"The Next Stop is Kuopio."
As this announcement came over the loudspeaker the train started to subtly brake. I felt a weight lift from my shoulders – we (my spouse and three children – ages 9, 7, and 7 (twins!) were arriving to start the beginning of my Fulbright-Saastamoinen Foundation Grant in Health and Environmental Sciences at the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio.
I was still in a state of disbelief, humbled for the opportunity to travel internationally during a global pandemic, and certainly a little jet lagged.
My host Jukka and landlord Jari were planning to meet us at the train station to get us settled into our apartment. Jukka had also met us earlier that morning in Helsinki to transport some of our luggage – making it easier for us to navigate the train.
Those acts of grace and graciousness were examples of the Finnish welcome, helping to ease some of the stress and culture shock of navigating a whole new culture and language.
As we settled into our apartment our children started at an English speaking school. They are enjoying the opportunity to attend school in-person, quickly making new friends, as well as learning how to ice skate as part of “sport”.
My spouse is blogging to keep friends and family updated on our Finnish escapades. I am diving headfirst into my project developing mathematical models of soil carbon in the boreal forest.
Networking in the time of pandemic
While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly disrupted normal ways for me to network and connect, these opportunities certainly haven’t vanished. We are finding clever – and uniquely Finnish ways – to network in-person, as well as over Zoom.
I am looking forward to the continuing Finnish welcome as we make the most of our time here.