A few months ago, we met a wonderful and hardworking person, a young mother and a talented storyteller, Maria Anca Catana.
She moved to Finland about eight years ago and tried to find her way to a successful career. Luckily, she found a job during these two months, and we’re happy about her achievements! But, unfortunately, the job offer came from Southern Finland, which means that Oulu has lost another bright mind and creative individual.
It would be unfair if we would create this story for her. Therefore, we let Anca Maria write her life story to showcase her excellent writing skills and honesty.
Read the article to hear about Anca’s path in Finland, passion for writing, enthusiasm and creativity!
I am originally from a mid-sized town in Romania called Oradea. Due to its geographical positioning (some 20 km from the Hungarian border), my hometown has been a linguistic and cultural melting pot for hundreds of years. Growing up, it felt natural that people speak different languages or have varied religions, which I think played an important role later on when choosing my degree.
Still, I moved to Finland almost eight years ago, so I can practically say that I lived a third of my life in Finland.
What is your passion?
Oh, I had many different passions over the years since I am always excited about trying something new. When I was very young, I was obsessed with dogs and I learned by heart tens of dog breeds. After that, I fell in love with Judo, which I practiced for some six years while taking part in several national and international competitions with good results. Once I was out of the performance sports, I moved on to theater, interested in acting and directing. Also, during high school, I started exploring the Western Carpathian mountains, which were reasonably close to my hometown, going hiking and cave exploring.
What are you currently doing?
My life has changed a lot since I moved to Finland. Together with my husband, we were on our own, so responsibilities pilled up, so it is fair to say that my “hobbies” during the last eight years revolved around job hunting, apartment hunting, learning the Finnish language, and figuring out stuff in general. I have to be very determined in order to be able to squeeze some jogging now and then into my schedule.
But luckily, during the past two years or so, I have been able to return to one of my long-lasting passions: writing.
What was your reason to come to Finland?
Well, on the one hand, I wished to study abroad. The two most important criteria for me were that the place is within the EU, to avoid any VISA-worries and no tuition fees. Still, I didn’t leave for studying abroad right after high school. Instead, I studied theater in Romania for one year.
On the other hand, while I was doing my studies in Romania, we started making future plans with my then-boyfriend, now-husband and decided to relocate. Since we both loved nature, cold climate, and Scandinavian mythology, we obviously looked into Northern Europe. We tried Denmark for a few months, but it wasn’t cold enough, so, because my husband visited Finland before and loved the place, we booked our one-way flights straight to Rovaniemi.
What do you like about Finland? What could be improved?
Reflecting on what I like and dislike about Finland, I would say that nature and cold climate are still on top. The second would be safety, but I have to admit that I re-defined the concept of safety since I moved to Finland. Growing up, I used to think that safety means that there is no war or no one would point a gun at you on the street, so I felt satisfied with my safety level back then.
But living in Finland brought safety to a different level; when I buy a product, food or otherwise, I know it has been verified and regulated, and it is safe to use or consume. When I take my kid to the daycare, I know he is safe from mistreatment; if I lose my job, I know I am safe from becoming homeless, and so forth.
Thirdly, I appreciate Finnish healthcare and education, although, regarding the second one, I think its quality has been slightly decreasing over the last years due to the reduction of funding.
I don’t like the “swipe the dirt under the carpet” attitude, which, unfortunately, I encountered quite a few times in Finland. I consider that it is necessary to be critical about the shortcomings in order to have a chance of ameliorating them.
Why did you decide to study Education sciences?
As opposed to many people who end up in the field of education, I never wanted to become a teacher. Firstly, I thought it was incredibly boring, and my experiences as a student haven’t always been positive. Secondly, growing up, I saw my mom, who was a teacher, struggling with so much work and so many social problems that I was convinced it is not worthing for such a minimal salary.
But during one of my jobs in the tourism industry, I had to work with children who were coming to visit Santa Claus. Well, if you want to see children at their best, you have to see them preparing to see Santa, it’s the most magical thing there can be! That is when I had the revelation that working with children could actually be nice.
A few years later, I had to choose which program to apply to. Since I was looking into Bachelor’s level studies and universities outside the capital area (preferably Northern Finland), there weren’t many options. Still, one of them was the Intercultural Teacher Education program. Since, as I mentioned, I already discovered that working with children can be rewarding, and due to my multicultural experience, I decided that this program would be a great fit and gave it a try. Five years later, I am freshly graduated.
You are the young mother. Was it easy to handle studies, work, and taking care of the baby? What were the biggest challenges?
Yes, I became a mother during my studies. I never imagined it would be so difficult, possibly because I didn’t have many people with small kids around me, so I didn’t know what it takes. I imagined that I would be able to continue my studies and my routines with very few adjustments, but it turned out that was far from the truth.
Surprisingly, the biggest challenges for me were the changes in my mind and body. I used to be this determined and robust judo-girl, always self-reliant. Finding myself weak and vulnerable was a shock. Being unable to memorate anything for an exam, whereas beforehand, I had a stunning memory, was a shock. Of course, now, after more than three years, I am 90% back to my old self, but it has been difficult to give myself time to adapt and heal since I always demand so much from myself.
On the other hand, at 28 years old, I have a beautiful, loving family, a Master’s degree, and just got a great job! I couldn’t be happier, and today, I can totally say that all the struggle was worth it!
What did you learn during working in Entrepreneurs of Finland?
I learned so many interesting things and met so many wonderful people!
To me, it felt like a breath of fresh air. After four and a half years of studies in education, I felt a bit surrounded by a “teachers bubble” (or was it an academic bubble?). Everyone I met or knew was doing similar things, having similar struggles, more or less the same worldview. Entrepreneurs of Finland gave me the opportunity of jumping on something completely new, where I had to learn and adapt quickly. My entrepreneurial and project management skills and knowledge skyrocketed during my internship.
Nevertheless, I got the chance of reconnecting with writing in a more professional/marketing style, rather than the student journalism with which I was well accustomed already.
Why did writing become your passion? What do you like about it?
It probably started with reading. Growing up, I was a huge book nerd. The summers were sweltering and social media didn’t really come about until I was a teen, so reading was the best way to pass the time.
Secondly, I am highly creative, I always have tons of ideas in my head. Since I was a child, I imagined lots of places, characters, events. I tried drawing them for a while, but my draws were a far cry from what was in my mind, but I figured that I could get closer to what I envisioned by writing.
Thirdly, in high school, I was in the “Philology Journalism” class. We studied journalism, which I found fascinating (investigative journalism, to be more precise, not the click-bait stuff). This time around, the writing is used to bring forward truth, de-maks corruption and con artists, almost like a policeman with a pen (ok, keyboard) instead of a gun. Journalism was my second option after Theater when I applied for university in Romania.
How do you see your future? What job are you looking for?
I just received a job as a teacher, and it is perfect! I think that being a teacher is what I would like to do for the next ten years. Hopefully, I will get a permanent position soon enough.
I tried applying to jobs in Oulu. I even got an interview. But my luck rose from Southern Finland. There is simply a surplus of teachers in the Oulu area. That’s the reality.
I have been through lots of entry-level jobs: delivering free ads, personal assistant, waitress, tourist guide, dishwasher…In eight years, I was always employed, mostly part-time, doing an internship, or study full-time. In eight years, I have been unemployed for a total of two months, one in 2016 before I started my full-time studies and one in the summer of 2021, between my graduation and my first “real job”.
Regarding the far future, I don’t know right now if I wish to retire as a teacher. I might become a principal at some point, as I like managing and I think I can be a decent leader. Also, I am interested in being involved in projects revolving around education. Studying for a Ph.D. is also an option.
Sometimes I think about changing my career radically and becoming a Programmer or Electrical Engineering, mainly because they are all the hype right now. But I am not sure if they would give me satisfaction in the long term.
Maybe when I become older, we would buy a mökki in the woods, and I will focus exclusively on writing. Who knows?
Have you ever considered entrepreneurship as an alternative for employment?
Yes, my internship with Entrepreneurs of Finland wasn’t a simple coincidence. I wanted to learn more about entrepreneurship. Ideally, I would like to have a regular job and be a part-time entrepreneur. I will probably start this autumn since I plan to develop my freelance content writing business Create Alternative alongside my teaching job.
Author: Anca Maria Catana.
Editor: Arina Lykova.
Photographer: Arina Lykova.