Great things I learned in Finland – Bambi’s Study Abroad Experience

Meet Bambi Dang, a Vietnamese student and came to Finland almost 6 years ago. She graduated from Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences in Finland and studied Business and Hospitality Management. After 2 years working as a sale assistant at Sulapac Oy, she finally decided to start her entrepreneurial journey in Finland. She’s always been adventurous and willing to step out of her comfort zone, so we are curious to find out what she has been up to.

Is it easy to study overseas? Did you have culture shock?

From my personal view, it’s easy to study abroad because I like discovering cultural diversity. Being in an international environment feels perfect for me. Also, I do understand that for some students, it can be quite hard to study aboard. Maybe because of the language barrier. I think that if you have good English skills, it will be an added advantage as many people speak English nowadays in addition to their native language.

Well, I did experience culture shock and I think it was a good experience, although challenging. This culture shock period is quite natural while going abroad as things are very different from your home country. Eventually the feeling of homesickness will fade and you’ll have a routine, you will adapt.

How would you describe the culture, people and food in Finland?

I would like to say that Finnish culture is quite different. Finnish people are shy and reserved. That means Finns aren’t so easy to make friends with. But once you are friends with them, it will be a very strong and good connection. I really like that kind of culture because I believe every relationship should start with a good foundation and trust. That’s how it’s gonna grow. Anyway, I do like Finnish culture, it’s so intriguing and unique.

Finnish cuisine does not have a wide selection but the food is very fresh and healthy. Besides, I come from Vietnam, where the cuisine is diverse and has various options. I absolutely miss my home, local and country food a lot when I live in Finland.

How long does it take for a student to adapt to a foreign country, in your opinion?

It really depends on each student. As for me, I’m an extrovert, I’m outgoing and sociable. When I get to meet new people, it’s easy. Adapting to another culture and a new living environment is not a problem for me. But for some, it is for sure challenging.

When I first arrived in Finland, I got to hang out with Finnish students within just a week. I went to visit their family and relatives too! I adapted easily to the new culture and integrated. Perhaps for others, because of their personalities, it takes some time to know new people and understand how things are in a foreign country.

Have you traveled across Nordic countries?

vietnamese girl in biking gear standing next to a motorbike on a road
Bambi on a 2 week road trip across Nordic countries.

About 4 years ago, I went camping and on road trips to other cities in Finland. I started from the North of Finland, which is Rovaniemi – the hometown of Santa Claus. We drove across the border to Norway, and along the coast of Norway and then went back to Finland. I love Lapland and camping so much! It was an amazing full-circle camping trip experience! 🙂

I also traveled to several cities in Finland. The most memorable trip that I did was a visit to a small village between Oulu and Kuopio. This place had only 300 people. Together with international IB students from all over the world, we went together to this village and stayed for 2 weeks doing volunteer work. For example, helping local people cut down the bushes, and clearing forests. We also organized festivals for them as well. That was an unforgettable experience for me! I’ve met a lot of amazing people and gained new friends.

How easy it was to learn Finnish language?

In my opinion, Finnish language isn’t difficult, but it’s unique from other languages. For me, reading and pronunciation are easier because you just speak Finnish words as you write them. It means you there aren’t any silent letters or different ways of pronouncing a letter/word. However, the language has so many endings and that makes the words longer and complicated for learners who are only familiar with studying English.

To be honest, it was, at first, difficult to learn the Finnish language. I didn’t speak any Finnish before, even though I attended a Finnish class at school. The Finnish class lasted for 2-3 hours per week and me and my classmate didn’t practice that much during this course. Thus, I didn’t have a chance to speak Finnish and also the other reason was that I had so many English classes with international students, where we spoke English most of the time.

However, after a couple of years living in Finland, I started to get used to the pronunciation and I actively went out to meet people and listened to them speak Finnish. Little by little, I started to understand it. Whenever I was at my Finnish class, the language started to make more and more sense. Habitually, I practice speaking Finnish as much as I can when I meet people. I have been living in Finland for almost 6 years now and I studied the local language for almost 3 years.

a Finnish reporter interviewing a vietnamese girl on tv
Bambi on the news representing Sulapac Oy.

How is it like working with Finns in a Finnish company?

Trust is the foundation of your relationship with Finns, may it be at any place: school, work, etc. You have to earn their trust in order to develop a connection. Additionally, the relationship with your colleagues is also important because working is a big part of everyone’s life. Hence, to make the working environment enjoyable for you, you have to push yourself forward, to be productive and have a positive attitude. Also, you should take the initiative in starting conversations and be proactive in helping your colleagues. You can earn their trust! This is what I observed when working with Finns and Finnish companies.

Another thing I noticed is that they are really polite, so sometimes they wouldn’t let you know how things really are or they don’t want to hurt your feelings. So that’s why they answer politely, but you should be wary too and learn to acknowledge their feelings.

Your top 3 most liked activities in Finland?

Finnish winter is quite long, cold and dark. Thus, I don’t want to be depressed all the time. My solution for it is to play outdoor sports. Outdoor activities are really popular and good for boosting your mood and also your physique. Like skiing, skating and also ice-swimming. So those are the top 3 activities I’m fond of doing in winter.

vietnamese girl in ski gear on a snowy hill in Finland
One of Bambi’s most liked hobby, skiing.

During summer, I spend time getting a tan, swimming or hanging out with my friends. I love having a picnic in the park, cycling, camping and hiking as well.

Any study abroad tips for new incoming students?

It’s very ideal for anyone living in a foreign country to speak their own language with their fellow international students because it’s very easy, comfortable. My advice would be that don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and try to learn a new language! Yeah! I don’t mean you have to forget your mother tongue. Try and find some mixed local and multi-foreign students to partner up with. Engage in conversations and share different ideas/thoughts with them. You will gain amazing experiences and make friends with people from different backgrounds while studying overseas.

vietnamese girl giving a speech in front of an audience in Finland
Bambi was a motivational speaker and board member at Global Dignity Finland and spoke in Finnish to the audience of 250 young students.

To maximize the benefits of studying aboard, I would say that one should hang out with foreign students as much as possible. At first, you will feel uncomfortable, but in the long run, you can learn a lot from different perspectives and cultures. So my advice, get out of your comfort zone, start to learn, interact and make meaningful connections! Then you can obtain a greater deal of knowledge, new skills and you will become more mature. When you go back to your home country to work after studying, you’ll realize your own strength and potential!

Your favourite quote?

“Magic happens outside of your comfort zone!”

Anonymous

I’m still trying to learn more, still a work in progress as they say. I want to learn new things! Last advice I would like to share with students who would like to pursue a career in a foreign country is that choose fear instead of comfort. Being comfortable is too dangerous, there’s no growth! Do uncomfortable things that you fear most! Switch up your routine, get creative, don’t give up and reach for your dreams!


Read on our blog what other Vietnamese and international students have to say about Finland!

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