Vasilii’s Jour­ney to Oulu: A Sto­ry of Aca­de­mic Pur­suit and Cul­tu­ral Inte­gra­tion

Vasilii Balanov

Vasi­lii Bala­nov visi­ted Oulu for the first time in Novem­ber 2019, when he was about to com­mence his interns­hip at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oulu. In St. Peters­burg he stu­died a master’s pro­gram­me in mic­roe­lect­ro­nics, which requi­red an interns­hip abroad. After a care­ful eva­lua­tion, he deci­ded to apply to Fin­land, since it was clo­se to his home­town. Soon he was offe­red a posi­tion in Oulu.

Wit­hout ever having heard about the city befo­re, Vasi­lii Bala­nov deci­ded to seize an oppor­tu­ni­ty and tra­vel­led to Fin­land, deter­mi­ned to start an adven­tu­re in a new count­ry.

– My first impres­sion of Oulu was very posi­ti­ve. It was Novem­ber, so it was alrea­dy snowing and qui­te cold. Eve­ry­bo­dy was pre­pa­ring for Christ­mas, so the city was cove­red in Christ­mas lights. Alrea­dy during the first few days I real­ly liked the arc­hi­tec­tu­re and gene­ral atmosp­he­re, and people were super kind.

Oulu impres­sed him, and in 2021 Vasi­lii moved to Oulu per­ma­nent­ly after recei­ving a job and star­ting his PhD-pro­gram­me at the same place whe­re he accomplis­hed both interns­hips.

Why Oulu?

– Ending up in Oulu was kind of a coinci­dence, but I like Oulu a lot. One of the best things about here is that you can cycle eve­ryw­he­re. Bicycle rou­tes are very well deve­lo­ped, and the dis­tances are not too long in gene­ral. The other thing I’ve enjo­yed is that the­re isn’t as much stuff to do as in big­ger cities. For me it means lear­ning to apprecia­te what I have and deve­lo­ping adap­ta­tion skills. It also pus­hes me to disco­ver what I can do with what I have.

“Ending up in Oulu was kind of a coinci­dence, but I like Oulu a lot. One of the best things about here is that you can cycle eve­ryw­he­re.“

Vasi­lii has disco­ve­red a lot to do in Oulu and the near­by regions. He loves cycling, both alo­ne and with a group of people, and pho­to­grap­hy. Both hob­bies give him the oppor­tu­ni­ty to explo­re Oulu more. During his time in Oulu he has also disco­ve­red enti­re­ly new hob­bies, such as boul­de­ring and fencing. He also enjo­ys hiking in natu­re.

– Natu­re is awe­so­me here, and I real­ly love Oulu because it’s clo­se to it. There’s fresh air and lots of hiking rou­tes and forests near­by. Also hiking is a great hob­by to do with friends. I’ve visi­ted for example Lem­men­pol­ku, Pil­pa­suo, Rokua and Kar­hun­kier­ros in Kuusa­mo. My favou­ri­te place in Oulu is Koi­te­lin­kos­ki.

Inte­gra­tion and Hob­bies

Vasi­lii has now spent 2,5 years in his new home­town. He has got­ten to know dif­fe­rent com­mu­ni­ties and met lots of new people.

– My first con­tact here was my Fin­nish kum­mi stu­dent. He hel­ped me with all the things rela­ted to my arri­val and basic things in eve­ry­day life, like going to a groce­ry sto­re. He also took me to a clim­bing cen­ter whe­re I tried boul­de­ring for the first time. It’s qui­te amazing that during my time in Fin­land I crea­ted even more con­nec­tions than I did befo­re.

Recent­ly he pur­sued his pas­sion for cycling by joi­ning the official cycling club of Oulu. It orga­nizes trai­ning and com­pe­ti­tions, which he glad­ly par­tici­pa­tes in. He also recei­ved a posi­tion as lea­der of the Uni­ver­si­ty Cycling Club, which gets fun­ding from the uni­ver­si­ty. In the group people gat­her toget­her and explo­re Oulu by bike.

– The best part about the Cycling Club is that eve­ry­one can join. The­re are dif­fe­rent groups for begin­ners and more advanced people. It has the poten­tial to beco­me a big com­mu­ni­ty that uni­tes cycling ent­husiasts. As the lea­der of the club, I want to show what cycling at its best can be.

Vasilii Balanov

Pro­fes­sio­nal pur­suits

Cur­rent­ly Vasi­lii works and researc­hes mic­roe­lect­ro­nic mate­rials and is a doc­to­ral researc­her.

– Basical­ly, this means wor­king in the lab and doing my own research at the same time, he explains.

– My main duties and tasks are using dif­fe­rent che­mical synt­he­sis to crea­te the actual mate­rials. I cha­rac­te­rize dif­fe­rent mea­su­re­ments to dif­fe­rent pro­per­ties. The pur­po­se of my work is to reduce was­ted ener­gy. Most of it is actual­ly was­ted, since almost eve­ryt­hing could be uti­lized as an ener­gy source. For example, the vibra­tions that people pro­duce when tal­king are ener­gy. We are crea­ting devices to col­lect this ener­gy and trying to recycle it and use it again.

In gene­ral, for Vasi­lii wor­king in Fin­land has been a posi­ti­ve expe­rience.

– I real­ly like the wor­king cul­tu­re in Fin­land. It’s dif­fe­rent, but qui­te relaxed and flexible. My work is very inde­pen­dent, and I apprecia­te that no one is moni­to­ring what I do all the time. When I come up with ques­tions, I just reach out and ask. There’s also a good balance between work and free time.

Lear­ning the Lan­gua­ge

One of the things Vasi­lii star­ted doing right after moving to Oulu was lear­ning Fin­nish. In his opi­nion, Fin­nish is very dif­fe­rent from other lan­gua­ges he knows, but at the same time he thinks it’s qui­te a logical one.

– I recom­mend eve­ry­bo­dy stu­dy Fin­nish. As a scien­tist who most­ly works in a labo­ra­to­ry, I haven’t nee­ded it that much at work. Howe­ver, it has been very help­ful for networ­king. I use it a lot in dai­ly life, for example when tal­king to my col­lea­gues.

He recalls a fun­ny inci­dent from years back when he had just moved to Oulu.

– I had just star­ted lear­ning Fin­nish. One day I was wal­king towards a recycling cen­ter, when an older man stop­ped me and asked me in Fin­nish if I nee­ded any fur­ni­tu­re. Thanks to my stu­dies, I unders­tood what he said and ended up having the fur­ni­tu­re I nee­ded for free. If I hadn’t unders­tood it, I would have mis­sed this oppor­tu­ni­ty. It’s good to have some basic know­led­ge of the lan­gua­ge. It makes inte­gra­ting and dai­ly life easier because you can unders­tand them, and they unders­tand you bet­ter. I think it’s very easy to par­tici­pa­te in Fin­nish cour­ses for example at the uni­ver­si­ty.

– Anot­her impor­tant thing I disco­ve­red when moving here was that life abroad isn’t always posi­ti­ve. Eve­ry count­ry has its own disad­van­ta­ges, but you can also make a dif­fe­rence with your atti­tu­de. The thing I real­ly like about Oulu is that it’s calm and safe. In my home­town it wasn’t always so obvious.