I am Karlina. I am currently on a 12 month EVS placement in Finland working at EKOenergy, hosted by the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC). This is where I will write about my adventures in Helsinki and beyond.
FANC (or Suomen luonnonsuojeluliitto in Finnish. No, I’m not sure how to pronounce that either!) is the biggest nature conservation NGO in Finland, and the host of the international EKOenergy network and ecolabel for renewable energy. Within EKOenergy I work on sustainable, “fish friendly” hydropower and promote our ecolabel for sustainable energy to producers, consumers and environmental NGOs in Latvia and the UK. Also, as I’m the only “native” English speaker on the team, I help with some of the proofreading and editing of newsletters, blog posts and general web content. No two working weeks are the same, so it is a great environment to work in if you’re flexible and willing to learn new things.
As far as leaving your life behind and moving away goes (however temporary), European Volunteer Service is the way to do it. After a Skype interview, a few emails and a bit of paperwork, all I had to do was buy a one-way ticket to Helsinki and hope for the best - accommodation and the rest was all taken care of by FANC. In addition, within my first 2 weeks of being here I got sent on a week long on arrival training to Kokkola (a gorgeous town on the north-western coast of Finland). It was organised to the hour and covered everything from our rights and responsibilities to how to register at the immigration office, to basic Finnish language (and waltz!) lessons. It was also a great opportunity to meet other EVS participants working on various projects across Finland. I imagine having this network of people going through a similar experience will only become more valuable as the time goes by.
I’m at the top end of the 18-30 range that qualifies for Erasmus+ Youth in Action scheme, and when I think of “youths” a 28-year-old postgraduate zoologists in the middle of an existential crisis isn’t what springs to my mind. It is safe to say I was a bit apprehensive about what working with the other EVS participants would be like. As it turns out my anxiety was entirely unnecessary - our EKOenergy team consists of a wide array of ages and nationalities and they're all wonderful! I've never had an office job so I have nothing to compare this experience with, but you would struggle to find a more helpful, engaging and passionate working group. Also, Finland is GORGEOUS so it’s really hard not to swoon about my life here.
Don't get me wrong, some of this has been tough. Uprooting my life and plonking it in a country that I’ve never even visited was always going to be a bit difficult, and I definitely had to learn to love my own company when I first got here, as it gets dark really early here and people tend to hide indoors for most of February and March. But I came prepared! The plan as soon as I got here was to surround myself with things and people I knew made me happy. So I found a running group and a climbing buddy to keep me busy outside of work, and got involved with as many projects as I could at work. And now the sea ice has melted and the days are getting longer, it almost feels like spring here so you know what - it might be fine. And yes, I am aware it is practically summer back in the UK! Nevertheless, I would take a cold sunny day in Helsinki over the mild rainy greyness of Manchester any day!
Think I'll leave it at that for now. Next time I'll tell you a bit more about my work and making friends.
Kiitos for reading!