One of the best experiences in my life

Moikka,

my name is Kalyan Reddy, I come from India and I participated in the ICYE program for six months in Finland. I did not know much about Finland in advance but when I realized I would be doing my voluntary work period in Finland I started to look for information on the country and Finnish people. I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to learn many things during a voluntary work period. I wanted to learn about the Finnish culture and, as an exchange, share in Finland my knowledge and experiences on the Indian culture and traditions.

“After a long flight from Delhi I was very excited when I came to Finland. I still remember that wonderful moment when I stood outside Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport to take a bus to reach my host family house.”

After a long flight from Delhi I was very excited when I came to Finland. I still remember that wonderful moment when I stood outside Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport to take a bus to reach my host family house. The next day I went for sightseeing with another Indian volunteer and an Ecuadorian volunteer. We had lots of fun in the city centre of Helsinki, the capital of Finland.

After that it was time to meet the other volunteers from different countries in Tampere where we had together two weeks of training about the ICYE program and about our roles and responsibilities. It was a properly organized training in which we got enough information and useful tips for the voluntary work period. It was an emotional moment for every one of us when the training camp came to an end as we had become good friends. After the camp we all headed to our voluntary work places with many expectations and hopes for a unique experience.

“It was an emotional moment for every one of us when the training camp came to an end as we had become good friends.”

My voluntary work place was situated in Hamina, a small town nearby the city of Kotka. I worked there in Jamilahden kansanopisto [Jamilahti folk high school]. I basically helped the staff with office work and studied Finnish. The school principal was very friendly and kind, she used to guide me in all possible ways and encourage me to do new things. I lived in the dormitory house next to the school. The first thing I learned there was how to cook food. In India I had never cooked but now the time came for me to learn how to be independent and live by myself – and to cook for myself. Frankly speaking, at first it was hard for me to cook but I managed and was learning. In Hamina I had local support persons from whom I learned a bit more about the town. My support persons were really friendly and supportive.

“The first thing I learned there was how to cook food. In India I had never cooked but now the time came for me to learn how to be independent and live by myself – and to cook for myself.”

After having spent about two months in Finland, I needed to change the voluntary workplace because the school could no longer host an ICYE volunteer. My second voluntary work place was Savonlinnan kristillinen opisto [Savonlinna Christian Institute], one of the best places, but before I was placed there I got a chance to spend a bit of time in a beautiful town called Porvoo nearby Helsinki. I worked there in a folk high school with another Indian volunteer. In the school everyone was very friendly, including the principal, the vice principal and the school staff. Before heading to my placement I Savonlinna, I also worked for a week in a kindergarten in Kotka with a volunteer from Germany. The principal of the kindergarten hosted me and I got to feel how awesome it feels to live in a host family.

In Savonlinna Christian Institute I felt happy and everything was amazing, except being a bit far away from the city centre. In the institute I had challenging tasks which I liked because I wanted to know how well I could perform in challenging and hard tasks, and the principal of the school encouraged and helped me. I also really enjoyed working with the kitchen staff of the institute. They were kind enough to teach me Finnish words whenever we had free time.

In Savonlinna I got to know many foreign people, a couple from Sri Lanka, for instance. They helped me to know more about cooking. In addition, the local support persons of ICYE volunteers invited us to build gingerbread house. It was something new but nice for me. They taught us well how to make the house.

On Christmas time everyone was leaving the institute for holidays, and I thought I would stay alone in Savonlinna and celebrate Christmas by myself, but luckily two families in Joensuu invited me to celebrate Christmas with them. I spent the holidays with other one of them. It was a unique experience for me to be a part of a family and to join in their Christmas celebration. The family had visited India more than thirteen times and they know a lot about Indian culture and traditions. I felt it was time for me to test my cooking skills: I told them I can cook Indian food for them. I did cook for them and they liked it. That felt good! During the time I spent in Finland I also attended a wedding in Joensuu. It was really interesting event. For two days we were singing most of the time – the family loves music.

“During the time I spent in Finland I learned so many things and had so much fun with all the people I met.”

When I had been in Finland for almost six months it was time to have another training camp organized by ICYE Finland near Tampere. It was time to reunite with all the friends and to discuss and have a great time. Then, after the camp, I had to leave to back to India to apply for my higher education.

During the time I spent in Finland I learned so many things and had so much fun with all the people I met. I will not forget these six months and I want to carry with me all the new things I learned: being punctual and disciplined and building up confidence. I would like to thank everyone – my friends, support persons and all the team of ICYE Finland – for this wonderful opportunity, kiitos.

Kalyan Reddy
Volunteer in Finland in the season 2013–14

Kalyan participated in the International Cultural Youth Exchange (ICYE) program. Maailmanvaihto receives ICYE volunteers for volunteer periods of 6–12 months. Would you be interested in participating? Read more about the ICYE program and apply!