When last summer I applied to go on Erasmus, in Helsinki, Finland, I was really excited, but yet the idea was still far from reality, looked blurry and ephemeral. Time went by fairly quickly, and when the day of my departure got closer I felt lost and my excitement slowly faded.
Throughout my entire journey, mixed feelings dwelled my mind. Being already an international student in London I knew what it meant to move to a new country, start over again, understanding a new culture, making new friends, building an entirely new life in the very short time of only six months.
I arrived in Helsinki on the 2nd of January: it was negative 25, it was snowing and dark.
What might be seen as a horrible place to move into for the semester turned out to be one of the best experience of my life. There are three words that I like to recall to my exchange in Finland:
light, slow and detail.
The rigid Finnish weather has been one of the most fascinating aspects of the entire exchange. The very few hours of sunlight during the day, the cold and the snow not only created beautiful scenarios and landscapes pleasing for the eyes but also helped to create a strong and warm sense of community along with us exchange students.
The weather, again, is also at the core of the Finnish approach to life: slow and relaxed (completely the opposite of the British one). The dark winter days and the bright spring ones let people embrace everyday life with calmness and positivity. This is how creativity emerges, I’ve been told during my stay by my internship supervisor, an experienced goldsmith, ‘art needs time, and the snow gives people the opportunity to see themselves and respect the nature’.
Helsinki is the capital of design for a reason: it is one of the most detail oriented city in the world. Never in my life have I seen so much beauty and mastery in such diverse fields. From tall buildings to small design objects like jewellery, everything is beautifully produced. The entire city looks curated, mixing old styles with more urban and contemporary characters. Taste is at the heart of every Finnish activity.
All my fears at the start were quickly substituted by excitement, the same that pushed me to apply for the Erasmus. This is my advice to anyone who’s considering to approach a similar experience: change is never easy, it’s incredibly scary and staying in your comfort zone is a much preferable idea, although, the long term effect that such experiences can bring to one’s life is indescribably rewarding and exceeds the initial fear of the unknown.
As a sage man, named Marcel Proust, one said ‘the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes’.
Written By: Beatrice Bekar, DMC 2018.