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Ainara Zaynab Morocco

“Finnish people are extrovert, and Finland is not boring at all”: being an Erasmus+ student in Helsinki during the Covid-19 pandemic

At the end of February, Ainara Larrañaga, a 20-year old tourism student from Zubiri-Manteo vocational college in San Sebastian, Spain, arrived in Helsinki for her Erasmus+ mobility period of three months. After two weeks, all her fellow students had returned back to Spain due to the worsening Covid-19 pandemic, but Ainara insisted on staying in Finland.

How were your first weeks like in Helsinki?

CheapSleep hostel was Ainara’s Erasmus+ internship host organisation in Helsinki. “I have loved it! At the beginning I was nervous, everything was new but then got used to it,” she says.

The first weeks in early March were very busy at the hostel, but then things started to slow down as restrictions took place. “We took the breakfast table away because of hygiene reasons, and observed all the safety measures with disinfection and how to put people in the rooms,” Ainara tells.


Ainara Loc Vietnam

Ainara with her colleage and friend at CheapSleep, Loc from Vietnam


Why did you want to come to Finland?

Originally Ainara is from Venezuela, but she has also Spanish nationality. She loves to travel, meet people and get to know new cultures. “That is why I wanted to do Erasmus+!” she says.

Ainara has felt really happy about being here from the beginning. She wanted to experience Finland from her own perspective. “I have had a different version of Finland than what people had told me beforehand. It is not boring here, people are really nice, and there is so much freedom and security,” Ainara says. According to her, Finnish people are very extrovert when you get to know them: “You just have to start talking to people and take initiative!”

Why did you want to stay in Finland?

Other international Erasmus+ students in Luksia returned home in March, but Ainara wanted to stay. She felt really safe here. “I did not want to take the risk of traveling, as I have relatives in Spain who I might have put into danger.”

At her workplace, Ainara was told that she will be able to continue her internship and stay at the CheapSleep hostel, no matter what. Everything she needed was near the hostel: supermarket, pharmacy, and most importantly, people who could help in case of emergency.

Although all public places to visit have been closed in the spring, she has been able to enjoy nature and parks around Helsinki, from Korkeasaari to Lammassaari.


Ainara Zaynab Morocco

Ainara with another colleague and friend from her workplace, Finnish-Moroccan Zaynab.


What have you learnt during your time in Finland?

“I have learnt to be independent, manage my time, and discover myself during this time,” Ainara lists.

During this very special time, she has seen the normal hostel work, but also how to manage a company in crisis situations, and to solve problems. Ainara has also learnt about multi-tasking and dealing with difficult customers.

She has made a lot of friends among her international work team that has consisted of interns, housekeepers and employees from around the world: Italy, Vietnam, Finnish-Moroccan, Russian, Nepal, Iraq, Afghanistan…

When this interview was made via WhatsApp, in late May, Ainara was about to return back to Spain as her Erasmus+ mobility period was over. However, a few days later Ainara told the happy news: that she had decided to stay in Helsinki for a few months more. She is currently selling bubble tea with a bicycle in the city of Helsinki, and using this to also learn and use Finnish language. A perfect summer job!

Bubble tea


Text: Riikka Suhonen, Coordinator of International Affairs, Luksia

Photos: Ainara Larrañaga


Read the other blog posts in this series:

Interview from Ainara's school, Zubiri-Manteo, and how they have coped with this spring: “We will come out reinforced”: Interview with Luksia’s partner school in the Basque Country

The spring when everything changed: Experiences from a Dutch vocational college

“Now we have time to evaluate what we are doing”: Norwegian partner school experiences from Covid-19 spring

International work between Luksia and Bromangymnasiet: Unchartered waters ahead - sustainability is crucial

Not only health, but a learning crisis: time for solidarity and cooperation, French VET college says