Three women sitting on a rock, facing a lake, the sun is shining. There's a white dog tail between two women.

I was well aware that a thin envelope means bad news and a thick envelope good news. For a couple of years, universities had sent me only thin ones. However, in the past summer I had succeeded in studying for the entrance exam and used the language of the studies naturally and often. I had spent the previous year working in a factory again, and I was terrified I would have to spend another year standing next to the assembly line. I was under a lot of pressure. Never in my life have I been filled with so much emotion as when I opened the thick envelope. “Congratulations, you have been admitted as a student in Tampere university translation studies.” I was jumping up and down, dancing, shouting, crying, and laughing.    

After being filled with happiness, joy and relief, some panic and worry started to raise their ugly heads. I don’t know anyone from Tampere! Where will I move? Which parts of the city are close to the Uni? How can I move my one-bedroom flat there? Help me! A friend from Tampere told me which areas to consider, and I put an ad for a flatmate online. I got a few replies, and then I received a call from a young woman who was starting translation studies as well. We started apartment-hunting together. Before we met our new landlady, my roommate told me to “wear something appropriate” which has been an inside joke since. (I put more effort into dressing as she wears hoodies.)    

My Dad helped me move my stuff 200 kilometres to Tampere, and I felt all alone in the new city for the first five days. In translation studies, attendance was mandatory, and we started quickly become friendly in our group of about 25 students. Our main group of friends had about 10 young men and women living the traditional, care-free, happy university student life. We sat in cafés moaning about our strict professors and how the studies took their toll, laughed hard at inside jokes, supported each other and begun lifelong friendships. Even though my memories of my fellow students seem to bask in a golden-hour sunlight with Disney birds chirping cheerily in the background, I always understood not everyone is as lucky.    

Take a chance and go for it

When you move to another city to study, it’s likely that there are others who have moved, too. Even though the beginning of your studies might be the easiest time to make new friends, it’s not the only time. If, for instance, there are interesting people in your minor subject classes, try to team up with them for group exercises or take a chance and ask them for coffee after class. Even unlikely people might become good friends, but someone has to make the first move!

Universities and Polytechnics can have active student organizations to join, or you can go to the gym or exercising classes where you can meet people and get fit. Some students in university libraries spend time there regularly, so when you bump into someone often, maybe you can suggest taking a break together. For example, Finns might seem withdrawn at first, but when you befriend them, you can get a trustworthy friend for life. It might be worth joining big student festivities and events even if drinking isn’t your thing. You’ll never know where you’ll meet kindred spirits. Even though travelling back home to see familiar faces could be tempting, think if it benefits your new life situation to do this all the time.

Living with a roommate can feel awkward and be less popular these days, but this arrangement offers you everyday company. If you get to choose, it can be a good idea to pick your new roomie carefully. Living with someone gives you a great opportunity to practice assertive, friendly and open communication, and these negotiation skills will definitely come in handy in both work life and other human relationships. You can get to know your roommate’s friends and maybe hit it off with them yourself. Instead of partying, you and your roomie could try having boardgame nights with people you know. I would also recommend going abroad e.g. as an exchange student even if it makes you somewhat anxious, because you just might have the time of your life there. When the people in nursing homes think back to their lives, they more often regret the things they didn’t do, not the things they did.

Be brave, take a deep breath, and go for it.      


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