I dislike being told no.

The idea that there might be a perception that I'm not good enough grates on me to such point that, invariably, I have to prove that this isn't the case.

On a Sunday night in Helsinki, a day before returning to Berlin - where I resided and worked as an editor-in-chief for over a year - I sat in my hotel room reading a computer screen that was essentially telling me I wasn't good enough for Finland. That as an expat, I wasn't cut out for employment in Helsinki.

Recently I found myself reading through a list of the rights and obligations of Finnish citizens and was struck by one particular obligation, which forced me to really start thinking and analyzing my own personal ethical thoughts and questions on the matter. This is the obligation, as stated on migri.fi, that 'each citizen of Finland must participate in, or contribute to, the defense of the country.'

Before I came to Finland, I was expecting mountains of snow, freezing temperatures, and dour people. My preconceived notations of Finland could not have been further from the truth. From the moment I arrived in Helsinki, I was made to feel welcome everywhere. The people were very nice and helpful. If my friends or I needed something or directions, the staff in the hotel were very helpful, and after a bit of a mix up with the rooms they gave us a free drink to compensate!

Having lived in Finland for nearly 6 years now, Finland has been a second home to me. It is a wonderful country to be in but I feel Finland as a country is not properly marketed around the globe.

I personally think that Finns are well educated, well informed, and knowledgeable. When I say I am a Nepali, unlike many of their European counterparts, they never confuse me with being an Italian from Napoli (or Naples).

When I first heard the word Finland, two things popped into my head: sub zero weather and stern people. Well, I was wrong; the way people in Ireland described the Finnish made me nervous about coming over, but overall the Finns are very pleasant and approachable. Now the weather, that's a different story! It's only slightly colder than Ireland in the day but at night it feels like its -10 degrees.

I dreamed of traveling to Finland for a long, long time and was delighted when I found out I could do my social work placement as part of the Erasmus exchange program in Hämeenlinna, a small city one hour north of Helsinki.

There was just one problem; I wanted to bring my two daughters, Malika (4) and Ameenah (1) with me, as well as my mother who would look after them when I was at my work placement.

For some reason, it never occurred to me to venture to the Nordic countries. I have been traveling in Europe well before my teenage years but not once did I think to visit Scandinavia. At least, I didn't think much about Finland in particular until I met a Finn in my senior year of college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Not only did I fall in love with him but I fell in love with the colorful way he described the Finnish way of life. I wanted to drink in the glorious archipelago summers, run along the sea wall in Helsinki, and roll in the snow after overheating in the infamous sauna. What was this paradise that I had never paid much attention to?


"I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it." - William Shakespeare

Traveling – it is a dream of probably every second person in the world. And I am not an exception. I have always dreamed of traveling and still do! After discovering countries located close to my home country, Azerbaijan, I decided to move forward - and the target was Europe.

"Goodbye Finland. To your dancing trees on the frozen lakes, to the shy sun that bursts at midnight during the summer, to the magnetic, icy eyes of your people... to the Northern Lights, warmth, love: to what I chased 'til the end..." This was my farewell to Finland after my Erasmus period. Because in Finland I did fall in love, and thanks to the warmth that it gave me, even if I haven't been able to see the real Northern Lights, I have seen MY Northern Light: a light inside me that helped me to fight the dark days during the wintertime.

A man's face was planted in the pavement, his butt stuck straight up in the air. His buddy called out to him in between sips of vodka. "Janne... Janne..."

Janne didn't move. He was fine, but fast asleep.

This was my first day in Finland. I'd moved to Helsinki for a girl in late August and had spent only a handful of hours in the country. Most of them were in our new neighborhood, Kallio. On that first afternoon she took me for a walk around our home on Vaasankatu. That's where we ran into Janne and his friend.

I learned later that Laura, my girlfriend, was nervous about my reaction. She wasn't entirely sure if I'd turn around and go back home.

In Kallio, you may see some sketchiness, but it's usually harmless shenanigans. From the guys at the Sörnäinen metro, to the ones who had too many beers at Roskapankki [a bar], nobody wants to mess with you. They just want to get drunk.