My quest for quality education took me to Finland in 2007. As a student and a graduate of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio, my experience throughout my stay can be grouped under: power distance, individualism, food, and weather.
Power distance refers to how the elderly in the society cope with the youth and how those in higher authority cope with their subordinates. Unlike in Ghana where the views of youth are normally not considered, I realized that in Finland their contributions are welcome. At the work place, those in higher authority listen to and mingle with their subordinates.
It was nice to see employees drinking coffee in the same restaurant as the management. Even at University I once saw my Professor with a tray in hand, queuing for food among the students. In Ghana there are senior and junior common rooms for students and lecturers respectively.
Individualism refers to the level of independence in society. Finns are more independent due to the higher level of their social system i.e. health and education. The government provides adequate social security for its citizens while in Ghana most of the same functions are taken care of by the family. There is generally a higher standard of living. People are also more concerned about their extended families, and Finns are more time-conscious which can be seen at university and at the work place.
The weather in Ghana is rainy but in Finland it was nice to enjoy the cold winters with the nice sight of snow. I have to wear gloves, a winter jacket, and heavy socks. I remember once getting my fingers frozen to the point that I couldn't open the door to my room. I experienced -38 degrees Celsius in Kuopio where I studied.
I also loved the difference in foods in the university, although in the beginning it was difficult to cope. African foods are more spicy, and in Helsinki I sometimes snuck to the African market to get myself some spicy African foods.
It has been nice living in Finland, meeting nice people – especially Paula at the university – and receiving the international student prize in 2009. After graduation I was able to secure an internship with the Finnish Association of Nature Conservation (Ekoenergy), a member of the Green Peace organization and am currently waiting to start my PhD at the University of Aberdeen in the UK.