of students.
I think the potential of Tampere is in becoming a truly perfect international environment for living and working. Expats are not supposed to turn into Finns in Tampere but rather find their own place in the society, gain respect and bring value to the country. I strongly believe those are the key factors to successfully integrate into Finnish society. It’s not about where you come from; it’s about where you belong.
In 2014-2015 I have worked full-time in an e-learning language company WordDive, based in Tampere. My job was related to Marketing, Content creation, PR and many other things, mostly focused on Russian and English-speaking markets. In 2014 my company received a prize “Best mobile service in Finland”, which made me very proud of my workplace and team. Due to the financial crisis (again) we had to part our ways.
Nonetheless, I would like to develop my career in Tampere furthermore, in the following areas: media research, marketing, PR, music, teaching and journalism. I love doing all these things. I want to learn to speak Finnish fluently so that I could communicate with my friends, colleagues and boyfriend more easily. I want to do more for Tampere as this town is a true inspiration to me. And I’d be glad to contribute to its culture, economy, society as much as I could. I know that Tampere and its citizens will always appreciate it and never turn back on “a small person” for any reason.
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