My first days as an Erasmus in Finland (I)

This is the first of what will be a series of posts on how I felt when moving to Finland from Spain.

I was 21 years old then, and although I’d traveled through Europe with some friends before, I wasn’t confident with my English skills. I also never really lived by my own: in Spain the norm – unless you live in a small village and want to study in a big city – is that you live with your family until your late twenties. So it was all excitement and uncertainty for me.

My first days as an Erasmus student in Finland

I started this series of posts when I was already landed in Joensuu, Finland, as an Erasmus student. You can read my experiences on the Spanish Big in Finland too.

The first week was really intense: Basic Finnish 101, meeting other international exchange students, the usual parties to meet people (one of them was blessed with the presence of the police, the mark of a true party), tons of Spanish cooking with friends and lots more.

These posts were my way to let my friends know what I was up to, and they had the desired effect: a year later many of them went on Erasmus too.

Preparing the trip to Finland

This is how it all began. I had actually wanted to check-in my luggage a day in advance, since my flights up to that point were point-to-point and my bags never had to travel by themselves; I was sure they’d get lost somewhere. Even so, I of course wanted to meet up with my friends in my last days at home, and I left the check in for the day of the flight.

A piece of luggage

At 3:30 in the morning on my departure day – it was an early flight – I woke up and had a sudden realization: it was the point of no return. I got frightened about everything that could go wrong, especially losing my luggage or if I needed to check in again in the airport hub of Amsterdam.

Finally, my family took me to the airport and it was an interesting feeling. No one in my family had gone on Erasmus or exchange programs before, and it was a new experience for all of us.

In the airport: luggage restrictions and Erasmus bags

Once at the airport there was a queue of about 100 people with their carts, the ones with the “press here” bars to release the breaks, an airport classic. All of the carts were crammed with people’s belongings and luggage. Maybe it was just my feeling, but it seemed that everyone in Madrid airport was going on Erasmus too.

After a long while on the airport queue (I regretted not checking in the day before) I arrived to the counter and the nice lady from KLM asked me if I was on Erasmus and if I had a passport. In Finland – or many other countries for this matter – they are not used to see foreign IDs and they don’t really know what to do with them.

I put my luggage on the counter and learned that it was 10 kilos overweight. With a less friendly face, she told me that in Finland they would be less magnanimous than in Spain with this, but she let my 10 extra kilos pass without making me pay a fee. From other friend’s experiences, I would eventually learn that her advice was very true.

After that, I said goodbye to my family with a strange feeling taking hold of my body, just from seeing myself in such an overwhelming situation once again. I held my breath and went to the airport control.

On the airport, ready to take a flight
Me at the airport, back in the day, wearing a thick coat. Finland is cold.