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I felt like I had fled a burning house when I boarded the plane to Helsinki. I left my job working for a county elections office preparing for the upcoming November presidential general election there, which looks more and more like it will result in disastrous conflict at the hands of Donald Trump, who will cling to power by any means possible. Once I connected to WiFi during a Frankfurt layover, a message from my mother popped up on my phone: “only 8 percent contained.”

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When I first stepped out of the airport at Vanta I was greeted by a blast of chilly air accompanied by the sweet, unfamiliar scent of pine trees. It was the peak of winter and it was unlike anything I had experienced before, having come from a place where temperatures reach 35 degrees celsius even in winter. I had been warned, but Finland did not seem like the freezing, icy wasteland that people made it out to be. Even in the bleak, sunless landscape of late January, it seemed filled with hope and promise. That was two and a half years ago. 

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I am Vy, Vietnamese by birth, currently working in the States and I have been in Finland for four years.As summer brings a delightful fresh approach to Boston, people finally can find relief in the warmth of balmy weather after going through the harshest winter in the history. The weather is gently reminding me of my last summer in Lahti-Finland where I have been calling home for four years.

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Valentine Kamau is a Kenyan living in Finland.Finland has been a blessing to me and my family. Through free education amongst many other good things that Finland offers to immigrants, we have achieved what others have been denied in other countries.

In this regard I will say that, sometimes we tend to burn all our energy in the negative things that come along our way in the endeavor to achieve success and complain a lot and we tend to forget also to focus on the bright side of life and we miss the good things that come our way.

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Originally from Pakistan, Ataul Ghalib completed his Master’s in IT from Tampere University of Technology, and has been working in the field of Embedded Software Development from four years.I have been living in Finland for almost five years now. I came to Finland in 2009 to study my Master's degree in Computer Systems at Tampere University of Technology. At the moment I am working as an Embedded Software Designer in the automation industry.

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Nigel Banerjee is an academic from London. He visited Helsinki for the first time last summer, and is already planning his next trip to Finland.What was it about Finland that made such an impression on me when I visited the country for the first time earlier last year?

The scenery was wonderful, of course. I got a taste of what was to come as the aeroplane flew in over the Baltic Sea and then over a beautiful green landscape dotted with lakes. Although I never ventured out of Helsinki, even the capital was an oasis compared to London, where I live and work. My hotel was just a twenty minute tram ride from the Central Railway Station, and yet a few minutes' walk away was Seurasaari, a lovely little island where, as I sat on the rocks overlooking the pristine waters, with just the odd duck paddling by and not a sound to be heard, I might have been a million miles from civilisation.

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Originally from the USA, Todd Proctor has been managing a language services company in Finland since 1995.I often hear young foreigners and Finns alike ideating over Finland's wonderful free education system. Wonderful? – maybe. I hope so. Free? – certainly not! As a 27 year resident of Finland I take almost native pleasure in casting down imaginations and can tell you nothing, especially in Finland, is free.

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Merle Must is doing her internship with Helsinki Times. She’s originally from Estonia, but currently a master’s student at Groningen University in the Netherlands."So many foreigners!" was the first idea that came to my mind when I arrived in Helsinki for my internship. I had visited the city numerous times before, because I lived just across the Baltic Sea, but only for touristic purposes. As the actual life in Helsinki is of course different, some things have managed to surprise me.

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Sonali Srivastava is an HR and administration professional from India. She has worked in England and Finland and has lived in Finland for over seven years.With news of Finland entering its third technical recession, the average person reading the newspapers hasn't got much to celebrate about. Job are slashed and looming lay off negotiations compound the future outlook even further. Intellectual introspection attributes it to a variety of factors like Apple vs. Nokia, the paper industry failing, immigration – the list goes on. In short, reading the daily news isn't a positive experience.

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Christine Rovelli is an American working at Finnair, and has been here in Finland for about two and a half years.Every place you leave becomes a memory. Even if you return to visit, in your mind it's as it was when you left, slowly fading until only the structure, the broadest outline, remains. The longer you're gone, the more your mind fills the spaces with dreams; until they, too, become memories and fade.

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John Self is a Fulbright Scholar from Cal Poly Pomona, teaching at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences. He and his wife will be in Helsinki until Christmas.The daily disappointment that I know only one language. Kiitos doesn't count. This shortcoming is a real strength for the majority of Finns, but they have a typical "What's the big deal?" attitude. It is a big deal.

Helsinki is safe, clean, with little graffiti, fantastic public libraries and a public transportation system second to none. Fast, reliable and clean. It just works. Every day. 07:12 train? Be there at 07:12. 7B tram? If the sign says 3 minutes, it means 3 minutes. What a concept.

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