The border position of Karelia and the opportunity to completely plunge into the verbal environment were the reasons for Kaaren Erhola to come to Petrozavodsk and become a student of the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of PetrSU for 4 months. In Finland Kaaren studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Turku. “I’ve been studying the Russian language for several years already but my pronunciation is not that good because of the lack of oral practice. So I realized I needed to spend more time in Russia to speak Russian better” – told Kaaren.
Many things appeared to be difficult for her at first: pronunciation of the sounds “z” and “zh”, spelling, stress that is not fixed on the exact syllable as for instance in the Finnish language. The project “Tandem” that is running at PetrSU for all comers helped Kaaren to struggle through the thorns of the Russian language. “My tandem partner is now a student of the Faculty of Medicine of PetrSU, she studies the Finnish language. We meet once or twice a week. It is a really good and effective practice of everyday language” – shared Kaaren.
Kaaren says, the International Cooperation Office staff assisted her not only in finding a good tandem partner but they also gave her valuable advice which helped her to choose courses to study such as “Social Work” and “International Relations”.
Kaaren used her theoretical knowledge on social work courses at practical training together with the students of the faculty. She had a two-week practical training at Petrozavodsk Social Integration Center “Preodolenie”. “I conducted a polling among the visitors of the center. It was interesting but hard at the same time because I had to listen to so many real life stories of these people, and their lives are so hard”.
Her knowledge got from the international relations courses Kaaren will use in the Finnish Embassy in Petrozavodsk where she is going to work for a year. “It is a really valuable work experience for me, and the opportunity to get to know the political, business and everyday life of Karelia and to understand the relations between our countries better” – says Kaaren.
While being in Petrozavodsk Kaaren realized that the Finnish people have things to learn from the Russians. For example, their mutual help. “We, the Finns, are very self-sufficient people and we think it is good and help is not needed. Having spent here some time I have understood that the Russian people possess a great quality, so to say “togetherness”. You help each other a lot and you have strong family and friendly ties” – told Kaaren.
She also wonders why salespersons here hardly ever smile and are always so serious, and why the Russians are so reserved when you first meet them, but they become so pleasant, nice and communicative when you start to communicate closer.
Kaaren couldn’t stay indifferent to the fact that there are so many theatres and museums in our small town. “It is splendid you have opera and ballet, and so many ethnical events are held here!” – shared Kaaren with us. She has a whole year ahead to get to know the culture and the history of our republic and discover famous “Karelian pearls” – Kizhi, Kivach and Valaam.