“During my first walks in Oulu, I felt like I was in a fai­ry tale”

Woman smiling at the front of Oulu University

Débo­ra Oli­vei­ra, 34, is from São Pau­lo, Brazil. Besi­des doing a master’s in educa­tion and glo­ba­li­sa­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oulu, she is a com­mu­nica­tions trai­nee at Oulu Talent Hub. In Brazil, she used to work for an NGO with migrants and refu­gees, so she is hap­py to con­ti­nue wor­king with migrant and inter­na­tio­nal people in Fin­land. “I see Oulu as a city of oppor­tu­ni­ties. And I am having such a great time here that I am con­si­de­ring staying in Fin­land to pur­sue a PhD”, Débo­ra says.


My name is Débo­ra Oli­vei­ra. I’m 34 years old, and I’m from São Pau­lo, Brazil. I have a bachelor’s and teac­hing degree in lan­gua­ges and lite­ra­tu­re and a post­gra­dua­tion degree in cul­tu­re and educa­tion. Cur­rent­ly, I am a master’s stu­dent in educa­tion and glo­ba­li­sa­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oulu.

Woman walking in the snow


I have always wan­ted to do a master’s degree abroad, and I was searc­hing for English-spea­king count­ries or places that had inter­na­tio­nal pro­gram­mes in English. Fin­land is renow­ned for its qua­li­ty educa­tion, so I chec­ked the Stu­dyin­fo web­si­te to see which master’s degrees were in offer. When I came across Edglo (the nick­na­me of educa­tion and glo­ba­li­sa­tion toget­her), I deci­ded to apply because it had all the areas I wan­ted to stu­dy.

Besi­des, I could get a scho­lars­hip, and the stu­dent resi­dence and living expen­ses were more affor­dable than what I found in other Euro­pean count­ries. Stu­dents in Fin­land have a lot of bene­fits, and you can get discounts almost eve­ryw­he­re, from eating in res­tau­rants to tra­vel­ling by train.

The idea of lear­ning a new lan­gua­ge also got me exci­ted, as I’m pas­sio­na­te about lear­ning lan­gua­ges, and Fin­nish is the seventh lan­gua­ge I am stu­dying. Besi­des Por­tu­gue­se, my nati­ve lan­gua­ge, I also speak English and Spa­nish and have stu­died Ger­man, French, and Ara­bic.

I have been here for seven months now. Befo­re I star­ted my master’s, I had never been to Fin­land. My first expe­rience in the count­ry was direct­ly in Oulu. Though I had to fly to Hel­sin­ki from Brazil, I only stayed at the air­port wai­ting for the night train to bring me here.


Whi­le tra­vel­ling on the train from the south of Hel­sin­ki to the north of Oulu, I was amazed by the forest landsca­pe all the way through here. During my first days in Oulu, two things cal­led my atten­tion: how the city is calm and silent and the natu­ral landsca­pes you come across eve­ryw­he­re.

Coming from a megaci­ty such as São Pau­lo, it can take some time for one to get adjus­ted to a relaxing vibe. I remem­ber during my first walks in the city, I felt like I was in a fai­ry tale due to the amount of gree­ne­ry and water eve­ryw­he­re. Also, when I spot­ted red mush­rooms or saw hares run­ning at night, I real­ly thought I was insi­de a child’s sto­ry.

I live by myself here in a cosy, small stu­dio apart­ment near the city cent­re. It’s a stu­dent resi­dency, but it’s not insi­de the cam­pus in Lin­nan­maa. I real­ly like living in a cent­ral region, and my neigh­bour­hood is great, because my street is near the sea and just in front of one of Oulu’s big­gest parks cal­led Hol­li­ha­ka.

I think people are ext­re­me­ly poli­te. I like how eve­ry­one greets me when I enter or lea­ve places, such as shops or super­mar­kets, with a ‘Hei!’, Moi!’ or ‘Moik­ka’ and ‘Kii­tos’. Also, I feel that life here is simple, yet orga­ni­sed. It’s nice to see people cycling eve­ryw­he­re, even older people, or going for a walk in the park at the end of the day.

I think one of the things that was most cul­tu­ral­ly shoc­king for me about Oulu was the ‘bus etiquet­te’. When people wait at the bus stop or look for a seat insi­de the bus, they always keep a dis­tance from each other.

At São Pau­lo, we are so used to having crow­ded buses that we can­not afford to choo­se whe­re to sit. And the dis­tances are so long that one cer­tain­ly gets tired of stan­ding. Here, in Oulu, it is the oppo­si­te: people often choo­se to sit in a row that’s emp­ty and rare­ly sit besi­de someo­ne else, unless you know the per­son.


Besi­des doing my master’s at the uni­ver­si­ty, I am a com­mu­nica­tions trai­nee at Business­Oulu for the Oulu Talent Hub pro­ject. I am also a volun­teer at Red Cross Oulu in a pro­ject sup­por­ting Ukrai­nians arri­ving in the city. In Brazil, I used to work for an NGO with migrants and asy­lum see­kers, so it is great to con­ti­nue wor­king with migrants and inter­na­tio­nal people here.

Though Oulu is a qui­et city, I must con­fess that I have been qui­te busy here. I try to enjoy the city as much as I can, so I love han­ging out with my friends from uni­ver­si­ty and get­ting to know new places. We often make bon­fi­res in parks and go to Nal­li­ka­ri or to the sau­na.

It is clear that Oulu is a city in expan­sion. Many pro­jects have been imple­men­ted to fos­ter the city’s growth, and you can see new con­struc­tions star­ting around the city. So, I see Oulu as a city of oppor­tu­ni­ties. And I am having such a great time here that I am con­si­de­ring staying in Fin­land to pur­sue a PhD.


Befo­re coming to Fin­land, I high­ly recom­mend that people do some research on what life is like here. The­re are many onli­ne resources (web­si­tes and social media) with infor­ma­tion and facts about the count­ry. To name some, This is Fin­land, Stu­dy in Fin­land, Busi­ness Fin­land, and the Fin­nish Embassy’s social media accounts. It is good to have some idea about the count­ry and cul­tu­re befo­re lan­ding here.

After moving in, if you want to feel more inte­gra­ted into the city, you should defi­ni­te­ly get to know as many places as pos­sible and see what the city has to offer and what kinds of faci­li­ties are avai­lable for resi­dents. Besi­des, try to have hob­bies and par­tici­pa­te in events in order to network as much as pos­sible. You never know what oppor­tu­ni­ties might come, and having con­nec­tions is the best way to stay tuned.

If you want to work or do an interns­hip here – which I high­ly recom­mend, because you can grow your network – you must keep an eye on Oulu’s social media chan­nels (such as City of Oulu, Business­Oulu, Vil­la Vic­tor, Visit Oulu, and so on). If you stu­dy at the uni­ver­si­ty, the­re are many events hap­pe­ning as well.

I would say you should keep in mind you might face some pos­sible cul­tu­ral shocks, depen­ding on which count­ry you are from – but you will face not­hing that could not be overco­me. For ins­tance, I am a very tal­ka­ti­ve per­son, and I belie­ve Brazi­lians tend to be very expan­si­ve. After coming to Fin­land, I soon noticed that Finns don’t talk loud­ly; they enjoy being silent. So, I am trying to learn how to be com­for­table obser­ving silence as well.

Moreo­ver, Oulu has been a place for my buc­ket-list expe­riences. Here, I could see snow for the first time and expe­rience what it is like to have just four hours of day­light during win­ter.

Besi­des, I love living in a city whe­re I can see auro­ra borea­lis dancing in the sky eve­ry now and then. See­ing the nort­hern lights has always been on my list, and so far, I have seen them three times. And it’s great to know they’re just around the cor­ner – or rat­her, I should say they’re just up in the sky.

Woman smiling at the front of northers lights

Oulu Talent Hub

This article was ori­gi­nal­ly publis­hed at oulutalenthub.fi

Talent sto­ries you may be inte­res­ted in:

Vik­tors Sobo­levs: “If you want to work in Oulu, belie­ve in your­self and push hard”

Doris Yue belie­ves her dreams will come true in Oulu

Jun­naid Iqbal: ”You must come to Oulu with an open mind and a big smi­le”

Tama­ra Louis: “Oulu is a per­fect envi­ron­ment for fami­lies”

Shar­min Farah: “Nort­hern Lights – the best thing to expe­rience whi­le living in Oulu”