It’s November. Early morning. Natalia is at home, putting on warm comfy clothes and making breakfast for her husband and children who are still asleep.
She is excited. Today she’ll be working as a substitute teacher at a local preschool.
She was supposed to be elsewhere but an unexpected phone call “Can you please come tomorrow?” the night before changed her plans.
She tucks her elegant business dress back in the closet. “Another time, another time.”
Natalia gets to her workplace. Puts her phone on silent. She is going to have a great day working with six-year-olds. No distractions allowed.
On her way back home, she discovers tens of missed calls and messages from friends at Tampere Ambassador Network.
“Where have you been?”
“Oh it’s a shame you couldn’t make it to the lunch. We missed you so much!”
Incoming call from a friend: “Congrats, Ambassador of the Year! They just gave you this title. I am so happy for you – you totally deserve this award!”
Her original plan was to attend the annual lunch for city ambassadors arranged by the Mayor of Tampere. Natalia was flattered to be invited — who wouldn’t be. But that day she chose a real job opportunity, and frankly she was equally as excited.
It’s late 2017, cold and dark. Natalia, an immigrant from Russia, has lived in Tampere with her family for almost two years now.
The first two years were extremely hard — studying again in her 30s, lots of attempts in the professional field with no real feedback from anyone. She doesn’t know where she is going. She doesn’t know what she’s doing here.
“I was only leaning on internal motivation. I was trying to do something, I was trying to be active. All I was dreaming of was to become part of the society and culture. But it felt like I was hitting a brick wall. To tell the truth, I was about to give up.”
When she gets that phone call from her Ambassador friend, it feels almost surreal.
She’s been a Tampere Ambassador for only one year, she’s worked hard even though it has been a voluntary engagement. She has never asked for any awards. Her contribution is noticed right when she least expects it.
“It was the moment when I understood that something I do can bring results. As a foreigner, I am seen by someone else except me. I am not invisible anymore. I am on the right path.”
Natalia starts exploring the path. She is more and more involved in the Ambassadors Network. She is even closer to the people in the network. She finds a platform to express herself as a foreigner and to help others find their place in the new country.
“My aim has always been to be happy by doing good for the community. Tampere Ambassadors Network was an ideal place in this respect. It was the place to meet like-minded people, to seek and offer support, and to be connected to the city I am in love with.”
As a foreigner, she notices that Tampere has many opportunities to offer. She is eagerly exploring them and helping others to do so.
“We are lucky to have a unique support infrastructure co-created by the city and the foreigners living here. Year after year, Tampere is becoming a better place that you never want to leave.”
At some point, Natalia understands that she already has enough experience to start sharing it with newcomers and anyone who might be interested in what Tampere has got to offer.
Natalia decides to start her own company that would export the best expertise of Tampere. She knows she’s ready. She leans on her experience as Tampere Ambassador. She’s got the support of her community and the city. She names the company Tampere Expertise Development Center.
It’s summer 2020. Natalia is independent and happy. She feels very confident as entrepreneur. She is part of the community and still in love with Tampere.
Natalia is over her integration stage now, but she feels it’s exactly the integration that helped her become a better and happier person.
“Integration is just one of the challenges that people face. You overcome it, and then you move on. I am thankful for it. It made me wiser, stronger and more capable. I also became more sincere, kind, empathetic toward and supportive of other people. “
Natalia’s message to anyone in doubt.
“I am quite an ordinary person with my doubts and imperfections. There are many foreigners more capable and professional than I am. If I found my way, I know that they can do it too. People just need a little bit of support to open up. Luckily, in Tampere you can get all the support you need — don’t be afraid to ask for it.”