I could not recall the day I decided to study in Finland without trembling inside. I had good opportunities open in Sweden, Denmark, and even Norway, my most beloved country after Scotland. There were some organisational and personal reasons I did not seriously consider studying for MSc until it was too late. Further mercantilistic hopes for limited scholarships in the cold non-Scandinavian Nordic country led me to favour Finland over the others. What a mistake.
Life in Finland was miserable in the mildest terms. My pockets were always empty, and only Finnish students turned out eligible for state support. I was helping myself to bread from school canteen at the end of the day, when crusts were collected and thrown away. I could not invite a friend for coffee. An addicted milk drinker, I was limited to 1 litre of this divine drink a week, down from a routine of 1 litre/day. Above all, I was babysitting infant twins, who, although adorable, were frequently sick, tired, and restless. Unfortunately, this job did not pay well. At the end of the day, 5 EUR/week on groceries plus some on-the-job snacks was the limit. This would be fine provided the quality of education was adequate.
This was never the case. Even my undergraduate studies at SSE Riga were more challenging, although I certainly give less credit to those looking back now. Some courses in Finland were a useless bunch burdened with mandatory attendance. I thought graduate studies could never consist of sloppily put together reports and exams on power point hand-outs. It added to the string of disappointments.
Finnish people are a separate topic. Their shocking impoliteness, anti-social manners, and obvious indifference, even hostility to things non-Finnish never ceased to surprise me. My flatmates refused not only to say hello, but even to show any body part through the doors of their rooms. The kitchen remained dirty from traditional weekend drinking… parties. Party is actually a misnomer. Those events were drinking chaos in the best traditions of Finland. I have never, ever seen a nation more addicted to the bottle, and no, I am not a teetotaler. There were people in every little corner of Helsinki whom I could not call anything else other than unhumans, in Orwellian terms. Imagine a hoarse-voiced, spirits-odoured individual blubbering moodily in Finnish, dressed in dirty rags, showing rotten teeth, and looking like a member of the lost generation – in the middle of the city, and now not one but multiplied, everywhere, swarming. In a well-developed country labelled the most competitive by the likes of the World Economic Forum. The only reason Finland is consistently number one is because the grades are assigned by country residents, and Finns could never bear to rank their – Finnish! – company anything other than the top.
A travel freak, I was stuck in Finland for the lack of cash. I should not complain now, thinking back on my visits to Scotland (a breath of fresh air) and Sweden (made me linger for studying there once again… why Finland?). Inside Finland, there is nothing to see. All cities and towns are made up of modern buildings in modern planning arrangements. The stunning (agreed) nature is not easily accessible by public transport, and students like me do not have cars. Moreover, the temperatures drop far below zero starting in early October in the north of Finland. Seriously, I do not know how people survive up there. Helsinki was bad enough, and I am not a softie coming from Riga. We do get our share of cold as well.
And now… working at the ECB and preparing to begin with UBS next year, I am wondering once again at the degree of stupidity, rigidity, and stubborness of Finland, specifically my Finnish professor. He appears unhappy that I refuse to participate in a course led by his glorious self and involving reading a book and giving presentations on some chapters once a week. The solution, apparently, is that I come to Finland every week for the wonderful honour of giving a presentation on questionable rubbish written by somebody else on a dubious topic of Corporate Governance (could anyone seriously define it, please?). Now UBS demand that I fix the problem, or else might forget about the contract. Good grief, I am clutching my hands helplessly. I hate when people are being disagreeable. My career is my concern, and I will not let a single difficult invidual ruin my dream, when I have spent all the time in Finland building the road to it.
Any tips on taming stubborn Finnish professors – my way, please.