“Equality can be seen everywhere”

Basma Raqab sitting against a tree, looking up to the tree tops of the forest, some daylight on a grey day shining through
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When Basma Ragab moved to Finland, she learned how to find her true self. She feels that Helsinki’s finest qualities are equality and safety.

“I moved to Helsinki in August 2016 to study a Master’s programme in Biochemistry. I knew nothing about Finland and I had never lived abroad. I was expecting to be faced with a difficult start. That I would feel homesick and that settling in would take a long time.

None of that happened. From the first week on I felt as if I had lived in Helsinki for years. I felt free in so many ways. 

I moved to Finland from Egypt where I had to attend a certain school, behave in a certain way, and come home at a certain time. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. I did things in a certain way because that’s what my family or society was used to.

In Finland, I can study exactly what I want. I can do any type of job, travel and try out new things. Only by trying different things out can you know what you enjoy and what makes you happy.”

Basma Raqab sitting in a cafe, holding a cup of coffee as she looks to the left. She's sitting at a dark wooden table with 4 chairs, a red wall to the right and a white wall with a large black and white photo directly behind her.
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Everyone is equal in Helsinki 

“Finnish people welcomed me warmly. I thought that Finns would be shy and quiet, and I didn’t dare to initiate conversations at first. But people came to chat with me. I made friends with many people, for instance with my flatmates in our shared student apartment, and my neighbours. It was very nice. 

I have heard that there is racism in Finland but I have never experienced it personally. I feel like everyone is equal in Helsinki regardless of their skin tone, religion and gender. I have never been treated badly for instance for being a Muslim."

Basma Ragab standing in the woods, looking to the left, trees reaching up to the grey sky all around her.
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No uncomfortable stares 

“Finnish people are very nice and honest. People say that Finns don’t like to talk much. I feel that they just respect everyone’s privacy and personal space. If I start talking to someone, they will however continue the conversation.   

The best thing about Helsinki is safety. I have never been afraid to walk outside in the middle of the night. In Helsinki, men respect women and don’t flirt or catcall on the street. I never felt uncomfortable stares in public. 

Helsinki is also a very beautiful city. The air quality is good and there is hardly any pollution. I enjoy Finland’s beautiful nature a lot. The Aurinkolahti beach in Vuosaari is one of my favourite spots. Another favourite is the bay of Töölönlahti."

Basma Raqab standing at Aurinkolahti in Vuosaari, facing the camera, with the boat docks behind her underneath a very dark and stormy looking sky.
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"I graduated from the University of Helsinki in June 2020. I would like to stay in Finland and I’m currently trying to find employment in my own field. During my studies, I worked part-time as the personal assistant of a Finnish woman, and I still do this work three times a week. The woman and her husband are my employers, but they feel like family. 

I have heard experiences of Finnish working life from my fellow students, and nobody has bad things to say. I know that when I look for a job here, the potential employers will not judge me by my nationality or religion. They will look at my experience and qualifications. If I am good enough for the job. 

I have told my family how happy I am to be here. My father knows that Finland is a good and safe country, and keeps asking me when he can come visit.” 

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My Freedom Story: Freedom to be equal
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When Basma Ragab moved to Finland, she learned how to find her true self. She feels that Helsinki’s finest qualities are equality and safety.