Greetings from abroad: From Finland to Iceland and from Egypt to FInland

Each year Maailmanvaihto sends and receives young people for long-term volunteering. Fia Dahlström and Nabil Sleem share their experiences of volunteering with the European Solidarity Corps.

Interviews: Minna Räisänen & Laura Rudzevičiūtė
Photos: Fia Dahlström, Rene Sinisalo & the home album of Nabil Sleem

Nabil: from Egypt to Finland

Henkilö seisoo ulkona vihreiden puiden ja veden äärellä, hän hymyilee kameraan päin. A smiling person is standing outside in front of lush green trees and a lake.

“The photo was taken by another volunteer at Atjärvi and makes me remember how I was adapting to a new environment.”

I went because…

I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and learn more about other cultures. By volunteering abroad, I have been able to gain many new skills which I never would have gotten if I had stayed in my comfort zone. This time which I have spent volunteering in Finland has also helped me to get to know myself better.

To  Finland!

I chose Finland for a variety of reasons. Finland is advanced in many fields, like education, and health care, and ranks as the happiest country in the world. This is what interested me and I wanted to learn more about Finland’s systems. After having spent a little more than five months here in Finland, I would say that my expectations have been met.

My project

I volunteer at Tapola Camphill Village Community where I assist people with mental disabilities in various workshops. I also help in outdoor activities like cutting trees and preparing the firewood.

Expectations and surprises

I was expecting that I would face some problems with connecting with new people and adapting to a new culture but all of this was not true. The people whom I’ve met are very nice, helpful and polite. I really like them and don’t feel like a foreigner here.

“Try to notice what motivates you, to see what’s good in the things that happen to you and to form close relationships with people.”

An unexpected thing was the weather. I had read about the cold in Finland but had never experienced it. It’s extremely dark and cold in Finland and one needs time to get used to it. But now after adapting to the cold, I don’t know how I will be able to live in a warm country like Egypt again.

Greetings to future volunteers

I would like to advise new volunteers, from my own experience of living and adapting in the countryside, to be patient and always try to find ways to support yourself — try to notice what motivates you, to see what’s good in the things that happen to you and to form close relationships with people.

I feel lucky to be part of this project and I know that this time will give me new skills and knowledge. I also want to thank the people I work with for their support and love. Keep going and achieve your dreams!

>> The article continues in the Finnish version of our website: Ida Dahlström sends greetings from volunteering in Iceland (in Finnish)

The article has been published in the magazine MaailmanVaihtoa – Volunteers’ Voices 1/2022.

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