My friends always ask me whether I would have liked to have spent Erasmus in a bigger city. Of course a bigger city has its advantages; for those who prefer a slightly more comfortable environment a big city has theatres, cinemas, copious amounts of restaurants etc, for the fussy ones amongst us there are shops on every corner and there’s the possibility to meet different people every day. Yet still, one can feel faceless in a big city, with so many people it can be difficult to experience a real sense of community. Though there are some things that I miss about studying in Nottingham, the hustle bustle, its great nightlife, it still feels great to walk to university in the morning here knowing that you will bump into someone you know.
Having spoken to some friends spending their year abroad in bigger cities, they tell me that most international students are scattered across the city making it a little more difficult for them to meet on a regular basis. It’s a different story here in Rovaniemi, especially with the majority of exchange students being based in Kuntotie. You may have heard Kuntotie being described as “the Wild West of Rovaniemi” – I guess I could agree and disagree with that statement. Though the accommodation is somewhat minimalistic, it comes at a great price, and gives you the opportunity to experience a thousand cultures at once. For some time now, my block has been called “Little Italy” for obvious reasons. Stereotypes always tend to have some truth mixed in with a few generalisations and a bit of exaggeration and living in a block of Italians has certainly lived up to some stereotypes, though not all. A good meal should always be shared with someone else. It is a way to share conversation and jokes, forget about work for a couple of hours and enjoy life. Be assured, an Italian will always find the time to eat properly. Nothing beats keeping your front door wide open, going upstairs and finding another two doors wide open, with people passing by all day long to say hello, and having the assurance that if you don’t want to eat alone there will always be someone there to eat with you.
Of course another stereotype is the Italian way of communication, through countless hand gestures. I promised myself not to become entangled in this confusing business yet somehow I see myself moving my hands more and increasing my facial expressions around them, however the Italians are the true masters. If they are busy doing something with their hands they will start moving their shoulders or another body part. I guess now would also be a good time to mention the vast number of Italian cursing I’ve stumbled across these past months, through no fault of my own of course. Whenever I hear a door being slammed, or a piece of furniture being pounded or someone yelling “cazzo!” it could be in response to a variety of situations ranging from the football being on to simply chipping a nail. Or when meeting at a particular time it’s always important in Kuntotie to ask “10 o clock German time or Italian time?” – With the German time not being a minute after 10 and the Italian time taking us anywhere until midnight.
As mentioned earlier, most of the above have been slightly exaggerated, but you know you’ve enjoyed living in Little Italy when you come back after a night out to sit and eat pasta with the Italians and enjoy the best conversations which take you into the morning hours or when they tell you a meeting time you automatically add half an hour in your head. But especially when you become so accustomed to the perfect chaos, the silence after just seems unnatural. It’s been an absolute pleasure guys!