Karlijn Fransen visiting Suomenlinna, a fortress built on six islands in the sea near Helsinki. Photo | Private archive Karlijn Fransen.

And how are things in Helsinki?

In the beginning of May the moment was there: I flew to Helsinki to do an internship of approximately three months at Aalto University. I had already arranged for a room in an apartment together with two other girls. When I arrived there, they asked me whether I brought shorts with me, since I would not need them during my stay there.

photo Private archive Karlijn Fransen

This turned out not to be true; after a week I already heard how lucky I was with the weather and eventually I experienced one of the best Finnish summers. The weather was perfect to go swimming in the Baltic Sea or in a lake, to go hiking, kayaking or biking and to enjoy a drink on a terrace.

Though Finland is not so far from Holland, there were a couple of things I had to get used to. Whenever I took a bus or train, I had to recheck the name of my destination several times; it was hard to remember the combination of letters. Still when I hear people talk Finnish, I have no idea what they are talking about. Luckily almost everyone speaks English and the Finns do not mind switching to English.

I also had to get used to the long days. When I arrived it was dark for a couple of hours per night and that became less and less until the longest day of the year in June; the national celebration Juhannus. In the first week I was awake every day around 3am. Luckily I slowly learned to sleep with the light and even during Juhannus, when I was on a multiday kayak trip and spent the night in a tent, I slept fine.

Juhannus marks the beginning of the summer in Finland and that was noticeable in Helsinki; the city became empty. Most Finns left to celebrate their holidays in a cottage near one of the many lakes in Finland. I left the city for a couple of days as well to cycle through the Archipelago National Park, and to visit Estonia.

Finland is a beautiful, safe country with a lot of nature and friendly people. I am glad I had the opportunity to live there for a couple of months and I am certainly planning to go back in the winter to experience the snow and short days!

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