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Finland’s Faces in the U.S.: Finding My Happy Place - Embassy of Finland, Washington - Consulate Generals of Finland, New York, Los Angeles : Current Affairs


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News, 1/17/2017 | Embassy of Finland, Washington

Finland’s Faces in the U.S.: Finding My Happy Place

If you have ever toured the Embassy of Finland, needed information about Finland or been to one of our events, it is highly likely you know me. I am Pauliina Pennanen, the Cultural and Media Assistant at the Embassy of Finland. However, I like to think of myself as the jack-of-all-trades at the Embassy.

I first visited the United States in 2006. I had never been one of those enthusiastic fans of the U.S. but I received an offer I could not refuse: spend a ski season in a ski resort in Colorado! As an avid snowboarder there was no doubt in my mind, I simply had to go. During those five months I really fell in love with this country and its people. Very soon after my arrival, I realized the U.S. is much more than movies, TV shows and even the news will tell you. To this day that little ski resort in Colorado is my happy place, and I’ve been back so many times I’ve lost count.

Snow in Colorado
One of the best days of snowboarding in Colorado ever: 27 inches of powder in one night!

After my time in Colorado I had to decide what I wanted to study or do in the future. Eventually, in 2008, I applied to the University of Helsinki for the teaching track of the English philology program. I immediately knew I wanted to have North American studies as a minor subject in order to continue learning about the region. Around this time I also heard about the internship possibilities at the Embassy of Finland in Washington D.C. I waited patiently for four years to finally have the chance to apply for an internship at the cultural affairs team and got the job. I was over the moon. But little did I know back then that this 3-month internship would only be the beginning.

White Pass
White Pass ski resort in Washington state on a blue bird day and a beautiful view of Mount Rainier

I began my internship in June 2013, and before my internship was over, I knew I was going to stay. When my internship ended I was hired as the Cultural and Media Assistant. Yet again I couldn’t believe my lucky stars. Now I have been at the Embassy for three and a half years. I still enjoy my job, and one of the reasons I like it so much is that I never know what the day has in store for me. I’ve had huge fan girl moments with Finnish artists and also met two former presidents of Finland. My favorite moment has to be when I got the chance to go to the White House Easter Egg Roll. This had been a dream of mine for years, and I dare say that out of both the children and adults, I was one of the most ecstatically enthusiastic guests.

My love affair with the U.S. continues; this is a country with so much to offer. I love all kinds of outdoorsy activities, and the U.S. certainly has a plethora of opportunities for hiking and camping. Washington D.C. itself is a very interesting city with loads of history, and for policy nerds the city is a must. I mean, where else can you see the Secretary of State at a grocery store or sit next to a former Secretary of Defense and it is really not that big a deal?

My story is a great example of one where dreams come true with hard work. But guess what my dream job was when I was a little girl? A diplomat. While I am not quite a diplomat but a local hire, I think I’ve done pretty well so far.

Text: Pauliina Pennanen

Mendehall Glacier
Mendehall Glacier in Alaska was a just amazing to visit, even in the pouring rain.
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Updated 1/17/2017

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