Identity and Belonging
It has been challenging to navigate my identity for the past few years as my cultural differences have become clearer to me. When asked, it is difficult to explain where I am from. Is it Finland, Estonia or both?
For me, being Estonian feels natural. I speak the language, and I value the things that are common between us Estonians: an appreciation for nature and a strong sense of independence and culture. However, I distance myself from being Estonian when it comes to values. I don’t appreciate the appalling Soviet values, which are based on segregation and oppression of both minorities and women. In Estonia, many still believe that women should stay home, men should bring the bread to the table, and sexual minorities should be cured.
Being Finnish is different. Finns love ice hockey, sauna, and are seemingly cold on the surface. A very strong love for Finland is also a part of being a Finn. That is something I have never connected with, although I was born and raised in Finland. I have always found joy from connecting with foreigners rather than Finnish people because I often feel like I have more in common with someone from France than Finland. I think this is also the reason why I love to travel; I get to meet people with stark differences compared to Finns.
For many years, I have wondered what it feels to belong somewhere. Perhaps in the forthcoming years abroad, I will come closer understanding what it means to belong.
Canada is About New Beginnings
I was that kid who was always sitting alone at school, that changed when I got to high school. I made a positive decision to accept more people in my life and make meaningful connections. That was not easy, but it was well worth it. I think my biggest problem was my own prejudice against the new - not understanding was so much easier than trying to get closer to different people. By now, I have learned that understanding is actually much easier in the long term as it has opened my life to new experiences and connections, both positive and negative ones.
When I entered the "international" Ressu High School in Helsinki, I quickly made new friends. I thought my problem was solved, yet it wasn't. The problem was that I did not belong. I understood that I did not belong to a culturally homogenous atmosphere that lacked difficult conversations - I was craving for something different. This doesn't mean that I did not learn anything new however. I would say I learned more in the year I spent at that school than I learned in the whole middle school.
When I moved to Canada in September of 2019, the meaning of friendship changed for me. I discovered new friendships from all over the world in an instant. What really astonished me, was the amount of intelligence and experiences each one of my friends carried with them. My friends taught me what it means to be loved, and how sometimes it is important to live in the moment and remain patient with goals. At Pearson, I got to know everyone on a more personal level, a level that not many are willing to show in the first few months of meeting someone new. I value those rare moments when I meet someone with their own voice, own goals, and own opinions - I learn from such people. I believe that everyone has a lesson to teach, but not everyone is ready to teach it. At Pearson, every single person has asked me a question that yet I don’t have the answer for, or taught me something valuable in life.
I think it’s fair to say that twenty-twenty has not been the best year so far, especially considering the current situation of the world. But it has been a year of change and challenges. Those challenges have made me uncomfortable from time to time, but I know that those moments are also the ones that have taught me the most.
The parliament building on the left is a symbol of the independence of British Columbia. My foundation, on the other hand, is symbolized by trust, independence, and knowledge. Those three attributes are the cornerstone of who I am and what I continue to be. For me, trust is the number one thing in life. Trust signifies many things: integrity, respect, and above all, honesty. I think that in every relationship, be it a friendship, or a romantic relationship, trust comes first. When people have trust in each other, work can be done much more efficiently together. That is an aspect that needs to be incorporated into today’s multicultural societies, as trust is something that we lack the most.
Independence and knowledge come hand in hand, as they are the foundation for a democracy. The sole thing that stays consistent regardless of the differences in politics and culture in democratic countries, is the freedom of information and the right to independence. Those two aspects are required for everyone to succeed and have equity in society. When we work towards a common goal of achieving those attributes, we can talk about change.
What made me come to Canada?
I get asked that question all the time, but I rarely actually tell the real story behind my move to another continent to pursue an international educational experience. I firmly believe that for a change to happen we must understand each other regardless of culture, identity, or language. That is something that I was lacking in Finland, as most people there talk the same language and are from the same country.
With the help of funding from the Finnish Cultural Foundation, Pearson College allowed me to meet people from over 100 nationalities who all share something in common but are from fundamentally contrasting backgrounds. What made a difference in me, was actually meeting all of these brilliant new people. At Pearson everyone is unique, everyone has a clear voice, and everyone has a story to tell. The moments I get to spend with these people are truly the ones, from which I have learned the most in life.
What Drives Me?
Doing work and contributing to something is what drives me in life. I am one of those people who simply can't sit around and ponder about life. Challenging myself and learning something new every day is what defines me as a person. The joy of seeing the positive results of one's work and the change that follows those actions truly means everything to me. Hard work is something that also has gotten me so far in life and I can't emphasise the importance of good work morals enough.
I worked hard in lower secondary school to make sure everyone's wellbeing was guaranteed through the student council. And in the end, the teachers brought me closer to amazing opportunities outside of school. Opportunities which have lead me to work in companies and do voluntary work. Meeting brilliant people though these initiatives has been one of the most rewarding moments in life and they have taught be about work life and what makes a company where everyone is being cared for and listened to.
Beautiful British Columbia
Nature has always been close to my heart, after all, I spent most of my childhood in the forests of the suburbs of Helsinki. I have developed a very close relationship with nature over time. For me, nature offers a breathing space where I can just be and think without any human distractions. Sometimes I just need some distance from the busy, contemporary, city life I have.
Nature in Finland and Canada’s west coast are very similar. Our trees are similar and even the smell of the morning after a fresh rain is indistinguishable. Sometimes the forest looks just like at home, this similarity helps me whenever I get homesick or miss my friends and family back home. It also helps me to stay connected to my heritage, as it is a reminder of what I appreciate and where I have spent a lot of my childhood.
Nature is something that has always been there for me and has helped me to maintain a healthy life. The worrying aspect of this is that with the ongoing threat of climate change, our future generations might not be able to enjoy nature as we have. Regardless of whether people believe in climate change or not, the truth is that our forests are disappearing forever.