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My Oulu: Moving to Oulu started a new chapter in Hansika Ambahelagedara’s life

18.1.2022

Hansika Ambahelagedara, originally from Sri Lanka, is currently pursuing her master’s degree at the Faculty of Education, University of Oulu. After months of remote learning, she finally moved to Oulu last spring. She is thankful for her life in Finland as it constantly broadens her perspective. In her column she reflects on her new life in Oulu.

Moving to Oulu in April 2021 was a really exciting moment for me. I had been waiting for that moment since last August. I started my master's degree in the Faculty of Education, University of Oulu last September. But unfortunately, I could not get my resident permit on time to arrive in Finland due to inconveniences caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, I had to continue studies fully remotely from my home country, Sri Lanka until April. I settled down in Oulu quite easily because my husband had been working and living in Oulu for almost three years. 

When I arrived in Oulu, there was still snow from the previous winter, although it was the spring season. The lakes nearby were still frozen, but the ice was melting day by day and the green tips of grass were visible. The weather was not too cold, but the breeze was slightly cold and refreshing. This was surreal for me. The purity of nature made me fall in love with Finland instantly.

From there onwards, I started going on nature strolls with my husband. This was something I never tried when I was in Sri Lanka. Although I am quite proud of the beauty of my country, I never had the urge to go outside and enjoy nature regularly. The reason is the lack of work-life balance. This is something many people undergo in many countries. But not in Finland. 

In my point of view, Finland as a country operates in a way that nurtures work-life balance. I believe this is one of the main reasons why Finland is ranked as the happiest country in the world consecutively. The country's system encourages people to have quality time with their families and/or loved ones during the free time they get. If you are on holiday, you are on holiday; no work during your holiday nor does anyone expect you to work while you are enjoying your holiday. A guilt-free, stress-free holiday – how great is that!

One thing I realized when I came to Oulu is that the quality of life in Oulu is high and you almost take it for granted. You have everything you wish for here in Oulu. Fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink can seem like trivial things, but given how polluted the earth is becoming, this is a luxury for me. 

Another thing I observed so far is how friendly people in Oulu can be. Yes, Finns may be introverted but they can also be really friendly! When you go to the supermarket, the bank, the hospital or any other office or service point, they always greet you wearing pleasant smiles on their faces. They also try to accommodate our needs in the most sincere manner. Such integrity can make your life so much easier when living in a foreign country.

Oulu always stands out for its beautiful nature amongst other big cities in Finland. This is true for me as well. My summer experience in Oulu was simply the best! There were so many activities to do throughout the summer. The weather was nice and warm and staying inside the apartment felt like a crime. Although autumn does not last long in Oulu, nature gets whimsical! Ranging from shades of yellow to shades of red, trees turn into the most beautiful versions of themselves.

Winter in Oulu is surreal. This is my first time experiencing winter, and yes, it can get too cold sometimes, but I am realizing that I am living in a truly magical wonderland and not everyone is lucky to experience such serenity in nature. 

Experiencing all the seasons was new for me as I am coming from a tropical country. So far it has been nine amazing months living in Oulu, full of new experiences! I knew I would meet new people but bonding with nature was something I did not anticipate. I am grateful for this new chapter in my life which helped me to get out of my comfort zone and also helped me to bond with nature even more.

Photo: Arina Lykova

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