Noora Pajari and I studied together for a semester at the Universität Trier in Trier, Germany. Noora, who is from Finland, was also studying abroad in spring/summer of 2010. Through our adventures in Germany and now, as I stay connected with her online, I really appreciate Noora as a global citizen working for good and as an awesome lady to have in my circle!
When I studied in Trier, it was my second time in Germany. My exchange year in Frankfurt between high school and college (2005-2006) was a difficult and wonderful journey full of new experiences, challenges, and interactions. When I returned to Germany the second time to study abroad while I was in college, all that transitional stuff was old news. I’d been there. . . done that. I went in already very comfortable in conversational German, had knowledge of basic German systems (transportation, bureaucracy, recycling, etc), and, generally, felt really quite at home. For that reason, I wasn’t all about clinging to other Americans, going out every night, and trying to be besties with all of the other international students. From the beginning, I knew I just wanted to find a few quality folks to spend my time with! Well, I did find some quality ladies to hang with and, naturally, Noora was in that group.
Noora is warm, independent, chic, concerned about world issues, open, and really fun!
Noora is a 28 year old gal, living and working In Tampere, Finland. She graduated from university a year ago and says that she’s currently getting used to "adult life" - working full-time, living in the apartment she actually owns, waking up early almost every morning & balancing between busy work weeks, doing sports and spending time with friends.
Noora is interested in politics and development issues. She hopes for world peace (all beauty contest clichés aside ;)!). At the Finnish Red Cross, where she is currently employed, Noora helps volunteers engage in dialogue between different generations. In the future, she hopes to work abroad. Noora also looooves traveling! Her next travel destination is Florida for her first visit to the United States! I’m excited to meet up with her while she is here!
Noora is very active and often spends time doing sport activities like soccer and working out. Noora has got into kayaking and Cross Fit – she says that doing sports keeps her mind and body active!
Like I mentioned, Noora was part of my close friend group while studying in Trier. Noora, Angie from the US and, often, Eftehyia from Greece made up our crew. We had a lot of fun together – partying, of course, but also taking trips, going to work-out classes in the university’s sport hall, dining together, and Noora and I also took a terribly challenging political science course about American foreign politics under President Obama. (Which I studied extra hard for because Noora and all of the other poli sci brainic Germans knew way more about my county’s government and history than I did!)
Before I flew home from my semester in Trier, I did some traveling! One place I traveled was to Tampere, Finland to visit Noora! It was THE best trip. I just felt instantly at home in Tampere.
Maybe I was feeling nostalgic for Minnesota, but Finland reminded me of home! (In fact, Finland is referred to as the “Land of a Thousand Lakes” and Minnesota’s state nickname is “The Land of 10,000 Lakes!” Crazy, huh?) Plus, Noora and her family made me feel so welcome! That short trip to Finland was a highlight of my semester in Europe in 2010.
I can’t wait to reconnect with Noora when she visits Florida this summer! And, I hope to remain connected to her as I know she will always be traveling and living in fabulous places while making a positive on our world.
What inspires you?
“I get inspired by helping other people. I really admire people doing humanitarian aid work both in their home countries and abroad. I feel that I have been so lucky being born in Finland into a family with loving parents and two brothers. Even though we haven´t been rich, I got everything I ever wanted, which taught me that happiness isn´t anything material. We didn´t have any spare money but I got into university and graduated with a master’s degree in social sciences. Free education and health care are the things I´m most grateful for. These are the reasons why I want to work for helping others - I want other people to feel the same happiness and to have the same opportunities as I did.”
Who are women in your life or throughout history who inspire you?
“The women who inspire me are the ones who are brave and willing to break boundaries. Women, who are strong but still have the courage to show empathy. It´s hard to name just one, but, for example, I admire the first Finnish female president, Tarja Halonen. She held the office 12 years while concentrating on human rights, democracy and civil society. “
If you had one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be and why?
“10 years ago I was 18 years old. If I could, I would say to myself that be brave enough to be yourself. Don´t try to please everybody. You don´t have to be friends with everyone. Cherish friendships that empower you. And I also would like to say that take more chances, it doesn´t matter if you fail. You learn from mistakes. Life happens now, live in the moment.”
And, a few brilliant words of advice from Noora:
“The most important thing in life is being happy. When YOU are happy, the people around you become happy. Don´t expect a guy or money to solve your problems. The solution lies in YOU. So do things you really like, take chances, show up more often. As my favorite author Paulo Coelho has said: "The only thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure." When you allow yourself to shine, it shows.” [I couldn’t agree more!]
(The photo above was taken at almost 11PM in Finland - before we went out. In the summer, they have crazy long days! When we returned, around 3AM, the sun was rising!)
This March, I am celebrating all the amazing women around me! Sharing women who have influenced me and make up my personal history. As the month goes on, you can see all my Inspiring Women posts here!