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New city, same old pandemic

This is the first fall in years I didn’t go back to school or university. In July and early August I started to have this itch, like it was the time of the year to learn something new again. On August 7th I moved to Budapest to start an internship at FinnAgora and, needless to say, the itch is gone.

So many things about the world around me are different, I feel like adjusting to my new normal is taking all the brain power I have. I started an internship at FinnAgora, so my daily routine has changed completely. Since graduating last winter my life has been pretty boring – first looking for jobs from home or the library, going to my usual hobbies and hanging with the friends I’ve had for years, then staying home for months because of the pandemic. Instead of lazy job search and watching movies with my roommates I now have a schedule and somewhere to be in the morning.

My days at the office look very different from each other as well. They might consist of meetings, sending emails, brainstorming virtual events, watching short films for next year’s Filmnapok, or organizing the office cabinets. It’s been a lot of memorizing new names and asking questions and still not knowing what people are talking about sometimes.

Besides the big picture, I notice differences in everyday details that I never used to think about. My keys look different and I can’t lock my door without them. My building doesn’t recycle. I don’t know directions. Afternoons are too hot for a walk or a grocery run. There are still Spars in Hungary. (Spar had stores in Finland when I was a kid so I think of it as a kind of a retro thing.) I can’t find tofu at the said Spar. I ate almost a full tub of sour cream with fruit before a friend informed me that it was, in fact, not weird yougurt.

I’ve studied abroad before, so I know it’s all just a part of the adjustment period, but that’s also one of the most refreshing parts about a big life change – nothing is boring when everything feels a little weird. Learning new things is tiring but exciting, and I think it’s very healthy to have to re-consider the things you take for granted every once in a while. As cheesy as it sounds, you don’t really know yourself untill you see how you react in unfamiliar situations.

Normally, travel and moving to a different country are some of the best ways to force yourself out of your comfort zone and to lean into the weird and unfamiliar. In a way this is still true, but unfortunately, nowadays that unfamiliar also means being in a foreign country during a pandemic. Obviously I feel very privileged to be able to move abroad during this time as, at the time of my move, Finland and Hungary were some of the few European countries with no travel restrictions between them.

But that’s not the case anymore. Hungary has closed its borders to travellers and coronavirus cases keep increasing in both Finland and Hungary. By now it is clear that we are in the middle of the second wave, and no one knows how the situation will change in the coming months, or even weeks. I might be back to my lockdown routine sooner than I thought – but so far, even the idea of lockdown feels different. Unfamiliar, yes. Definitely a little anxiety inducing. But not boring, so that’s at least something.

Written by FinnAgora's intern Salla Hiltunen

Finnagora