Brazilian university graduate in Finland: Story of Helena

This blog post is about Helena de Lino Correia, a young lady from the country of Brazil, currently working as a Project Prospection Manager at Forenom in Helsinki, Finland. She studied Bachelor of Business Administration and Logistics at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. Let’s take a closer look at her adventures and triumphs in Finland!

What are the most fascinating things you discovered in Finland?

What’s great is how efficiently the system works! The entire structure – education and educational path, healthcare, equality and rights.

What are the most unforgettable challenges you’ve encountered during your stay abroad, and how did it make you a better traveller and person?

1st Challenge: My first winter in Finland – Maintaining perspective

“I decided to start a degree in Finland after my Finnish boyfriend ended his exchange program in Brazil. I was preparing to do my Masters in Germany, but he said: “Why not Finland instead?” So I changed my plans in Finland. Surprisingly, the first thing he told me when I landed at the airport was “This was a mistake”. For some reasons he got terrified, I think because I was his first girlfriend and suddenly we were living together. For one year I tried to make our relationship work. I never felt more lonely because he avoided me every way he could. I went to Brazil to spend the Christmas-New Year’s holidays with my family, and after one month without getting a single text message from him, I finally gave up. I called him to break up but I wasn’t going to give up my degree studies, so I asked some times to find a new house as soon as I got back to Finland.

Three days before my flight from Rio to Finland, he texted me that I had 24 h to move out as soon as I landed in Helsinki. I tried to reach him but he wouldn’t reply. I couldn’t tell my family that I had no place to live, otherwise, they wouldn’t let me come back to Finland and my dream of studying in Europe would end right there. So I kept the secret for myself and I began fainting a few times. I told my parents it was the heat, (Funny, right?) but I was actually panicking about the fact that it was -30 degrees in Finland and in 3 days I would be there without a home to live. I didn’t have many people who could help me at the time, I was new in Finland. But a Brazilian girl from the Finnish course that I barely knew offered me her apartment. She was moving in with her husband in the next month, so they agreed to anticipate it in order to help me. I am forever grateful to her for that. There will always be those kind-hearted people that will really help you and you won’t ever forget, trust me.”

Finnish healthcare is held in such high regard, I never felt so well cared! HUS hospital staff was amazing!

2nd Challenge in Finland:

“I slipped on ice on my way to work and broke my arm in 4 parts in the elbow area. I nearly lost my arm movement completely. (Talk about double whammy!) A woman driving offered me help. She called the hospital, but they couldn’t send any ambulances because that day there were too many slippery accidents and the ambulances were all busy. So the lady offered me a ride to the hospital. She was an angel. In the hospital, the doctors told me I would have to go through surgery, and for that, I would have to be transferred to another hospital. The idea terrified me, every movement was extremely painful. But I had no other option. They sent me to HUS, the best orthopaedic hospital in the country. But for five days my surgery kept being postponed. They would put me through the pre-surgery fastening and then cancel the surgery because there were so many life and death cases that week that they had to be operated first.

The hospital was crowded on that specific week because we have had an unexpected snowstorm and several people got injured. They tried to send me home to wait for the surgery there because there was not enough room, but I had nobody to help me (groceries, shower, cook, drive, etc.), I feared if I would be out on the street I would fall again and worsen my situation. They understood my case and let me stay. (P. S. I never felt so well cared, Finland is really an amazing place.) HUS staff was amazing. My friends came to see me at the hospital and my dad took a flight all the way from Brazil to Helsinki and took me back with him to Rio after my surgery. I spent 3 months doing physiotherapy in Brazil. Coming back to my self-standing work, study and “being my own housekeeper” life, alone in Finland was the toughest moment of my life. These challenges helped me become more resilient, and I developed to focus on being hopeful and positive in life.”

Your most memorable experiences in Finland?

“Easy one! But I have a list here of my fun experiences – if it’s alright.”

Helena, at the University of Helsinki, standing next to the 1st woman to be democratically elected, 36th President of Brazil, Her Excellency- Dilma Rousseff.
  • Meeting the President of Brazil and asking her some questions for my bachelor thesis;
  • Being the 2nd best at the entrance exam to Laurea University;
  • Being 2nd best at Logy´s national Logistics competition;
  • Logy Anniversary Conference where I was offered several job opportunities after discussing the future of Logistics with Amadou Diallou, the CEO of DHL on stage;
  • Being offered mentorship by the former president of Coca-Cola and Advisor of the UN/WTO Supply Chain program;
  • Winning the only scholarship offered by Metropolia to study in Hong Kong;
  • Dining with the Chief of the Ministery of Finance of Finland and his wife at their house;
  • Being a guest of Sami Hedberg and his former wife to his movie premiere;
  • Watching Barack Obama at Nordic Business Forum;
  • Getting free VIP tickets to watch Robert Kiyosaki (one of my favourite writers) at the Wealth Conference;
  • Interviewing Mörkö after Finland became the Ice Hockey world champion;
  • Singing “tina kengat tytöt” on karaoke at my company´s pikkujoulu;
  • Ice fishing in Kuopio;
  • Finally, spending the best weekend of my life in Finland in Levi with a bunch of famous people who I have no idea who they were.

What are your preparations before going abroad?

“Save a lot of money! Read about all the procedures (about education, residence permit, relocation, housing, medical care); Join Facebook groups to create a safety net.”

How was your work life in Finland, and how did you manage and adjust?

“A roller coaster. On the first year, I was focused on learning the job. On the second year, I was focused on excelling. On the third year, I began focusing on my relations and understanding the people, that was without a doubt the most difficult part.”

“In the beginning, I felt excluded because of the language, but later I learned to appreciate it because I began learning the language just by sitting at work every day and hearing it in the background. Without realizing it I was learning Finnish. Not that I can speak it, but I understand it now. Trying to make friends was the hardest part, it took me a few years to understand how Finns work and took them a while to get used to me, Brazilians are a little EXTRA.”

“But I ended up staying another year and another year, and before I realized me and my workmates became friends and I feel happy to see their faces after a long holiday, Finland became home because of them.”

What would be your advice to international students planning to work and study in Finland?

“It’s not cold, it’s you who is underdressed”, that saying is true! Investing in good quality winter gear makes your life so much better. I recommend buying it from here because unless your country has -30 degrees winters, you can´t be prepared. If you are not staying for several years like me, I would also highly recommend visiting a second-hand shop in Finland, there are plenty of them, they have good quality clothing, its cheap and ecological. And don´t forget the winter spikes for your shoes, so you don’t fall when it’s slippery.”

Helena’s video project team, 2nd place in the National Finnish Competition.

How would you describe Finland to Brazilian students and professionals who are planning to work or study in Finland soon?

“Finland won´t be easy, it ‘s cold, sometimes lonely, you don´t make friends easily, but it’s where you will grow the most, you will learn about yourself. You will soon discover your strengths and if you are hardworking, Finland will repay you with financial security, recognition, respect, equality, safety, and eventually, when you understand Finland you will make life-long friendships! You will begin to appreciate the four seasons of the year and you will fall in love with this country and your life here. Just be patient!”

Helena, enjoying Finnish life!

“And the most important thing to make life in Finland enjoyable: Seek the things that you love to do!! There are plenty of free and cheap activities in Finland, summer hosts a number of festivals and travelling from here is super easy. Remember to celebrate the Finnish nature like a true Finn, get lost in Nuuksio, rent a cottage, swim in a frozen lake, get naked in front of other people, burn a Makkara in the forest, and get drunk with your work colleagues. These will be your best memories here! Make the best out of your time in Finland.”


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