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My Oulu: “During my first walks in the city, I felt like I was in a fairy tale”

26.5.2022

Débora Oliveira, 34, from São Paulo, Brazil, is a master’s student in Education and Globalisation at the University of Oulu. She also has a bachelor’s and teaching degree in languages and literature and a postgraduation degree in culture and education. Oulu Talent Hub interviewed Oliveira about her thoughts on living and working in Oulu.

Why did you choose to come to Finland?

I have always wanted to do a master’s degree abroad, and I was searching for English-speaking countries or places that had international programmes in English. Finland is renowned for its quality education, so I checked the Studyinfo website to see which master’s degrees were in offer. When I came across EdGlo (the nickname of education and globalisation together), I decided to apply because it had all the areas I wanted to study.

Besides, I could get a scholarship, and the student residence and living expenses were more affordable than what I found in other European countries. Students in Finland have a lot of benefits, and you can get discounts almost everywhere, from eating in restaurants to travelling by train.

The idea of learning a new language also got me excited, as I’m passionate about learning languages, and Finnish is the seventh language I am studying. Besides Portuguese, my native language, I also speak English and Spanish and have studied German, French, and Arabic.

I have been here for seven months now. Before I started my master’s, I had never been to Finland. My first experience in the country was directly in Oulu. Though I had to fly to Helsinki from Brazil, I only stayed at the airport waiting for the night train to bring me here.

What do you think about Oulu?

While travelling on the train from the south of Helsinki to the north of Oulu, I was amazed by the forest landscape all the way through here. During my first days in Oulu, two things called my attention: how the city is calm and silent and the natural landscapes you come across everywhere.

Coming from a megacity such as São Paulo, it can take some time for one to get adjusted to a relaxing vibe. I remember during my first walks in the city, I felt like I was in a fairy tale due to the amount of greenery and water everywhere. Also, when I spotted red mushrooms or saw hares running at night, I really thought I was inside a child’s story.

One of the things that was most culturally shocking for me about Oulu was the ‘bus etiquette’.

I live by myself here in a cosy, small studio apartment near the city centre. It’s a student residency, but it’s not inside the campus in Linnanmaa. I really like living in a central region, and my neighbourhood is great, because my street is near the sea and just in front of one of Oulu’s biggest parks called Hollihaka.

I think people are extremely polite. I like how everyone greets me when I enter or leave places, such as shops or supermarkets, with a ‘Hei!’, Moi!’ or ‘Moikka’ and ‘Kiitos’. Also, I feel that life here is simple, yet organised. It’s nice to see people cycling everywhere, even older people, or going for a walk in the park at the end of the day.

I think one of the things that was most culturally shocking for me about Oulu was the ‘bus etiquette’. When people wait at the bus stop or look for a seat inside the bus, they always keep a distance from each other.

At São Paulo, we are so used to having crowded buses that we cannot afford to choose where to sit. And the distances are so long that one certainly gets tired of standing. Here, in Oulu, it is the opposite: people often choose to sit in a row that’s empty and rarely sit beside someone else, unless you know the person.

“Oulu has been a place for my bucket list experiences. Here, I could see snow for the first time and experience what it is like to have just four hours of daylight during winter,” says Débora Oliveira.

What do you do in your spare time?

Besides doing my master’s at the university, I am a communications trainee at BusinessOulu for the Oulu Talent Hub project. I am also a volunteer at Red Cross Oulu in a project supporting Ukrainians arriving in the city. In Brazil, I used to work for an NGO with migrants and asylum seekers, so it is great to continue working with migrants and international people here.

Though Oulu is a quiet city, I must confess that I have been quite busy here. I try to enjoy the city as much as I can, so I love hanging out with my friends from university and getting to know new places. We often make bonfires in parks and go to Nallikari or to the sauna.

It is clear that Oulu is a city in expansion. Many projects have been implemented to foster the city’s growth, and you can see new constructions starting around the city. So, I see Oulu as a city of opportunities. And I am having such a great time here that I am considering staying in Finland to pursue a PhD.

How to get into the Finnish lifestyle?

Before coming to Finland, I highly recommend that people do some research on what life is like here. There are many online resources (websites and social media) with information and facts about the country. To name some, This is Finland, Study in Finland, Business Finland, and the Finnish Embassy’s social media accounts. It is good to have some idea about the country and culture before landing here.

After moving in, if you want to feel more integrated into the city, you should definitely get to know as many places as possible and see what the city has to offer and what kinds of facilities are available for residents. Besides, try to have hobbies and participate in events in order to network as much as possible. You never know what opportunities might come, and having connections is the best way to stay tuned.

I love living in a city where I can see aurora borealis dancing in the sky every now and then.

If you want to work or do an internship here – which I highly recommend, because you can grow your network – you must keep an eye on Oulu’s social media channels (such as City of Oulu, BusinessOulu, Villa Victor, Visit Oulu, and so on). If you study at the university, there are many events happening as well.

I would say you should keep in mind you might face some possible cultural shocks, depending on which country you are from – but you will face nothing that could not be overcome. For instance, I am a very talkative person, and I believe Brazilians tend to be very expansive. After coming to Finland, I soon noticed that Finns don’t talk loudly; they enjoy being silent. So, I am trying to learn how to be comfortable observing silence as well.

Besides, I love living in a city where I can see aurora borealis dancing in the sky every now and then. Seeing the northern lights has always been on my list, and so far, I have seen them three times. And it’s great to know they’re just around the corner – or rather, I should say they’re just up in the sky.

Oulu Talent Hub

- Oulu Talent Hub brings together and develops regional opportunities and services for international recruitment.
- Oulu Talent Hub offers talents, for example, contacts with local companies, matchmaking events and info sessions, company visits, a tandem model for internship programmes and career counselling. For Oulu Talent Hub, international talent is defined as international specialists, employees, researchers and students.
- Oulu Talent Hub aims to promote international talent employment to companies in the Oulu region and open up employment paths for international talent.
- Project partners are BusinessOulu, Oulu Chamber of Commerce, University of Oulu, Oulu University of Applied Sciences and Oulu Vocational College.
- The project is funded by The European Social Fund, ESF.
- Learn more about Oulu Talent Hub at oulutalenthub.fi.

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Débora Oliveira sees Oulu as a city of opportunities. She is considering staying in Finland to pursue a PhD. Photos: Débora Oliveira’s photo album.

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