It was an uneventful Wednesday evening, and in a mordern way of killing time I browsed my Facebook feed, while sipping some Matcha tea. There is a Facebook group called “The Finns in Stuttgart” (orig. Stuttgartin Suomalaiset), where people occasionally write some, most often Finland-related, posts and they pop up in my news feed from time to time. This time there was a message from a Finnish student asking desperately for help to find an accommodation as she was arriving already in a couple of weeks to Stuttgart and couldn’t find anything in this crowded city. What made it even more difficult was, that all the hotels and hostels were as well fully booked because of the local beer festival. Basically she did not have anywhere to go to. This all sounded so familiar…
It was approximately five years ago, when I was standing in the exact same spot – though I was planning on a permanent moving to Copenhagen. For two months I sacrfificed all my time and energy on searching for an apartment. The lousy result of all my effors was a handful of suspicious email-replies, which had all the redflags of being scams. The clock was ticking and I was turning slowly panicky. Approximately one week before my arrival I received a message from a Finnish girl living in Copenhagen. She had seen my cry for help in a similar Finn-expat network in Copenhagen, and offered a room in her apartment for the first month to get me started. Without her I don’t know if I would have gone at all. I’m so thankful for her, and really learnt the power of networks.
Do you know the principle of “paying it forward” (Finn. “laittaa hyvä kiertämään”)? It means, that when someone does something good for you, you pass it on to another person. So instead of paying that person back, you pay it forward. The reason, why I bring this up is, that it fits to this occasion quite well. As you might guess, I replied to the girl searching for an apartment in Stuttgart and welcomed her to our home until she could find something. Everything worked out smoothly: we had a Skype call and agreed in all the practical arrangements, I copied our key and soon me and my boyfriend were on our way to pick her up.
We actually don’t have an additional bedroom in our apartment. We only have this loft space, which is just an additional second floor space without a separating wall, so you could really hear all the sounds between the kitchen and the loft. We all knew it wouldn’t be the most private solution, but somehow we managed to work it all out. Besides, it really was the ONLY solution. She got used to the loud sound of the espresso machine in the mornings and we didn’t wake up, if she got home late from a student party. We had dinner together very often, and became friends.
A couple of weeks after moving here, she got an offer for a room. The landlord demanded her to buy there a washing machine, plus the rent seemed very high. She was almost considering taking it, since it was basically the only offer she had received so far. We talked it through, and came to conclusion, that it’s madness to buy a new washing machine for only six months and then leaving it there for the landlord’s use. Since it worked out so nicely living with her, we decided she could stay for those 6 months, and we would also officially talk it through with our landlord to make sure it’s not a problem. It seemed like the only possible way, because the apartment situation was and still is really bad in Stuttgart, and even the university didn’t seem to care that much, if their exchange students were basically homeless.
Right after we had decided on her staying with us for the rest of her semester, she got an offer from the student apartment association for a nice affordable room in a shared apartment with other students. So the story ended well, and we’re all happy she didn’t take that first offer.
She lived with us for a month and it made me happy, that I could help someone out. We also got something out of it: besides new experiences, we also got to know a wonderful person. Kindness and good deeds keep the world positive. There’s always a risk at taking a stranger living under your roof, and even after having a Skype call with someone, you cannot know that person and his intentions fully. Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts, or better yet – on other people. In this case it was also very clear, that she wouldn’t be just some party hard student; if someone chooses Stuttgart out of all the cities in this world to be the destination for the exchange studies, this person simply does not come here to drink all day long. 😀
It is vital, that we help each other out – someday it might also come back to you. Through the Finnish networks abroad I’ve got support and answers to many questions, felt less homesick and most importantly: made good friends! So let’s pay it forward. Let’s answer questions and make people feel our support. Let’s be curious about getting to know each other and let’s not leave anyone out.
P.S. the picture is obviously not related to this story, but in some way kind of fits! The picture was taken in 2013, when I was travelling in Korea 🙂