How Did Finland Change You? - An Interview with Nana Iida

You can have the time of your life when studying abroad, but what is left when you return home? How has the short yet eventful time spent in Finland affected the foreign exchange students? I had a great chance to talk with Nana Iida, a Japanese student from Sapporo, Japan, who had spent the previous year in Helsinki University as an exchange student. We chatted a little about how she views her experience now, after half a year has passed from her stay I Finland.

Hello! Tell us a little about yourself and your studies!

Let me introduce myself: I’m currently studying English linguistics at the Hokkaido University in Japan. More specifically, I’m interested in anthropological linguistics the most, which is why I’ll carry out a research on the multilingual and how the language affects/changes the speaker’s thoughts this year. However, at the same time, I am interested in English education.

It’s been half a year since you returned home from Finland. How did you end up choosing Finland as your exchange destination?

 I wanted to go to a country where people learn English as their second or third language. The education should be of high standard as well. So you know, Finland was the ideal place for me to see English education successfully done. The most interesting class during my year in Helsinki was about linguistics minorities, like Swedish in Finland and Russian in Estonia. I can say that Japan is really a monolingual country, therefore I got a lot of new perspectives on minorities from this class.

How did your exchange period change you as a person?

I think my exchange period in Finland has changed me as a person. I’ve become more open-minded for sure. I was not that good at speaking about my feelings and perspectives before I came to Finland to be honest. I think it’s mostly because of “reading the atmosphere” culture of Japan, which suggests us to avoid being straight forward in public, even between friends. But during my year, I got a lot of chances to talk to people from other countries, and often times the common things for me were not common for them. Thus, I had to explain my perspectives, my history, and my feelings, which helped me get comfortable speaking about myself in the end. This change has affected me after returning to Japan.

Have you been able to turn your experience to good account after returning to Japan?

In order to communicate with others during my exchange period, I had to communicate with myself as well. Like, what kind of person am I? What do I think about my country? Why did I do this thing or that thing? And so on. I got to know myself more deeply, which helps me in searching for my future job or thinking of my life in general.  

Is there something you miss about Finland?

The thing I miss most about Finland is its beautiful nature. When I was in Helsinki, I used to go near a lake or to Suomenlinna and watch the sunset during good weather. It was my favorite moment of the day, and it made me feel relaxed and grateful for being in such a beautiful country.  

Tell us your best recommendations for visitors in your home town Sapporo!

If you come to Sapporo, Hokkaido, you’ll be able to enjoy our slower lifestyle. Compared to Tokyo or other big cities in Japan, we are not in a hurry, and we always enjoy good food, quiet nights, moments with family and friends, and so on. Local people warmly welcome newcomers.

Delicacies in Mingus Coffee in the Sapporo center.