I'm still shocked that it's all over, and I'm not quite sure how to put it all into words. I'm still trying to get accustomed to being back in England, I'm feeling very slow and tired, and still quite unhappy. Things are better than expected - I thought I'd be crying constantly at this point. Turku already feels so far away, even though I've been talking to my friends pretty much constantly since I left. Everything feels like maybe it was just a dream.
I look back on the past year with pride and happiness. I came through a lot of things, many of which were far too personal to write about here. As you all know, the circumstances in which I went to Finland were not the best, and when I think about it I realise more and more how utterly miserable I was a year ago. Being in Finland encouraged me to get my life back as I wanted it to be, and I certainly did do that!
Living in Finland was definitely not always straightforward. At times I was so scared I could have jumped on a plane home, so frustrated I could have killed someone, and so confused I just wanted to curl up and cry. However, I can say with absolute certainty that it was worth the trouble I endured. Although my memories of winter mainly consist of unhappiness, it wasn't too long before things turned around. It certainly wasn't easy, as I have stated before, but it worked out. I really think that one of the reasons this blog has become so popular is because I haven't pretended that everything was perfect all the time. I've been honest about the problems I've experienced, most of which are just an unavoidable part of immigration.
Despite these things, I've had the chance to learn so much, try many new things, and make wonderful friends, some of whom I cannot imagine my life without. On so many occasions I just stopped for a moment and thought of how amazing it all was. I think when I first arrived I didn't really believe I could make it through, but I did. I am a much stronger person today than I was when I went to Finland. I found so much happiness in Turku, even when things weren't quite going to plan. I've learned to look past the difficulties, and appreciate all the good things that there are. I really never thought that things would go so well for me, even though I often had to struggle through.
I have had so many wonderful new experiences in the past year; opportunities I would not have had in my own country. Not all of them were huge or significant, but they still mattered to me. Even things like trying a new food have their value. I'm so glad I got to travel a bit and see some new places, such as Tampere and Norway. I've learned so much about a foreign culture, which has been fascinating. Even though I've done many good things, I still feel there's more for me to do in Finland. I missed out on some things I hoped to do, due to time and money constraints. I never went to Sweden or Poland, and I never went to Muumimailmaa when it was actually open. But I will, I know I will, because I'll be back.
After a while I really felt at home in Finland, and on Monday I felt like I was leaving my home. It amuses me that I feel this way because on my first visit to Helsinki, two years ago, I didn't even like it much and suspected that I wouldn't return. How things have changed! Maybe I just needed to spend more time in the country, or maybe Turku is the place for me. There are so many people who are close to me in Turku, and a few in other places, and maybe that's why I was so comfortable. I'm impressed that I managed to find people who I got on with so well and became close to, considering the cultural and linguistic barriers. I have been extremely lucky.
Luck is definitely the overwhelming feeling for me. I feel lucky to have survived, to have received so much help, and to have been so fortunate. If I hadn't needed to leave now I doubt I ever would have.
I'm very much looking forward to the holidays I'll be taking in Finland in the coming year, and to moving back permanently next summer. I'm just going to keep working until that day comes. I think I'll be visiting Tampere and Turku in December, and I can't wait, even though it'll be dark and cold.
I think the whole experience was too immense to just describe here. I don't think I can really explain it all. However, I would encourage anyone who wants to do the same thing to just do it. Whichever country it is, however hard you think it'll be - just do it. There will be numerous difficulties, and you might think you'll go mad, but it is a hugely rewarding thing to do. My life is much richer for having had this experience, and has also improved immensely. I think it might actually have saved my life, although I never thought the effect on me would be so great. I have no regrets.