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From Sri Lanka via Oulu to Kokkola

Originally, Bashini had planned to continue her master’s studies in the United Kingdom, asshe had a scholarship there. However, she wanted to go somewhere unique and asked aprofessor, who recommended Scandinavia for its high quality education system. Herinterest was sparked and the final destination became Oulu, Finland. Now, she’s in Kokkola.

Different ways and surprising encounters

Bashini feels that Finnish culture is very different compared to her home country, Sri Lanka. The Finnishpeople’s “silence” and how much they need personal space surprised her. She also noticed very quicklyhow organized Finns are; trains arrive exactly when they’re supposed to and in general, everything is veryorderly. Due to those big differences, it took Bashini some time to get used to the new culture.

Upon arriving in Finland, Bashini had to quickly start looking for furniture find with a bed on top of the list.She headed to a SPR thrift store, where the she found a new bed immediately but transporting it wasturning out to be a problem. Bashini didn’t have a car, carrying the bed was impossible, she couldn’t get atransport service for that day – what could she do? Luckily, there was a man at the trift store who had a carand a trailer. Hearing that Bashini lived in the same direction, this stranger sincerely offered to help andpromised to transport the bed, refusing to accept pay. Bashini thinks this was the moment she realized thatwhile the people in Finland are quiet and distant, they’re also genuinely considerate and friendly.

Adjusting to the climate

Autumn was already in full swing when Bashini arrived in Finland at the end of August. It’s hot around theyear back home in Colombo, so the experience of cold air on her skin was completely new and surprising.She tells me that she hadn’t really known how to anticipate or prepare for the climate. The cold air and thefeeling of freezing that it brought was even more drastic than she could’ve ever expected.

The change of seasons was also new. In summer it’s bright all of the time, the sun never fully going down aroundMidsummer, while winter is the complete opposite of this with endless nights and barely any sun. Bashinioften thought Finns move in time with the seasons, as if the people are one with nature and change at thesame pace into summer, autumn, winter, and spring.

From Oulu to Kokkola

Bashini graduated from the University of Oulu in 2021. After graduating, things went well and she got a jobat the university. However, her fiancé lived in Kokkola. The constant travelling between Oulu and Kokkolaeventually started to take it’s toll and they agreed living so far from each other wasn’t sustainable in thelong term. Bashini tells me that the decision to move to Kokkola wasn’t easy, as moving into a new place isalways a big decision and something to really think about from every angle. In the end, they made thedecision to move and Bashini’s moving truck headed for Kokkola. She’s currently completing additionalstudies in business administration and studying Finnish.


The road to Welcome Office

Bashini heard about Welcome Office from her fiancé and decided to visit the service point herself foradvice and to find out what opportunities Kokkola offered. She says Welcome Office helped in, amongother things, networking and creating new connections, which she believes are crucial in settling in andenjoying a new city. When Bashini moved to Kokkola, she didn’t know anyone but through Welcome Officeshe has gotten to know many people and found a lot of new friends.

“Finding new friends and networking help to adapt to a new place. Relationships arecrucial for enjoying a city, without them you can easily feel like an outsider. Welcome Office’s InternationalKokkolaDay was a great eventand offered me the opportunity tofind new friends. I hope more events like this are organized in the future. I believe there’sa need for them in Kokkola.”


Manushi Bashini  

Welcome Office’s InternationalKokkolaDay

Welcome Office organized the first International Kokkola Day event in May 2022. The program wasorganized in several different languages and organizers were hoping for attendance from a board range ofcultural backgrounds. International Kokkola Day started with the Kutsuva Kokkola seminar held at the cityhall, which discussed the development of Kokkola’s receptivity to immigrants. After this, expert MelofyKarvonen took a deeper look into multiculturalism in her lecture “Avaimia kulttuurisensitiiviseenkohtaamiseen ja työskentelyyn”. The day program also included guided walking tours in English andlearning about the history of Old Town Neristan. The day ended in an informal meeting at the Main Librarywhere traditional Ukrainian pastries were offered in addition to the organized program.

“The evening program was largelyorganizedby Welcome Office’s volunteers. We have agroup of activepeople, who are ready to get on stageand display Kokkola’s diversecultural spectrum. For example, theyprepareda fashionshow to present wonderfultraditional clothing from different cultures andbeautifulmusical performances. The Centria Choir was also present”, tells immingration coordinator Marianne Leimio-Seppä.  

Bashini was involved in organizing the first International Day,and the event as a whole gets a lot of praisefrom her. She feels that events like these are important because they offer the chance to meet others whohave moved to Kokkola from elsewhere, which in turn offers peer support. In addition, they offer thechance to find new people, network, learn new things about other cultures and tell others about your own.Bashini’s wish is to have a chance to organize more such events.