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BLOG: Becoming an ESC volounteer in Lapland

Merve participated in an exciting volunteer work project coordinated by Villa Elba in the charming municipality of Ranua from May 22, 2023, to April 21, 2024. Here’s how she describes her unforgettable experience.

My early times

When I first come to Finland, I was very stressed and
anxious. It was very difficult start for me. Especially
considering my fear and shyness when speaking

When I came to arrival training, I was very nervous about how to communicate and how to make friends. However, despite my low level of English, but I made friends and accumulated good memories. In that training,  I learned that what is more important than language is that two people really want to understand each other. 

Merve volunteer


I was never interested in learning English until I
couldn’t get the score to go to Erasmus even though I
had a good university average. However, after this
failure, I realized that it was not possible to reach
many opportunities without English, and I accepted
that I needed to learn English. There were lies I told to
myself, like everyone else. For example, I don’t have
the ability to learn a language, no matter how hard I
try, it seems like it doesn’t work.

Even though I still can’t believe it, I can speak good English now. Yes, I improved my English very well, but more than that, I broke a barrier about myself and this is very satisfying. Thus, I learned to be honest not only with my surroundings but also with myself, and not to
decide that I cannot do it without trying hard enough.

Monkkari 2.0

At the beginning of the project, I focused on doing the
tasks given to me and improving my English. As I
warmed up to youth center and my English improved to a
good level, I decided to organize events myself. I
organized Turkish coffe tasting a few times, ı attended
cooking classes at school, ı taught them Turkish cooking,
and they taught me Ranualaiset, the special cake of
Ranua, ı prepared some materials for the children to
improve their English skills and we played with them. The
person who encouraged me in this regard was Anni, who
is both my piano teacher and my friend. During this
proces, as my boss, Anitta welcomed my every idea with
enthusiasm and trusted me, and the Monkkari 2.0 team
always supported me. I am so grateful to each of them.

Woman on the moss


We have a saying: Wherever you are happy, you always
turn your head there. Ranua is full of memories that I will
want to look back on in the next phase of my life. When
I came to Finland from Turkey, I lost my way and who I
was. Everything about who I was and what I should or could do was a mess due to post graduation future anxiety, work stress, and life struggles.

When we first met with Anitta, she said, “Do you know where Ranua is?” I said I don’t know either, but it doesn’t matter to me. I think he meant Lapland and the harsh winter, now I understand. I said it didn’t matter at the time, but it actually did. Considering the nature of Lapland, the snow landscapes I see every morning when I wake up, the roads I walk, the silence and calmness, the friendliness, reliability and friendship of
the people, I would especially choose Ranua because
now I know exactly where it is.


Just as everything was going well at Monkkare
throughout the entire project, everything was going well
at Ranua as well. I experienced my first ski in Ranua, my
first canoe, I attended a dance course and took piano
lessons. Anitta’s support was always there for me to
participate in all these social courses and new

I was writing before, but since I could spend more time
alone here and it was a quiet environment, I started
writing more. While this improved my creativity, I also
looked back at myself and decided to establish a different
and beautiful relationship with myself. I remembered
again that Merve that I had forgotten or lost somewhere
in time, and this was the gift that Ranua gave me. This
was the best gift I’ve ever received.


We developed a friendship with my piano teacher
Anni and she introduced me to Lapland, Finnish
culture, history, literature and system. We went on
vacation together to Inari, she hosted me at her
family’s house, Posio, I tried ice swimming with her
for the first time, I even pushed a car stuck in the
snow, what else. Thanks to her I had a real Lapland

I would like to thank the system and Generation association, Villa Elba, Monkkari 2.0 and of course the ESC program for allowing me to experinece such a wonderful process.

Author: Merve Gókú