Jean chats with Jessica, who is originally from the UK. Jessica moved to Finland in 2016 to live with her Finnish partner. In this week’s episode, Jean and Jessica talk about volunteer opportunities in Finland and the importance of volunteer work in a functioning society.
Jessica met her Finnish partner through an online penpal. After a two-year long distance relationship, Jessica finished college and moved to Finland to be with her partner.
Because she had been travelling back and forth to Finland to visit her partner, Jessica had some time to acclimate to Finnish culture before permanently relocating. However, the transition to life in Finland still took a bit of adjustment. When she arrived in Finland, Jessica stayed in her partner’s family home in Kaarina. Jessica was surprised to find out that the family always left the door unlocked, always announced their arrival to or departure from the house, and never wore shoes inside.
Jessica noted cultural differences between her family in the UK and her partner’s family in Finland. For example, her family’s tradition of spending evenings in front of the TV with takeaway food was replaced with healthy meals eaten around the table and followed by a family board game.
She also noted the lack of drying machines and carpeting in Finnish houses, the regularity with which Finns take trips to the lake, and the advanced recycling systems in the country.
“Culturally, I’d say probably a big [difference] would be the sauna,” Jessica said. “Having a sauna in the home and going regularly, that was huge for me.”
Jessica studied international business at Turku University of Applied Sciences. Her thesis topic looked into the motivation for and benefits of volunteer work among students in Finland. She found that students were largely motivated by interest in a particular company, skill acquisition, and network expansion. She found that students gained important skills through volunteer work, and that volunteer work often helped students find work later on.
Jessica’s extensive volunteer experience informed her research. During her bachelor’s degree program, she volunteered with AIESEC, a program that sends students on exchange projects targeting UN sustainable development goals. She then became a student ambassador of southwest Finland and volunteered with Finnish Red Cross. Jessica now volunteers at Nordic Diversify, and is interested in many other volunteer opportunities (linked below).
Volunteer work doesn’t just benefit volunteers, Jessica pointed out. Volunteers are an important part of society, and they are essential to helping a society function.
To make the most of your studies in Finland, Jessica suggests preparing for your thesis early. She urges that students seek feedback from classmates and advisors. Jessica also encourages students to volunteer if they get the chance, but advises knowing your limits and prioritizing your schoolwork.
Tune in to episode 54 to learn more about the volunteer opportunities linked below. We’ll see you next week!