Have you ever had a dream or a goal that you really, really wanted to achieve? A degree, a job, to be a prima ballerina or a Michelin star chef, anything that became an important destination towards which you try to work through everything you do and with all the decisions that you make every single day.
I had a dream.
Oh, didn’t I just! It wasn’t just a dream, it was a straight-forward obsession:
One way or another I had to move to England!
Why England? I really couldn’t tell you. I can still remember the moment when this inexplicable obsession started: we were on a holiday and I was choosing a towel from a tourist knick-knack shop. There was one like the Union Jack. And POW! That was it, I needed to know more about this country and I needed to go there. Like, really needed! Not just wanted, needed!
I was about 10 or 11 years old then. I’m not a spiritual person but this inexplicable moment in my life, the almost insane need to someday, somehow find my way into the UK, a country I didn’t actually know anything about, has made me think that maybe we have all lived at least once before. It doesn’t make much sense but the fact is, we just don’t know.
That moment of seeing the Union Jack towel (which I still have, btw) was the first ever turning point in my life. That obsession transformed into a goal worth working towards. It gave me a purpose in life, which is something that a lot of people struggle to find.
Life has a funny way of almost “carrying” you towards the things that you strive towards. It sometimes puts you through hard core hurdles before you get there but usually those hurdles make sense afterwards.
My life is checkered with examples of this: hard times followed by better times made even better because of some specific knowledge or skill that I took/learned during the harder period.
This is how I managed to reach my ultimate life-goal and what the reality actually turned out to be.
NOTE that these are all points, which you can use when mapping out your life-goals and how to work your way towards them:
Establishing the goal
First we need to realize what it is exactly that we want. For me it wasn’t just about getting to England, but the ultimate goal was to one day get a job in London.
Taking every opportunity to further that goal
I had no idea how I would eventually get there, after all, I was 11 years old. Can you imagine the frustration of being that young and knowing that becoming an adult is an enormous obstacle, which you can’t do anything about except wait for years to pass?
But I wasn’t idle: I took every opportunity that life presented to experience England; I enrolled to all the advanced English courses at school and when it was time to move to secondary school I enrolled on the class that was ‘English-oriented’, which basically just meant that I had all the optional, advanced English classes automatically in my curriculum.
Of course I also watched all English TV programs, like Emmerdale, Absolutely Fabulous and Keeping Up Appearances, and only consented to read books in English.
And then I heard about this thing called Language Trips: you go away for a few weeks or a month to another country to learn a language. I was IN! At 15 years of age I ended up in Brighton, which is basically mini-London with a beach. Honestly, things couldn’t have gone better for me at that point!
Planning studies accordingly
When it became time to decide what we were going to do after Primary School I had my plan set out; whatever I was going to study it had to be in English and there had to be a possibility to go abroad for an exchange.
There was only one degree available in my city, which included all of my requirements: Bachelor in Business Administration. Business was a wide field, the whole 3-year program was in English, half of the students would be international people and there were 2 things included in the curriculum that I could do abroad: exchange and an internship.
Check, check, CHECK!
The first year of Uni was literally all about partying and meeting new people. Nobody gave a damn about studies, not even our teachers. But after the first year it was time to get serious and start thinking ahead.
That meant that it was finally time to break the news to everyone: I was going to fuck off and there was a big chance that I would not return.
When I entered my application for an exchange in Scotland (the English option would’ve been Bolton and it just wasn’t glamorous enough for me) I basically spat the info into my then boyfriend’s face:
“If I get in we are over!”
What a lovely girl I was back then… But there’s no denying, I was making my dream of 10 years to come true and nobody was going to stop me! I was gonna live this dream!
Sticking to it and going for it full-on
There will always be naysayers on the way towards your goals, people who will tell you that you simply can’t do it. Ignore them!
Stick to that dream of yours. It’s yours, not theirs and you will bloody well show them that you’re up for it!
In my case it was relatives who would whisper behind my back (with love, I’m sure) that I will surely be back home after 2 weeks and abandon this “dream”. These whispers only enforced my will to prove everyone WRONG.
I got to Scotland and I have never loved life so much! My exchange ended in January but I had savings left and absolutely no interest in returning to Finland so I stayed there and started applying for internships.
There was only one place where I was going to accept an internship and that was London. Literally, I wasn’t going to accept anything else. If it had been Oxford, Manchester, any other city, I would’ve said “Thanks, but no thanks.” Well… maybe for Brighton I would actually have said yes to.
So, every day I sat in the Robert Gordon University library writing and perfecting my internship applications. Writing one application took me about 5 hours because they needed to be perfect. And it paid off! I got an internship in London. And not just any internship, but an internship at the Finnish Trade Organization, Finpro, which was in close cooperation with the Finnish Embassy in London!
I think the entire Union Square Shopping mall heard me when I got the call while in the changing room in H&M.
Dealing with the disappointment(s)
I had moved abroad before so it couldn’t be that hard, right? Well, yes it can. Moving to Aberdeen is a completely different affair than moving to London, which I learned the hard way.
Finding an apartment was a nightmare and I ended up “homeless” for the first 2 weeks. I also experienced unexpected racism due to the fact that people there do not know what or where Finland is. They thought I was one of those poor immigrants from Eastern Europe and kept asking me for a Visa. Twats!
Especially because of those experiences I cannot tolerate racism in any form towards anyone!
After I finally found a home it was time to start work. But it wasn’t what I expected. Not at all.
Also starting a life in London was a bit of a struggle. Most of the expats there were much older than me (I turned 21 while there) so I didn’t really have anyone to hang out with. Well, after a month I didn’t have any money left to hang out anyway. I got low. Like, really low.
The disappointment of realizing my biggest dream, which then turned out to be nothing but a struggle to stay alive was just too much to bear. The last drop was when I ordered a mirror online because my room didn’t have one. When it arrived it was in a million pieces. I literally sat on the floor and howled like a wounded animal.
But thankfully it’s never all bad: I had the most amazing flatmates and when I was crawled on the floor hoping to die one of them popped his head in to see what was up and he said the magic words:
“Would you like a cup of tea?”
I have the most insane emoji heart-eyes right now just remembering that. So English, so real, so perfect.
Always remember, no matter how bad things are it’s NEVER all bad! Sometimes you don’t have the strength to see the good points when you’re deep enough in the ditch but just wait, eventually you will and from then on things will always start to get better. Trust in that!
Turning it all into a success story
Some of you are lucky enough to realize your dreams and they turn out just as great as you hoped. But for most of us there will be disappointments and rough edges involved. But after a while, when things have calmed down a bit, you realize that despite all the ups and downs, it was all worth it.
After all, you have achieved a life-goal, realized a dream, and that is something worth being proud of!
I myself really struggled for that 6 months in London. But looking back I know that having survived it all made me so much stronger than I would be. It seriously was one of the greatest experiences in my life and I even surprised myself sticking through it all.
And I did also get to work together with the Embassy in organizing and participating in all sorts of events and that, ladies and gentlemen, was the coolest thing that could have ever happened to the 20-year-old me!