Hi there, my name is Kati.
I came to Vaasa on the 29th of January. It took me a while to get used to Vaasa. The place names were weird and I would usually pronounce them wrong. The city looks very different than the cities I am used to in Belgium. Everything here is so big! When I went to the store, none of the products had an English description, so I was always guessing what I was buying. The first day I bought bread that looked like
the bread in Belgium. I took a bite and it was awful. Then I looked up on Google translate what it was: it was cheese bread. I didn’t like to eat it at first, but I like this bread now.
And my favorite culture ‘shock’: the buttons on the bus here are all red. In Belgium, if you press a red button on the bus, it means there is an emergency on the bus. I almost missed my bus stop because of this.
When I started my internship, I didn’t really know what to do here at Reimari. My teacher from Belgium told me that I had to work with youngsters, but she couldn’t really tell me much more about it. I read their website and it became a little bit clearer to me what they were exactly: a youth counselling and information center.
I was immediately taken in as one of their own. If I had a question about where I had to go, because I was new in this town and don’t speak Finnish or Swedish, they immediately knew the answers and helped me. Everyone talked to me, even if they weren’t really comfortable with their English. I was surprised about how relaxed everyone was at their work in Reimari. In Belgium, people are always rushing. There isn’t enough time and people to help everyone. Clients have to ask their questions quickly and social workers have to answer as fast as possible, very different than Reimari.
I could go to lots of different events with my colleagues: an ice skating event, an Edu job event, a summer job pop-up, a disco for youngsters under 18 that one of the workers organized … I had a lot of variation in my work. There was also many possibilities for me to visit other organizations and see what they are doing: Kultsa youth house, Walkers café, Ehjä ry, Vaasa family center … I had a lot of fun meeting new people and seeing the difference between Belgium and Vaasa. There are definitely some things that are better here, that I want to take with me to my home country.
The language difference was sometimes difficult for me, but as I started to get to know the young people and they got to know me, the language barrier faded. Where youngsters would first panic when I told them I could only speak English and they would go to someone else to tell their story or ask their question, they would now come to me on their own and start a conversation. I am so proud of them!
I even organized my own event at Walkers: an Easter egg hunt and Easter egg decorating day. It was the first time that I had ever organized an event on my own, so it was sometimes a little bit chaotic, but I was happy with the result and I think my colleagues were too. Reimari is a safe place for me, where I am allowed to make mistakes and where I feel motivated to do better next time. I am definitely going to miss it when I am back in Belgium.