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.