She came from the country of thousand lakes to discover the country of beach and sea, left snow and ice behind and was still freezing when she arrived in Valencia: Jenni Lipponen from Finland has spent four months working as an intern in the Faculty of Communication. Before leaving her internship placement at our University CEU Cardenal Herrera, Jenni gave us insights into the extraordinarily successful Finnish education system, about the culture shock she experienced when she moved here and why she still wants to stay in Spain.
Hey Jenni. Couldn’t you stand the cold Finnish weather anymore or what was the reason for you to come to Spain?
Jenni: Of course one of the reasons why I chose to come to Spain was the good weather and sunny days here. But that was not the only reason obviously. When I got here in February it was actually quite cold here. Even though people kept telling me that a Finnish girl must be used to cold days and could not understand why I was freezing all the time, I was really cold here in the beginning and I went to the gym almost every day because it was the only really warm place where I could have a hot shower. It is much colder in Finland, of course, but our houses are well isolated and we know how to deal with low temperatures.
You had already been quite a Spanish-expert when you got here as you had spent two years in Barcelona. Do you have a special connection to Spain?
Jenni: Actually, I got interested in Spain, its culture and language when I first spent some time here travelling. Back at home in Finland I started to learn some Spanish and I went to Barcelona to work there as an au-pair for a year. I really liked life in Barcelona so I decided to stay and study there for one more year.
The Finnish education system consistently appears at the top for the international rankings, students from all over the world would love to study in your home country. Why have you still decided to study in Spain?
Jenni: Well, I really appreciate our education system. The government cares a lot about students, we are supported by subsidies and still are given enough freedom to become independent. I think, the education system has been so successful because it is within the framework of our society that sees education as one of the most important values – and I hope it will remain as such in the future as well. However, I wanted to get to know another view, because if we only experience one perspective, we cannot see the differences and positive aspects about other systems. Although I was quite spoiled by the Finnish system, I was not disappointed by the Spanish education system at all – here in Spain the focus lies probably more on practical training and on working together, which is something I have not experienced so much in Finland. I have learned a lot during my year studying in Spain.
Finns are said to be rather quiet and introverted – Spaniards are said to be the contrary. How strong was the culture shock when you first came here?
Jenni: To be honest, it was indeed quite a culture shock for me when I first came here. The characters of us Finns and the Spanish are definitely different. People here are so open and direct, they touch you even if they do not know you – because it is normal to them. First I thought “wow, those Spanish people have a lot of close friends” but then I realized that they would greet a stranger in the same way as a good friend, which was quite astonishing.
Finnish people do not like being at the centre of attention, they are rather reserved and quiet – which is the way we are supposed to be nice and friendly. To others this way of being might appear unfriendly and cold. I am actually also pretty shy, but living in Spain for a while influenced my character. My friends always ask me, “what has happened to you, you are so Spanish”, when I return home.
Barcelona vs. Valencia – do you favour the Barelonian “Ramblas” or the Valencian Playas?
Jenni: Well, Barcelona was the city where I first lived in Spain and where I fell in love with my boyfriend – so it will always be a very special city for me. However, I really like Valencia a lot as well. There is quite a lot to see, there are beautiful beaches and interesting historical buildings. I also like it a lot that you can walk everywhere because the center is pretty compact – that is something which is not possible in Barcelona.
Has the internship placement at University CEU Cardenal Herrera met the expectations you had before?
Jenni: Definitely! I have been working in the Faculty of Communication which was really interesting for me as a student of Sociology. Some of my main tasks were creating marketing material, investigating about other universities and possible partnerships, translating and, for example, writing a glossary for international students who want to study Communication. My tasks here were quite varied and I really liked having a free hand and freedom with everything I did. It was great to see that my colleagues and mentor had so much trust in me.
Now that you have become a real Spanish girl and got used to the Spanish sunshine – will you stay in Spain?
Jenni: The Spanish weather is actually a really good reason to stay here – summer in Finland is really short and sunshine is rare – so I definitely enjoy the Spanish sunshine, even though the Finnish midnight sun is also quite spectacular, when it is getting light at around three or four o´clock in the morning. Still, I have already decided on staying in Spain – I will move to Barcelona and do a job at an English summer camp for children, which I have already done for some years. I will try to find a job here in Spain after summer because I am about to finish my Master’s thesis soon so that I am ready for the “real world”. I have become really interested in Communication during my internship here so I would love to find a job in this field. I have learned a lot here and I am really thankful for this experience and the friendly and helpful colleagues, my mentor and tutor and all the other nice people I have met here.
We are happy to hear that, Jenni and wish you all the best for your future in España!