For Turku to continue thriving economically, local companies need to be more open to hiring international students and other talents. Vanessa is an international student and she came to Finland to pursue her Master’s degree. In addition, she has been working with Talent Turku -network aiming to attract and retain international talents in Turku. But how did she feel at home in a small studio as she had been used to the rural American scenery?

A little background on me. I came to Finland to pursue a master’s degree after a ten-year break. When I got my bachelor’s degree, I went straight to work in US. I knew I wasn’t going to go to too many student parties, though the parade of student groups on Wednesdays are a regular occurrence. I wanted proximity to the museums, the movie theater and the river as I am an avid trail runner. In addition, I wanted the only two people I knew in all of Finland to be close to me.

When I applied for my housing, the website said for my apartment (yo-talot in Finnish), there is, on average, a four month wait. Also, one of the heaviest weighted factors in your housing selection is how far your hometown is from Turku. I did a check and my home town is 5,125 mi/8 249 km and decided I had to take a chance. I wanted to live in one of these apartments because they are closest to the center of Turku. When I had visited Finland in 2014, I stayed with friends who were PhD students. Two weeks of wandering the city for various activities convinced me that I wanted to be as close to the center as possible.

(24.02.2017) Just past Halinen Rapids is Virnamäenpuisto which runs along the Aura River at the edge of the city. It quickly became one of my favorite running spots.

Convenience first

I’m sure I also wanted as much convenience as possible. I wasn’t just moving halfway around the world, I was back in school after ten years. I knew there would be a huge adjustment. I had lived on my own for almost eight years before I moved to Finland but was never more than a five-hour drive from friends and family.

Being near the center has been a benefit and so has the proximity to shops and restaurants and it’s much easier to direct friends to my apartment. One thing that was initially uncomfortable, but I think has been a valuable lesson, is the small space of my yksiö (studio apartment). I was initially quite surprised and genuinely felt that a 21 m2 apartment would not work for me (and cats). But it was more my American sensibilities and being from a rural area. I was just used to having a lot of space, and a lot of stuff, most of which was wasteful.

(04.01.2017) Franscesa/Frankie (black cat) and Bruce (grey and white) enjoy being perched on their two meter high cat tower.

(Almost) everything important is within walking distance in Turku

A nice, high cat tower and netting over open windows created premium cat TV. The tree outside of my windows is full of birds and squirrels. Also, when you live in a small apartment, it kind of encourages you to go out and take advantage of the fact that if you walk in one direction for 10 minutes, you’re in the city center. If you walk in the other direction for 10 minutes, you’re at the back of the student village, crossing Halinen Rapids.

I’ve lived in Yo-talot for three years now. I am finishing my thesis and can speak the language a little. I say that I can struggle through a conversation in Finnish. I am finishing a trainee position with the city, which not only allowed me to get some work experience in Finland but also has helped me improve my spoken Finnish. Thanks to some very patient co-workers.

About Vanessa

Vanessa is a former journalist who is now wandering her way through English-language proofreading, marketing and communications in Finland. In her free time, she’s taking in as much of Finnish nature as possible. At work, she’s dragging her quiet Finnish co-workers out of their boxes and they are tolerating her struggle Finnish during coffee tauko.

The article was first published in Know Your Hoods