Shefat Islam: “There is something for everyone in Oulu”

Woman posing to a camera

Shefat Islam is originally from Bahrain. Currently, she is a communications intern and studies MSc. in Marketing at the University of Oulu.

Who

Terve! I am Shefat. Studying MSc. in Marketing at the University of Oulu. I have been a communications intern for Oulu Talent Hub and BusinessOulu.

I hail from Bahrain, a beautiful island in the Middle East. I am a Bangladeshi raised in Qatar, where I lived most of my life. My daughter and I came to Oulu in October 2021 to fulfill my dream of completing my master’s degree. We came directly to Oulu and the scenic town stole our hearts.

My family is from Minnesota, USA and some are from Sweden. They were my biggest supporters, all echoing -’It’s Finland! One of the safest places to be!’, which was extremely important to us since we decided I move here with our daughter while my husband stays behind.

My previous experiences include customer service and relations, business development, administration, and operations supervisor for Qatar Airways. Being able to live in many countries and work for organizations in various positions is something I am grateful for. Marketing was always interesting to me. I believe it’s one field where you can add the creativity aspect in business. I am thankful to BusinessOulu for giving me the unique opportunity to gain experience in this area.

Why

Because why not Finland? when I was looking for places to study, I thought of Finland because I was working for a Finnish franchise preschool in Bahrain. That is where I learned firsthand why the education system is so renowned in the world. This made me look for master’s study programs, and I realized, there are AACSB accredited universities here which were so affordable when compared to the universities in the USA, Canada etc., where most of us international students flock to. It was an eye opener. I did not think twice and applied at the university of Oulu because their courses were more aligned to what I wanted to study and the rest, as they say, is history!

Apart from Finland being rated best in terms of work life balance, the happiest country in the world many times in a row, there are two more things worthy of mentioning. One, is that I have a gap in my education of over five years and Finland is one of those few countries that accept any gaps in education or work. Being accepted and able to get back on track is such a relief for us who have had a break in our studies.

And the other is the support I receive from everyone being a parent. From work to studies, the professors, the colleagues and even the classmates, everyone is understanding and supportive. This support is such a ginormous help to anyone thinking of moving here with kids.

Woman and school kid

What

Some of the perks of being a student is that we receive a lot of benefits like discounts at supermarkets, restaurants, commute and, of course, the university housing, which is a such a blessing! The rent is quite reasonable and even comes with the internet.
We are in love with the Finnish cuisine. Salmon soup is our absolute fav!

Oulu is more of a community and people are super friendly once you approach them. Yes. You must make the first move. I appreciate people for saying things as they are. I love how they teach kids independence at such a young age. It was a pleasant surprise to see 7-year-olds walking/biking to schools alone! They build the inner ‘sisu’ in kids right from the start. The weather doesn’t stop them from outside play time at school. The importance given to outdoor play and reading books for kids here is praiseworthy.

What I also appreciate this country is for the efforts it takes for foreigners to feel welcomed and at home. If you look beyond the darkness and frost, there is so much of liveliness here the people would like you to see. The language centers are free, there are several networking events which are also free to connect with people, make friends. BusinessOulu and Startup refugees are some of the companies that are innovating new ways to help people settle down here. I have seen all their efforts working for BusinessOulu and I must say, I haven’t seen it anywhere else!

Another thing I noticed and absolutely love, is that all jobs are given importance. You could be a cleaner or a CEO. You know you will be equally respected. How beautiful is that?

If given the chance to redo, I would start with my Finnish skills before I got here! I would say, do your research, don’t be shy to ask. Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question! I still have a lot to learn, and I am learning something new every day. We have been traveling between Oulu and Bahrain and it gets upsetting witnessing my daughter look out the aircraft window saying, ‘Bye-bye Finland, will miss you!’ It is amazing how Oulu has taken up such a big space in our hearts in such a short time.

Where

My advice to students trying to settle here would be, please go ahead to the Career center at the university during your first year and make use of their workshops and keep yourself up to date with recruitment events that take place. They are there to help. From creating resumes to taking your resume pictures and mentoring you… they are there to guide, so make use of this amazing service from day one!

For activities and hobbies, there are plenty of things to do around Oulu. We enjoyed the summer activities, the midnight sun, the train ride to the theme park and, of course, Nallikari beach. Winter comes with its own spectacles, snow, and, if you are lucky, the northern lights!

A must place to visit is the Lapland and see Santa’s village. The ice castle in Kemi is another great spot. There are so many sports activities to give a try. But during those lazy winter days, we just love to stay cozy, watch the snow fall and drink our hot chocolate… After all, life is all about the simple things, isn’t it?

For year-round activities and hobbies, there are many sports halls here. The university student council has the wellbeing tutoring, which has a lot of activities all year round and they are mostly free. As for kids, there are a lot of hobbies like swimming, gymnastics, music, and karate… There is something for everyone in Oulu!

This article was originally published at oulutalenthub.fi

Woman with lake view

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