Returning to Liechtenstein – a very unexpected journey between my three homes

As I already described in my first two blogs – I couldn´t have taken a better choice for my exchange semester. The experiences I made, somehow expected, somehow not, were for sure unique. Unique was also how unexpected this experience ended. We were in the middle of the semester, eagerly preparing towards Wappu. We had plenty of trips planned. Visiting my friends in Norway or taking a bus to St. Petersburg. It seemed like we had all arrived in a new daily routine, be it a new everyday life by getting along with the unfamiliar language they speak there, by knowing how things work at the University or simply to have found into a new circle of friends. Feeling safe. The feeling of having arrived. A new home. Now, being back to Liechtenstein and looking back on the past busy months, I realize that we somehow knew, at least subconsciously, how unexpected this would all end to us. Talking not only about myself, but also about the friends I made in Finland. I can almost not believe how fast we all adapted to the unfamiliar. The second day. Already. I met two girls which became my best friends for the semester. It only took us a couple of hours to get from the unfamiliar to the familiar. Together, we found our way into everyday life, discovered how things work and got in contact with local students. As if we would have known it. I have the feeling we took the most out of these three months. I still remember the last experience of this exchange. A weekend at the cabin. Free from any worries. In the deepest winter of Finland. Spending hours and hours at the sauna. There were hot pots. Even a smoke sauna. Two days later, we received an email by the embassy and the University, strongly recommending us to leave the country and return home due to Covid-19. Another four days later, I had arrived back home at my parent´s house. That is how abrupt it all ended. I believe, during the time of my stay, I wasn´t really aware of the unfamiliar or how fast it all became familiar to me. How fast it became home. Only now, being back in Liechtenstein, I finally get to reflect on all this. Even when I had arrived home in Germany, I was still so much connected to Finland through online lectures and didn´t really realize how much I had changed and how “normal” this all became to me. Also being in a very unfamiliar situation due to Covid-19. Suddenly, being at home felt different. Another three months later, I changed my “home” again and travelled back to my third home. Liechtenstein. Now, sitting here, writing this blog, I compare different aspects of life at each of my homes. I guess in terms of culture and everyday life, Liechtenstein and Germany are pretty similar. Just the fact of having a lot of international students at the University already kind of prepares you for unfamiliar situations you might be in during your stay abroad. I think it helped me a lot to get along and adapt in Finland. There were even certain aspects of life and social interaction that I would prefer from what I would call “familiar” to me. For example, how Fins respect each other´s personal space. Being more calm and quiet, or just taking your time to really get to know someone. These meaningless small talks “just to be nice and open” do not really exist. If someone talks to you, it is because this person wants to talk to you. It is happening much more conscious. What I would also like to point out, is the role of traditions in Finland. How I already described in my first blog, especially student´s traditions play an important role. You are feeling honoured of being part and getting to know it. There is a whole culture of teaching it to the new generation. What I have learned from the experience of staying abroad is that your encounter with the unknown definitely depends on what you would call “familiar”. And on former experiences with different cultures (maybe even in a known environment). However, it is, in a way, just a matter of time. In the beginning of your stay, you might feel like this would never become familiar to you. Or even home. Nevertheless, together with other people in the same situation, you will find your way into life at this place. It will take time and you will experience new things every day, but getting familiar is the first step of feeling at ease and at home.