From Mexico to Finland

Written by Karla Castano


Welcome to Pori

I moved to Finland on the summer of 2015, like majority of foreigners living in the country I emigrated due to my spouse being a Finnish man. I arrived at Pori knowing so little about what was ahead of me, scared and dealing with the reality of being separated from everything I once knew.

The first months were rough between paperwork and me trying to accommodate to a new country where I found myself alone and unable most of the time to communicate and understand others around me. Yes, I spoke English but that language wasn´t quite enough to help me to easily navigate the country.

“Welcome to Pori” said a colorful card that I received few weeks after my documents ere approved, and so it came with the feeling that I could maybe start building up something. Being a licensed lawyer with experience in my country I thought, I could find myself a job in some legal buffet on the city as an assistant and so did workers in the local unemployment office thought. Little did we know, that after months of research for a place, I couldn´t find any that was interested in me. The knowledge I thought was an advantage was ignored and dismissed.

After a year of living in Pori without any progress, I was required by the government to start my adaptation process to the country. The process seemed simple; “learn the language and find a job”.I got enrolled during the same month to Finnish language courses and due to them not being available at the time in Pori, I was required then to travel every day to the neighbour city, Rauma.

Moving to Rauma

I arrived at the courses knowing only a few words in Finnish, but I convinced myself that I would do it all to learn the language. I spent eight hours of my day in the school learning and another two hours traveling between Pori and Rauma. And so, after discussion my husband and I thought it was the best if we moved to Rauma, after all, he had recently also enrolled to a local school and I was already traveling everyday there.

It took me six months to complete the Finnish course offered by the government and my language skills were considered good enough to be able to further develop in the country. But although my diploma said I was capable to communicate successfully, I couldn´t find a job suitable and so, I decided to settle for anything that would help to develop even more my language skills.

I was able to find a job-learning place in a local kindergarten where I worked for five months, the experience helped me to learn more about the language and made my speech more fluid. Even though, I liked to work with children, I felt I needed to do something more; I had still the need to further develop myself.

Learning in a new way

I had heard in the past from a friend about Satakunta University of Applied Science, and after analysing what career would better complement my previous law studies, I decided to try to get in International Businesses. I made the admission exam and got enrolled to the university on the Autumn of 2017.

My studies in business at SAMK were a completely new experience to me. Being used to a more traditional approach to education, I found myself challenged with a new way of learning, where practice and contact with companies were a norm. My studies continued smoothly, until the year 2019 when I was invited to take part in SAMK´s Talous & Tekniikka Akatemia. The academy consisted of a group of few students of the university, where I was one of the only two students with a foreign background on the team.

During this period, I was able to work on solutions for real business problems and develop projects for companies.

Being part of this team, opened many doors for me and while working with them, I was able to work with Rauma Chamber of Commerce, with whom we developed the Talous ja Tekniikka -seminaari.

Rauma Chamber of Commerce

Rauma Chamber of Commerce would later grab interest in me and contacted me to make an interview to become their intern for the Autumn of 2019. Although, I was still hesitant about my Finnish language skills, I was able to make my interview in Finnish and get the position of coordinator and assistant for the Chamber´s CEO.

During the three months period of internship at the chamber, I was able to experiment more in dept the work culture in Finland, finding surprisingly, how different it was to Mexican work culture. Coming from a country were speed and high productivity are expected, I found myself with a more laid-back working environment, were time frames were longer and pauses for coffee a norm. During my internship period I was encouraged to speak Finnish yet having the opportunity to speak English when too complicated language was used. I like to think that I´ve helped my co-workers to improve their English as much as they have helped me with my Finnish.

After the three months working with the Chamber, I offered to focus my thesis on the internationalization services offered by Rauma Chamber of Commerce and was given the opportunity to study and improve their service, KV-Klub, this in combination with a full-time job.

During the Spring of 2020 I then started working on the improvement and rebranding of the service, this while still studying at SAMK and working a full-time job with the chamber. My project with them lasted four months, having as a result the improved service, Global Club. The club has opened a discussion on current living and working conditions of foreigners in Rauma and has given the opportunity for immigrants and foreigners in the city to have their voices heard.

After my thesis project was completed, I graduated early on June of 2020 and Rauma Chamber of Commerce offered me a full-time job for the summer. I am currently their E-exports Documents Manager and due to the current situation with COVID19, I divide my time between working at home and the office.

Helping others

I have really enjoyed working at the Chamber and I have always felt as a part of the team. I am really grateful to Rauma Chamber of Commerce CEO for taking the chance on hiring an immigrant to be part of their working team and for the chamber to set itself as an example to others on how to be open to foreign talent.

I will continue to work with Rauma Chamber of Commerce and do as much as possible to keep opening new doors for people who like me are little by little building themselves as professionals in the city. There is still much work to be done, but I believe we are following a good path.

-Karla Castaño.