Embracing Oulu: A Texan’s Tale of Growth, Chal­len­ges, and Success


Adrian Cana­les is ori­gi­nal­ly from Texas, USA. He has been living and cal­ling Oulu his home for ele­ven years. Adrian’s plan coming to Fin­land was to start a new chap­ter of his life, con­ti­nue his educa­tion and start a career. Cur­rent­ly he is a com­mu­nica­tions intern at Inter­na­tio­nal House Oulu.

My name is Adrian, I’m 38 years old and ori­gi­nal­ly from Texas, USA. I’ve been living and cal­ling Oulu my home for ele­ven years. I first made my jour­ney to Fin­land in 2013, with my then wife, who is half Ame­rican half Fin­nish. Befo­re coming to Fin­land, I had recei­ved a bac­he­lor’s degree in mar­ke­ting and was wor­king at a call cen­ter sel­ling insu­rance in seven­teen dif­fe­rent sta­tes. At that time my then wife had wan­ted to move back home to Fin­land, so that’s what we did.

My plan coming to Fin­land was to start a new chap­ter of my life, con­ti­nue my educa­tion and start a career. Befo­re moving, I had applied for a mas­ter’s pro­gram in Mar­ke­ting at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oulu. I didn’t get accep­ted into the pro­gram, but that didn’t stop me from adap­ting into the Fin­nish cul­tu­re. I star­ted going to free Fin­nish cour­ses at Vil­la Vik­tor and went to the TE office, which pro­vi­des ser­vices for unemplo­yed job­see­kers, to see what kind of job oppor­tu­ni­ties were the­re for me.

Through the TE office, I was able to join an immi­gra­tion cour­se that would help me inte­gra­te into Fin­nish cul­tu­re as well as learn the lan­gua­ge. Through the cour­se I was able to accli­ma­te to the new envi­ron­ment I was in, learn about Fin­nish his­to­ry and gain know­led­ge of the Fin­nish lan­gua­ge to help me gain lan­gua­ge skills to enter the job mar­ket. During that cour­se, in 2014, I applied to Oulu Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sciences (OAMK) and was accep­ted to stu­dy Inter­na­tio­nal Busi­ness, and I was able to con­ti­nue my educa­tion.

First Impres­sions

Oulu gave me a home­town fee­ling, coming from a small Texas town, and have lived in major cities like Hous­ton and Aus­tin, Texas, Oulu was a per­fect midd­le ground. I arri­ved in Oulu in June, so I was able to expe­rience the beau­ty of the Fin­nish sum­mer, eating Fin­nish straw­ber­ries, which are the best straw­ber­ries in the who­le world, enjo­ying pic­nics and riding bikes all around the city.

“Fin­nish straw­ber­ries are the best straw­ber­ries in the who­le world.“

It surpri­sed me how many people walk and ride bikes here, because back home you nee­ded a car to go anyw­he­re or do anyt­hing.

The people in Oulu were welco­ming and laid back, and I real­ly like how people value per­so­nal space. I like being to myself, but I’m also open and enjoy having con­ver­sa­tions when someo­ne speaks to me, I feel like Oulu and Fin­land fit my per­so­na­li­ty well.


Life in Oulu

Life in Oulu has been great to me, luc­ki­ly, I’ve been able to crea­te a life here. Of cour­se the­re have been some struggles, but ove­rall, I couldn’t ask for a bet­ter place to call my home. I have a 5‑year-old son, who brings me so much joy and light to my life.

I’ve been able to attain my second bachelor’s degree from Oulu Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sciences in Inter­na­tio­nal Busi­ness, have wor­ked in two inter­na­tio­nal com­pa­nies, and cur­rent­ly inter­ning as a com­mu­nica­tions intern at Inter­na­tio­nal House Oulu, uti­lizing my English lan­gua­ge and mar­ke­ting skills. I’ve made friends with both local and inter­na­tio­nal backgrounds and have beco­me a DJ in the music sce­ne here.

Wor­king in Oulu

I have had the plea­su­re of wor­king in two inter­na­tio­nal com­pa­nies as a sales deve­lop­ment specia­list and account mana­ger. In 2017, I lan­ded my first sales posi­tion during my stu­dies at OAMK, I noticed and applied to a job pos­ting from the school’s int­ra­net that was hiring English sales pro­fes­sio­nals and ended up wor­king at the com­pa­ny for a couple of years. In 2019, I was loo­king for a chan­ge,

I reac­hed out to my network on Lin­ke­dIn, and it just so hap­pe­ned the mana­ger and per­son who trai­ned me at my first job was coming back to Oulu and had an oppor­tu­ni­ty for me at anot­her com­pa­ny doing the same sales tasks that I was alrea­dy doing, I ended up wor­king at that job for four years. Some unfo­re­seen events hap­pe­ned, and I nee­ded to start loo­king for anot­her job. It was a chal­len­ging time for me, but I kept my hopes high and eyes open.

In the begin­ning of 2024, that’s when I found and went to a job fair “Työn­tai­ta­jik­si” at the Oulu theat­re and found Inter­na­tio­nal House Oulu. That mor­ning, they had just announced a mar­ke­ting and com­mu­nica­tions interns­hip. I sub­mit­ted my applica­tion and imme­dia­te­ly cal­led the mar­ke­ting and com­mu­nica­tions mana­ger to int­ro­duce myself. Now I proud­ly hold the posi­tion of com­mu­nica­tions intern at the orga­niza­tion.

The work cul­tu­re in Fin­land was refres­hing com­pa­red to what I expe­rienced in Texas. The two com­pa­nies that I wor­ked with here had flexible wor­king hours and wor­king from home was optio­nal, especial­ly after the pan­de­mic. The free­dom of doing my work was dif­fe­rent, I was used to a mana­ger always over my shoul­der and con­ti­nuo­us­ly mic­ro­ma­na­ging eve­ryt­hing I did, but in Fin­land emplo­yees have more trust from their supe­riors, and I especial­ly can’t complain about a month’s holi­day gua­ran­teed each year.


Chal­len­ges and tips

Even though I have been able to crea­te a nice life here, the­re have been some chal­len­ges that I had to overco­me. One of them being the lan­gua­ge, Fin­nish is one of the har­dest lan­gua­ges to learn in my opi­nion, after ele­ven years, I do unders­tand almost eve­ryt­hing, but spea­king is still a chal­len­ge.

I’ve been luc­ky to have found jobs that cater to my English skills, also that Oulu is qui­te an inter­na­tio­nal city, because majo­ri­ty of the people speak English very well. I’m hoping the interns­hip I am in right now at Inter­na­tio­nal House Oulu helps impro­ve my Fin­nish skills.

Anot­her chal­len­ge I have expe­rienced here is the dark and cold win­ters, but I’ve come to unders­tand that all of us in Fin­land are struggling during tho­se times and the­re is always sau­na to help esca­pe the cold. I love the sau­na cul­tu­re in Fin­land, it helps me in so many ways.§

It helps impro­ve my immu­ne sys­tem, it’s a time for me to get away from the stress in my life and of cour­se it keeps me warm. During the win­ter, I belie­ve it’s impor­tant to have good people around you and have hob­bies that keep your men­tal health as good as it can be.


I think the big­gest chal­len­ge for me was and is fin­ding work, even though I have had success fin­ding work here, it isn’t easy, and it requi­res a lot of effort. If I were to give some advice to someo­ne loo­king for work in Oulu and Fin­land in gene­ral, it would be to network as much as pos­sible, whet­her that be on Lin­ke­dIn, or with people you know that have been success­ful fin­ding work here. Find all the avai­lable resources to help gui­de you on the right path, the­re are plen­ty avai­lable, for example Inter­na­tio­nal House Oulu offers a diver­se ran­ge of ser­vices to help immi­grants.

Keep your eyes open for job fairs and go to them, you never know what you might find. You will need to put your­self out the­re, it will be uncom­for­table, but it’s worth it in the end.

When you apply for a posi­tion, call the hiring mana­ger to int­ro­duce your­self, make your­self memo­rable, it inc­rea­ses your chance to get that call for an inter­view.

Ove­rall, I have loved Oulu since the day I arri­ved. Who knows what the futu­re holds for me, but for now, I don’t see myself lea­ving any­ti­me soon and hope to con­ti­nue crea­ting a nice life here with the skills and know­led­ge I have gai­ned whi­le living here.