Getting To Turku

“My experience getting to Turku, Finland for a 4 month research trip.”

Hi all! I am writing this post from Turku - I made it! First of all, let me explain about the crazy journey to get here.

My plane ticket was set, I had a storage unit booked, and I had the deposit for my apartment in Turku paid. Check, check, and check. I was looking online for blogs with “to do” lists for traveling to countries within the European Union (EU). The had the usual - don’t forget your passport, pack light, have the correct currency, bring your camera…but in one list it said “residence permit”. I thought “Ok, I can do that. Let me see what that involves.” Through some additional google searches, I discovered that the permit was necessary if I wanted to stay in EU for longer than 90 days. No big deal, right? Turns out…it is a big deal. Here’s what I heard on the phone when I called the Finnish embassy. I had to fill out the application (for a small fee of $600) and visit an embassy for them to verify my identity (take my fingerprints). But here’s the kicker…the embassies I had to choose from were in Los Angeles, New York, or Washington D.C. And I live in Memphis. After many calls to confirm that this was indeed real life, I booked my ticket to Washington, D.C. At this point, I was two weeks away from my flight to Turku.

The process for the residence permit application is this - submit the application online, visit an embassy, after the embassy confirms your identity, the permit information is given to Finland where they confirm or deny your application. If confirmed, the permit is mailed to the embassy you visited, in this case Washington, D.C. From there, Washington, D.C. mails the permit to a U.S. mailing address. They estimated that after visiting D.C., the permit would take approximately two weeks to arrive. You can imagine my panic when I’m two weeks out from my flight and the permit takes “approximately” two weeks to arrive at my house. I was hearing mixed answers when I would call to ask if I needed to have the permit in hand before leaving the United States. Some said yes while others said it was not a big deal. Due to the uncertainty, my mother called Finland. Yep, picked up the phone and called the embassy in Helsinki. She called instead of me because 1) she’s the best mom in the world and 2) she’s up early and due to the 8 hour time difference and the short business hours, she took charge so I could snooze. We compiled a full list of questions with the most important being - do I need to have the permit in hand before I leave the United States? Their answer - no. They said that if I had submitted my application, that was enough. Further, they explained that although they cannot send the permit to a Finnish address, my mother could mail it to me once it arrived at the house. We also asked if it was absolutely necessary for me to apply for the permit in the U.S. seeing as how I had to take two days off of work to travel to D.C. along with paying for a flight, hotel, etc. They said it was mandatory to apply for a permit in your country of origin. So all of this meant I was going to D.C. and then I’d be set to go to Turku even if my permit hadn’t arrived at my parents’ house yet.

The trip to D.C. went well - I had to supply my passport along with a copy of my application and all of the additional documentation (acceptance letter from the university, proof that I would be paid while working here, my transcripts and diplomas from previous degrees, pay stubs and proof of employment at the University of Memphis) and of course my fingers for finger printing.

Three days before I was to fly to Turku, on Friday morning, the doorbell rang - it was the FedEx man delivering my residence permit!!! I was so happy that it had arrived. A lot of stress went into getting that permit finalized.

Upon arriving at the airport Monday morning in Green Bay, the lady working at the Delta desk asked for my permit. I happily gave it to her but asked her what the protocol is if I didn’t have it (since by the estimated timeline given by the embassy, I wouldn’t have had it for travel). To my surprise she said, “You wouldn’t be able to get on the plane”. WHAT?! The embassy in Finland had told my mom that it wasn’t necessary to have a it in hand during travel to Finland. What if the permit wouldn’t have arrived?! Can you imagine if the permit would have arrived one business day later? If I would have visited D.C. one day later? I don’t know how things would have panned out. I feel very lucky that things worked out how they did.

The airport/permit surprise was quickly forgotten when the same lady from Delta asked if my parents wanted to go to the gate with me. My mom started crying (for anyone that knows my mother, this comes as no surprise) and after showing their IDs and passing through security, my parents got to sit at the gate with me for the next 2 hours until it was time to board. I am so thankful for that kind employee giving my two extra hours with my parents before I left the country.

I am now safely in Turku, settling in to my apartment and the lab. Look at my next post for my initial thoughts of Finland.

For anyone considering visiting Finland from the U.S., here’s the link regarding residence permits - read carefully!!

Thanks for reading!

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