Meet Coco Wu, a Chinese student studying and working in Finland
Coming from China, life in Finland was not easy for Coco at first. But soon she fell in love with the Finnish lifestyle. It is peaceful and quiet. Finland is about personal space and growth – such great quality of life. As a talented master’s degree student soon graduating, Coco nevertheless challenged herself and is now also part of Edunation’s team, an innovative Finnish start-up company.
She turned down a great job opportunity in China to pursue her dream of living abroad, and she has definitely shown her invaluable potential as a Chinese market specialist. Here she shares with us her beautiful journey and self-reflected experiences studying and living in Finland.
Life isn’t about money, fame, or competition. It’s about yourself and the people you love. It’s about paying attention to what you really want and what you don’t. Living in Finland has taught me to face my heart. It conquers my fear of getting to know myself.
Before coming to Finland
“I chose Finland because it’s a more developed country and has better education.”
The year 2016 was the last year that had free tuition fees for non-EU students at Finnish universities. Coco, like many other international students, grasped this chance and applied to study in Finland. She was accepted by another university in Europe, but she chose Finland in the end. Among all the other study destinations, she chose Finland because “Finnish education has a very good reputation all around the world.”
Although Finnish education is renowned worldwide, Coco admitted that she barely knew anything about the country when she was applying to universities in Finland. She did some research on the internet after being accepted by the Finnish university, but since the information flow is very limited in China, Coco only knew “Nokia, Angry Birds, Finnish design, etc.”
Arriving in Finland
“Where are the people?!”
“There is no one in the street or in the forest…The trains are so quiet. Everybody’s in their place. Personal bubble.” Moving from a country as heavily-populated as China to Finland with only five million people, Coco was shocked to see so few people. Later on, she came to embrace pleasantly what she had encountered. It was, however, not easy for her at first. Thinking back to the very beginning, Coco told us, “the first days are really hard, but later on I am pleasant about everything. Finnish nature is just amazing.” Study- and living-wise, Coco was glad that “University was well-organized. They made the first weeks easy. Everything was easy to organize and could be done beforehand, such as getting a residence permit and accommodation.”
University in Finland
“The most different thing would be the freedom.”
Coco is a student from University of Vaasa, studying in master’s program of Intercultural Management and Communication. Comparing Chinese and Finnish universities, Coco found it quite different, and the biggest difference she noticed is how much freedom a Finnish university student can have. As she mentioned, “In Finnish lectures, you can challenge the teacher, and you can question the professor. No matter what you say, whether it’s right or wrong, people respect you and listen to you. It’s not the same in China. In China, we are always taught to respect the teacher or the so-called authority. In Finnish university, we have the freedom to do whatever we like, the freedom to choose lecture, the freedom to develop a hobby. No pressure on scores.”
Making friends with the locals
“I think Finns are quite open to make foreign friends, not to mention how talkative they can be when getting drunk!”
Coco has a very lively and cheerful personality and it was very easy for her to make friends with Finnish people. There is no language barrier as Finnish people speak very good English. She found that “especially on campus, everyone is able to communicate in English. I would say it’s quite easy to make local friends in Finland. It might be hard to make friends during lectures, but it’s easier during student events and students association. There are lots of clubs and hobbies to join.” Coco shares a very good tip with future students to get to know the local people: “Go to Facebook to find events in your area!”
Personal and work life
“In Finland, I had more time to do my own things, and more time for personal life.”
In her spare time, Coco likes “cooking, baking, jogging, biking, reading, writing, watching a movie, and of course, sauna!” She also appreciates personal space and time to do what she likes. Coco started working as an intern and she noticed the differences in terms of work culture between China and Finland. Her views are positive when it comes to the Finnish working environment, “the work culture in China is really competitive, but here it is more about self-motivation. Work and personal life are separated. The atmosphere is good. A lot of young people. It is supportive and welcoming.”
Struggles and growth
“As a young person, I am eager to explore the world, learn more about the world and about myself.”
I believe that if you know what kind of life you want to lead, then you can have it anywhere in the world. But I did have a struggle on this question half a year ago when I was confused about my future.
Coco did not shy from telling us about her confusion and struggles lingering between her home country and the new foreign land. “I think I am that kind of person who can live anywhere. I believe that if you know what kind of life you want to lead, then you can have it anywhere in the world. But I did have a struggle on this question half a year ago when I was confused about my future.”
China versus Finland
She saw China as a bright rising star with job opportunities blooming everywhere:
To illustrate the struggle, on the one hand, I see how fast China is developing nowadays. It is the time of dramatic transformation and aggressive development. No matter you are located in Bei Shang Guang (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou) or in small cities, opportunities and chances are open for you. It is possible that your classmates from your high school become a millionaire overnight, or you see your former colleague in the newspaper as a successful entrepreneur. Things are happening. As long as you are willing to work hard, you will have opportunities to become rich, to change your life condition, or even to alternate your social class. You take the chance and you earn respects. Meanwhile in Finland, life is good, pay is high, but it’s so stable. I always feel something is missing.
Quality of Life in Finland
Yet, Coco slowly came to understand the true meaning of living. It is living the life you want. And this is the biggest gift Finland has given her. (Did you know Finland has the second-best quality of life in the world?)
From that point of view, I really want to go back to China, to do something when I am still young. However, on the other hand, I still remember how stressful it is to live in China. Everyone is competing with everyone, your classmates, your colleagues, your friends, your relatives. The society is pushing you. People are earning money, the economy is growing, and life standard is improving. BUT, you barely see people who are actually happy. You always feel the stress. In this sense, when I am living in Finland, I can feel what real life is! Life isn’t about money, fame, or competition. It’s about yourself and the people you love. It’s about paying attention to what you really want and what you don’t. Living in Finland has taught me to face my heart. It conquers my fear of getting to know myself.
So, what is Coco’s plan for the future?
“I would love to stay longer in Finland after my studies.”
Coco believes that China as her home country will always welcome her with open arms. Now, she can fly as far as she wants and takes in what the world has to offer her. She has made a bold decision to leave her home, and now there is no turning back. “This summer, I rejected an offer from the biggest Internet Company in China – Alibaba; instead, I accepted the offer from a small start-up company in Finland. As a young person, I am eager to explore the world, learn more about the world and about myself. So I think I am not in a hurry to go back to China. I would love to stay longer in Finland after my studies.”
Here’s to all who dare to dream:
“When you are transported and exposed to something different, you have to think. You got to work. You pay attention and you feel alive. You remember everything you forgot, and if you really open your eyes, you may learn something new. Or remember something old.”
– one year anniversary thought of living as a student in Finland.
As active as she is, Coco also has a Wechat blog recording her life as a student in Finland!
You can get a glimpse of her life in Finland by scanning the QR code below!