These past months abroad in Finland have been some of the most impactful and meaningful in my life, so I would like to take a moment to share my thoughts and reflect on my experience.
It's crazy how quickly seven months can pass - that's how long I have lived in Finland for my volunteering project- and still I feel like I just moved here a few weeks ago. I can confidently say that my time here has taught me so much about myself as a person and my perspective on life in general. Not only has the experience of living abroad independently been incredibly impactful, but specifically my project and work tasks here have shaped me and the impressions that I will take away from this.
For those who don't know- I am volunteering in Helsinki at the Blue Ribbon Foundation, where we support and help the homeless as well as people struggling with addiction, alcoholism and mental health issues. It is my first time working full time in a field like this, but I have enjoyed every moment of the work so far, the ups as well as the downs. Not only have I learned about drug abuse, addiction treatments and concepts such as the Finnish Housing-First model that counters homelessness, I have also gained a very intense and personal insight into the lives of so many people that are fighting a hard, often life-threatening battle every single day, in many cases since several years.
Although there is a general awareness and knowledge of these hardships outside of my project, this work has given me the opportunity to properly challenge my concept of gratitude and recognize, with much higher intensity, the privilege that I live with - the privilege of a home, of safety, of financial stability. I have become aquainted with countless customers struggling with drug abuse and homelessness, and have seen people in vulnerable and painful situations. On the other hand, there is a crucial aspect that I keep in the back of my mind, the thought of remaining hopeful and giving people second chances, regardless of their criminal history and other circumstances that are negatively impacting their lives and the lives of those around them.
Besides developing and growing within my work field, living abroad in general has shaped me and my personality more than I could have imagined before arriving in Finland. Not only am I living away from my family for the first time, I have the opportunity of experiencing a different culture and country, and meet countless new colleagues, friends and other inspiring people. Looking back on the past months, I have been loving the challenges and hardships of my time abroad because of the learning and growth they have evoked. However, the majority of my experiences has been overwhelmingly positive and I look forward to the final months of my project as well as my future beyond Finland.