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Originally from Marrakesh, Morocco, Ali had planned to head to Canada for his studies. After hearing about Centria’s english-language programs, he changed his mind and his journey to Kokkola started.

Centria organized a recruitment event in Morocco, where Ali heard for the first time about the university’s english-language degrees. He tells me that in Morocco, degrees are only taught in Arabic or French. Ali believes getting an English-taught degree is very important, as in his opinion, it will offer more versatile opportunities for employment after studies.

Ali says he has considered the possibility of staying permanently in Kokkola, if a job suited for his degree was available after graduation. On the other hand, he notes that if for some reason there aren’t any, Centria’s international degree offers diverse opportunities for employment even outside of Finland. Ali started his studies at Centria in August of 2021.

Kokkola has people from many different cultures 

Ali tells me he’s made a lot of new friends in Kokkola. He noticed very quickly that Kokkola is a quite multicultural environment, as there are residents from many different countries and cultures. In his opinion, this is a big positive for the city and he finds it interesting getting to know people from different backgrounds. When asked about being homesick, Ali says it hasn’t had a chance to develop. It’s been quite easy to meet new people here, and thanks to today’s technology, staying in contact with loved ones back home is not a problem.

Differing ways of living

According to Ali, Moroccoans talk a lot and with anyone. They even have a specific name for strangers, which may catch Finns off guard, – ‘Simo’. While a common male first name in Finland, in Morocco it’s a general way of calling any man the speaker doesn’t know. ‘Simo’ comes from the words ‘Sir’ and ‘Mohammed’. In Ali’s words, Moroccoans are generally talkative people, who don’t take life or themselves too seriously.

“The cordiality of Finnish people emerges quickly after you first befriend them.”


Ali Gadraoui

Ali has noted Finns are different in this respect. Finns usually only greet and chat with people they know. At first, this seemed a little strange to him, but Ali says he quickly learned that here you need to get to know the person first and then be friends.

New experiences

The winter surprised Ali as it so often does Finns as well. In his home country, he’s used to temperature readings of thirty to fifty degrees, so how could he have any experience with freezing Northern weather? Not really seeing the sun from December to March was a bit of a shock, as well.

So, it comes as no surprise that freezing was a completely new experience to Ali during his first year. It was fascinating and confusing, maybe even a little scary, but now Ali can laugh about it. Not having dressed properly for the weather, his hands got frostbite during that first winter. To fix the situation, he first tried putting his hands under hot water which just made the matters worse, and at one point, he even wondered if his hands were “broken” for good. Later, he found out that many others who had no prior experience with the cold weather had gone through the exact same thing.

Finding Welcome Office through a friend

Ali got to know about Welcome Office’s services through a friend. He says they met by chance and when he heard his friend was joining a kayaking trip organized by Welcome Office, he asked to join.

Ali feels networking and finding a community is crucial. Being able to meet and talk with other people, who have moved from another country, is a chance for peer support. This in turn reduces the feeling of being alone in a completely new situation. When asked, he’s well-situated in the city but the events organized by Welcome Office did make him feel more welcome.

Welcome Office – easily accessible guidance

Welcome Office Kokkola is the city of Kokkola’s information and advice service in things related to immigration and integration. You can use the service if you have questions about official matters, job searching and work life, studying, and other things that may come up while living in a new country. Welcome Office currently serves in Finnish, English, and Russian. If necessary, it’s also possible to use interpretation services. Welcome Office services are free of charge and it’s backed by the ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

“We offer our customers guidance and advice regarding, for example, settling in Kokkola. This can include permit and support issues, applying for language courses, hobbies, job searching or whatever guidance the customer needs. Everyone who has moved to the country is welcomed to the Welcome Office, no matter their background.”
Marianne Leimio-Seppä, immigration coordinator

You can get in contact by calling, texting, or emailing. The Welcome Office is available on weekdays by phone at 050 409 5620 or by email at The service point can be found on the second floor of the Kokkola Main Library, opening hours here