”My perfect Sunday is picking mushrooms in the forest and enjoying a grilled sausage by my favourite lake”

Evon, Bachelor's Degree Programme, Hospitality Management

“The lake’s surface is like a mirror, a tree is reflected on it, and there is only silence”, narrates Evon Söderlund, a Malaysian who found love and life in Finland. “A whole week’s tiredness goes away; it really ought to make you younger.” According to her, the best thing in Finland is the nature and its quietness. “The scenario is one of surreal beauty. I know it must feel ordinary to Finns, but it really should be marketed to foreigners more.”

Evon decided to study in Finland because she wanted to start her own business. She and her Finnish husband had the idea for HUONE Events Hotel (www.huone.fi) in Malaysia, where they had their pre-wedding party in a Karaoke Box. “My husband wondered why there weren’t any similar venues in Finland. Our relatives had a great time at our party, and we thought something similar might work also in Finland.”

Evon’s choice of major subject was based on her business idea: Hospitality Management. In addition to fitting her plans, this subject was something she had talent for. “I always threw popular parties, since I cook proper food and serve drinks when I am hosting. All my friends were very excited to come to my parties. I thought that there was something in me that would make me good at event management; I am a very hospitable person by nature.”

Opportunity of a lifetime

Finland provided Evon the opportunity of a lifetime. “Finns are very blessed to have free education. I had the opportunity here to receive higher education, which is something I never would have had back in Malaysia, having grown up in a village.” Evon is also very impressed with how devoted the teachers are to their work. “It is a remarkable school that can provide its students the mentoring and networking opportunities that I received in Haaga-Helia. My mentor went through my financial plan with me, and all the teachers tirelessly inspired me to succeed in starting my own business.”

Evon says that she would not have been able to start a business had she not moved to Finland. “Corruption is a problem in Malaysia, so being an honest businesswoman there would’ve been very difficult indeed.” Finland is a fair and honest place to become an entrepreneur, which is something Evon is very grateful for. “Here men and women have equal opportunities to become entrepreneurs. Also the systems designed to support starting your own business are really good.”

Alongside studying with great interest and determination, Evon also found the time to have fun and make friends. “Haaga-Helia is the one place where I really made friends of my own. I truly learned about the Finnish culture as well through having friends and engaging in social activities. Without these experiences it would have been harder to understand why people love so much to go to terassi and sauna for example. I was extremely well received and being a foreigner was never an obstacle for social interaction, since Finns speak excellent English. When you ask a Finn whether they speak English or not and they answer ‘a little’, they actually speak it fluently, which is unfair!”

“Finns are extremely humble and the most honest people I have ever met in my life”, Evon says. While socializing with Finns is easy, they can sometimes seem a bit reclusive. “Finns are used to space and silence, so they are quiet by nature and respect each other’s privacy.” She has noticed that it is completely possible for a Finn to be having fun even when they are quiet, since they do not feel the need to be talkative all the time.

Even though it is easy to get by in Finland by using English, Evon found it useful to learn Finnish as well. “If you want to stay in Finland to work, for example, you should really learn the language. It’s not a difficult language to learn, but it’s different from any other language.” In her work Evon encounters situations in which she is required to speak Finnish, but the skill comes in handy in her personal life as well. “My mother-in-law doesn’t speak English, so if I didn’t know Finnish, the Christmas table would be a rather quiet place!”