In this week’s episode, Matt chats with Early Artis. Early is a teacher and father who moved to Finland from America in 2015. Like many other guests who have been on the show, Early moved to Finland for love. However, his path to Finland had many stops along the way.
When Early was a child, he read On the Road. Jack Kerouac’s novel inspired a healthy wanderlust in Early, and he began traveling the globe. Early lived in Cambodia, Thailand, and India, among other places. In each country, he spent his time surfing and volunteer teaching. He relied on the kindness of local families for places to stay.
“I love to travel and to reach out and help the youth around the world,” he said. “This allowed me to do it.”
A flexible bartending gig back home in Brooklyn allowed Early to take off for six months at a time for travel. He eventually settled in Finland, where his two daughters were born. Luckily, he didn’t have to give up surfing to start a life in Finland.
“People are always surprised when I tell them… there’s surfing up near Pori,” he said. “I’m in a surf club. There’s actually two surf shops here in Helsinki.”
When he arrived in Finland, it was only natural that he would work as a teacher. He began working towards the certification necessary to teach in local English-language kindergartens. He took over one year of Finnish language courses, and began his degree in social services. He is even earning extra credentials to work with children with special needs.
“That’s one of the great things about Finland,” he said. “There are so many free or inexpensive paths for you to get your education.”
Early appreciates the availability of high-quality, low-cost education and extracurricular activities in Finland. He has done several internships, including a language internship at a Finnish daycare. During this time, he began a social integration project that would later form the basis of his thesis.
Working with seven to twelve-year-olds attending international English-language schools, Early developed a community work series to help children from international families connect with the Finnish community. The series involved activities such as visiting the firehouse and Parliament house, and aimed to encourage social connection between internationals living in Finland and Finnish society.
In addition to facilitating integration, Early’s program allowed kids to develop community service skills and gain valuable volunteer experience. He hopes that his thesis work can one day be useful to NGOs in Finland that facilitate integration of internationals of all age groups.
“The general idea is you give something of yourself to the Finnish community, and the community gives it back to you,” he said. “You get people who might not have been introduced to each other having a dialogue.”
In addition to being a student and educator, Early is also a father to two girls. To help adjust to the challenges of being a father abroad, Early joined Familia’s Duo Fathers group. The three-week program brings together fathers with international backgrounds living in Finland for discussions about the challenges they face.
Topics for discussion included coping with the present and overcoming the challenges of daily life, experience with fatherhood and father figures, and the role of the multicultural father in Finland. The group seeks to provide a safe space in which fathers can find support and establish meaningful relationships.
“The safe space allows us to talk about it, get it out in the open, and maybe come up with some solutions,” he said.
Early identified several challenges most international fathers face in Finland, including finding happiness and coping with anxiety, establishing a social circle in a foreign country, and balancing cultural preferences when raising multicultural children. Early had some advice for parents who might be feeling particularly challenged in the midst of global challenges:
“I would say to everyone to take care of themselves so that they can take care of others,” he said. “This last year has been really unique and stressful.”
Listen in to episode 60 to hear more about Early’s experiences as a father, student, and educator in Finland. If you or someone you know might benefit from Familia’s Duo Groups, please take a look at the links below. In addition to the Duo Fathers group, Familia also hosts groups for mothers, job hunters, and more.