Apart from being a hit song from the 80s, Should I stay or should I go? is a question to which the answer is not clear to me yet. They say that whenever a cycle ends another one begins. Studying in LUT is an absolutely great experience, but it is a temporal situation for most of us. Some are planning to go to Helsinki or back to their home countries or maybe try their luck somewhere else within Europe.
I read an article called ”Foreign graduates struggle in Finnish labour market” where it is mentioned how a large percentage of international students leave Finland. I immediately started thinking about possible reasons for this so I discussed this topic with some friends in a similar situation to mine (full degree students coming from countries outside the EU).
Finding reasons to stay is a very easy task. Most of the aspects that scare people from living here have been exaggerated a little in internet blogs. Finland’s weather has not been an inconvenience for most of us, it is cold but with the appropriate clothing the weather becomes an interesting part of living here.
Language is a difficult factor to weight. Even though Finnish language is a barrier, most Finns speak English, which makes life easier for foreigners. Nature is a big plus here in Finland, the scenery is amazing and unique. Other factors to consider are how polite everyone is, low crime rates, good services, high quality of life and my personal favorite, saunas.
When you have been in a country for only six months it becomes really difficult to find reasons to leave. Everything is new and exciting so you really have to plan ahead and try to see your future.
One of the main reasons for someone to leave could be the lack of jobs for foreigners that do not have Finnish language skills. It is a little discouraging hearing over and over again how hard is it to get a good job when you do not know proper Finnish. For some people, it can be a motivation to really try to learn, but for some others it can be an incentive to make different plans.
Humans are sociable by nature, whether we like it or not. It is at this point where Finland could struggle the most in keeping foreigners.
I have been here for half a year and it has been very difficult to establish a close relationship with Finns. The same has happened to most of my friends who are also full degree students. I think the combination of shy Finns and foreigners that are afraid to be inappropriate can be the main reason for this lack of bonding.
It must be really difficult to live in a country where you do not have a close relationship with any locals. There is a cultural exposure that you will never be able to get if your social circle is made up only of foreigners. Staying also means learning Finnish, which could take a long time.
I would not label the Finnish culture as closed to foreigners, but it is definitively not easy to become part of it. Being an extroverted person, social interactions are a big part of my life. I wonder if the lack of them is one if the main reasons that people decide to leave Finland.
Universities and Finnish institutions could help foreigners in their decision to stay. After all, I think that it is beneficial for the country that students stay and work here and help the economy grow.
Many simple initiatives can be put in place, for example sharing information about the taxation responsibilities if one decides to stay in Finland or even sharing numbers about how many foreigners are in the workforce nowadays. Even presenting some real cases of foreigners that stayed and succeeded can encourage people. There are many ways in which people can be motivated to stay, but sometimes that decision is influenced by a lack of information and negative casual conversations.
Every person is different, and the reasons for staying or leaving can vary greatly depending on a lot of factors. However, I think the decision can be simplified by asking yourself a question: Does Finland have the potential to become your permanent home?
If you are certain that the answer is no, then it is time to start making some other plans. If the answer is yes or you are willing to work hard to make it happen (for example, by learning Finnish), then I think you have found an awesome place to live.
For the moment, I am still evaluating all the possibilities and enjoying my time in Finland.
The writer is a Master’s student who gets his peace from sports, coffee and a nice cold beer.