Yesterday was the opening of the University of Helsinki for the academic year. It was a pretty neat event overall, even the parts that I didn’t understand because they were in Finnish and Swedish.
The part that overwhelmed me was the student carnival. I can’t remember the last time I felt that overwhelmed. There were a ton of people. Everything was in Finnish (which I know very little of, and not really enough to make sense of sentences yet). The carnival is the opportunity for students to find out about student organizations on campus.
I certainly felt like a foreigner. And I felt old, well, at least older. Realize that most of the people there are around 20 years old. I’m 38, old enough to be their father, literally. The combination of the tons of people, Finnish language and noise and you have a recipe for being overwhelmed. It didn’t help that I was by myself, so I had no one to walk with or help me understand what was going on or being said.
So here’s the good side of this experience (because you know I’m usually focused on the positive). It was another cultural experience – way different from I was used to. Feeling overwhelmed means I felt a limit to what I could handle. Limitations are important and knowing what the limitations are is just as important. I’m not superman. And sometimes I don’t realize what my limitations are. A few weeks ago I discovered another limitation – distance running. I discovered that full marathons are starting to be a bit difficult and, probably more important, less enjoyable. So in that case, I decided to focus my attention on half marathons – it’s a distance I like and I do well with.
Back to the carnival – discovering my limitation in this instance allowed me to take a step back, leave the event, and look through the student handbook at the list of organizations. From there I can pick who I want to contact. Yes, it may take longer and I will meet fewer people initially, but I’ll feel better about the experience and the end result is the same – I’ll join in where I want to and where I feel I should be.