Student - June 15, 2017

‘It couldn’t get more Finnish’

Who? Mirte Reimerink, MSc student of Health and Society
What? Four months’ internship at the University of Helsinki, in the department of Social Psychology
Where? Helsinki, Finland

‘When I arrived in Helsinki I didn’t have anywhere to stay yet. That was a risk but I had done it that way on purpose. If you look for a house from a distance you don’t know where you’ll end up and this time I thought it was extra important to have somewhere nice to live because I didn’t think I could base my social life on my work. In the end I found a terrific house, which felt good right from the start.

It’s impossible to describe how strange that feels; it’s something you have to experience for yourself

I got on particularly well with one of my housemates. During a long spring weekend I went walking with her and her friends. It couldn’t get more Finnish than that because we first went to the supermarket to buy sausages and we grilled them over a camp fire in the forest, just the way loads of Finns do. The whole country comes to life in the spring and everyone goes out picnicking. Sunset was at 11.30 and sunrise at 3 o’clock, with twilight in between. It’s impossible to describe how strange that feels; it’s something you have to experience for yourself.

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No photocopying slave

I helped on a European project called The Precious Project, in which an app is being developed for promoting healthy behaviour. The app concentrates on diet and exercise, and is based on scientific knowledge. I developed feedback, texts and questions. I was actually supposed to test the app for user friendliness too, but the project ran over time, so I didn’t have time for that. It was nice for my internship experience that I did a lot of different things, but for my report on user friendliness it made things difficult.

Finland has an individualistic culture but I didn’t notice that much at the university, maybe because of the many internationals. And anyway, the people in Social Psychology are chattier than average and my colleagues were very open. They immediately included me in the team and I was allowed to join in everything. They always asked for my opinion too. So I never felt like a photocopying slave.

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To begin with I was worried about whether I would meet enough people. And now and then I did get fed up, when I was alone in my room. That made me all the happier that there is only a one hour time difference from the Netherlands, and that friends could easily come and visit me. And I actively looked for nice activities such as salsa dancing. And there’s nothing wrong with the odd quiet day to rest and enjoy your surroundings and what you are doing.’