The Ice Age played an important role in Finland’s geography. It is a country of thousands of lakes and islands and the eroding effects of the glaciers left the Finnish landscape mostly flat, with few hills and even fewer mountains. Most of the country is covered by forests of pine, spruce and birch trees, making it the largest forested area in Europe. For this reason, it is the largest wood producer on that continent. “Canada is very similar to my country so it feels quite like home. The only difference is that we don’t have mountains in Finland like you have here. The mountains are just so impressive here in Canada,” said Mimmi Pekurinen, a Finnish Tourism student who is working in Chilliwack for the summer.
Mimmi grew up in Hirvensalmi, a small town of about 2,000 people. The eldest of three children, she was raised in a loving and supportive home. Her father is a career counsellor while her mother is a PE teacher. They taught their children to be resourceful and determined and by the time that Mimmi was seven years old, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. “I knew that I wanted to play the piano. It was my decision and I told my parents that this is what I wanted and they just encouraged me. They never forced me. It was entirely my choice,” she smiled.
In Finland, by the time students are 16, they can choose the type of high school that they would like to attend. For Mimmi, she decided to attend a specialized school for music and dance. “This meant that I had to leave home and travel 200 kilometres to my new school. I shared a flat with a roommate who attended the same school. She was a friend of mine that I had known since Grade 4 and we remained at that school for three years. I really loved my school and while I am close to my family, living away from home allowed me to become independent,” she explained. Mimmi has a strong command of the English language and credits the Finnish school system for this.
After graduating from high school, Mimmi decided to take a year off before pursuing higher education and embarked on a Canadian adventure. “I had a great year and when I left, I knew that I would return. The people in Canada are great and they are so different from the people back home. Finnish people tend to be quieter and they keep to themselves. If you start up a conversation with someone out of the blue, they will look at you and think that you’re a bit strange,” she laughed.
Mimmi’s future was undecided when she returned to Finland but after pondering where her interests might take her, she applied and began attending the University of Applied Sciences in Vyaskyla. “I thought for a while and settled on studying tourism because I love people, I enjoy travelling and I like to learn new languages. To me, tourism was something that involves all of the things that I enjoy. It’s a three-and-a-half year course, but it won’t take me that long to finish my degree because I’ve been working really, really hard,” she said, smiling.
Part of her schooling involves doing a practicum and having lived in Canada before, she resolved that she’d like to complete her practicum here. “I had been in the Fraser Valley the last time that I was in Canada and loved it, so I began applying for work here. After sending out my resumes, I didn’t hear anything for awhile but then I received a phone call from Tourism Chilliwack. I am really enjoying my work with them,” she enthused.
When Mimmi is not welcoming tourists to our area or directing them to their next big adventure, she enjoys going on adventures of her own. “I really like to go out and discover new things. I also enjoy reading, music, sports, church and I love to bake. I like to bake what we call ‘munkki’, back home. These are like doughnuts but they’re quite heavy,” she chuckled.
After her contract is up with Tourism Chilliwack, Mimmi will return to Finland to complete her degree but she vows to return. “I love Canada and I know that one day I will move here,” she smiled.