It’s almost the end of the year and this month I’ve been living 20 year in Finland. It feels like a lifetime ago, when on the shortest day of 2001, as a 4th year Communication student, I stepped on the plane from the Netherlands to this for me rather unknown country called Finland. It was only a few months after the 11 September attacks. The Finnish ‘Markka’ was in its last 1,5 week as currency, the Nobel prizes were celebrating its 100th year and Tarja Halonen was still president. That day, I arrived to Helsinki and travelled to Jyväskylä by train, where snow was plenty and it was -28°C. I did not know much about Finland as a country but my first impression was that it’s beautiful. 

After graduating, I didn’t have much work experience, didn’t speak Finnish, lived in small cities and towns, and did not feel very certain after many unsuccessful job applications. So the only way was to fill my skill gaps and go forward, I learned Finnish, and worked on learning coding, design and User Experience.

The best part during this time was traveling and meeting a lot of nice people wherever I lived: Jyväskylä, Ylivieska, Kajaani, Tupos and later Oulu. One of the best memories of those early days, were when my kids were small and sometimes joined me to meetings. Although the first 10 years might not have been the easiest but they taught me a lot. Several times, I felt to quit trying to find work with my education and settle for something less, but even that didn’t seem to work out. At one point, when I didn’t get enough design projects, I applied for a cleaning job – but didn’t get hired for that as I couldn’t start before 6 am with 2 small children… I just wanted take a plane back to the Netherlands. Eventually I didn’t and decided to keep hanging on.

A month later, almost 10 years after arriving to Finland, I got a call to work as a consultant which was my lucky moment, and a turning point in my life 🍀.

Since then, I’ve worked hard. One possibility led to another, and at this point I can say that I have worked with or for some of the most renowned Finnish companies as subcontractor with my own company, and nowadays as employee at Valamis. It might sound cliché but I can’t say other than that I have worked and am working with a bunch of amazing people, have met inspiring entrepreneurs and learned a lot along the way.

So, this month, after 20 years of living here, some things haven’t changed: Finland’s beautiful nature, the northern mentality and innovative technology opportunities. However, we are now using the Euro as currency, Sauli Niinistö has been president for quite many years, and climate scientists got the Nobel Prize in physics for the first time in its 120 year history. And that’s how it goes. Some things remain the same, some things change and life has its ups and downs. I’m still me: a rather shy girl from Fryslân, likes to spend time with friends and family, explore nature, do sports and who doesn’t quit easily, but instead has learned to adjust plans when needed. Certainly, everything has changed too: I am working in a dream job at Valamis, have an MBA, speak Finnish and am living my best life. As an expat, it brought its challenges and difficult times but work has given me a way to be part of society, feel like an equal citizen and often made me challenge myself as a person to get out of my comfort zone and finally find my way here.

Life is about the people you meet and for this, I have to say thank you to each and everyone who has been part of my journey in these past 20 years. You know who you are! A special thanks to Valamis to hire me and trust me in my development and my daily work. Sometimes one possibility can mean the world to someone. For anyone else who needs a lucky moment: keep on going and hopefully 2022 is your time. Fortuna Eruditis Favet!