“Am I going to be okay?” was the doubt in student Karoliina Rautavirta’s mind when she moved from her childhood home to live on her own. She felt excitement and tension in the pit of her stomach – something new was about to begin.

Two cars and a trailer. That’s everything Karoliina Rautavirta, 20, wants to take with her to her first home. She’s sitting on the front seat squeezing the ivy she got from her grandmother. Her mind is plagued with uncertainty: Am I going to be okay? Am I going to manage? Was this a mistake after all?

“I felt so anxious about my first night in the new home that I invited a friend to a sleepover. I didn’t want to be alone,” says Karoliina, talking about moving from her childhood home in Espoo’s Lintuvaara in July.

She always had her parents or little sisters there. Being separated felt odd.

However, an excited feeling bubbled to the surface from beneath all the tension – something new and interesting was waiting just ahead.

Karoliina_Rautavirta_2198_leipis_860x490.jpgIf you love furnishing, living in a 15-square-metre room might be a bit challenging, but Karoliina likes minimalism. The bedding set from Karoliina’s grandmother is the focal point of the room.

Life finds a way

Slowly but surely, the nights became easier and the best parts of independence began revealing themselves. Karoliina still doesn’t live completely alone because there are two other students living in her shared student apartment in Helsinki’s Arabianranta. Nevertheless, she has a lot of freedom in her new home.

“It’s wonderful to get to build your life the way you want to. You get to do all the furnishing, pick what food you want to eat, decide on everything yourself.”

As a vegetarian, Karoliina can now freely express herself in the kitchen, and her other important values are also present in her everyday life. She recycles and buys domestic products, and she doesn’t take coffee with her if she not carrying her own travel mug. Even everyday routines now taste of freedom and make Karoliina feel strong.

“I remember when everyday routines were boring obligations. Now, taking out empty bottles and the trash is fun. That’s when I feel like I’m in a movie – energetically taking care of my own life,” Karoliina says.

Karoliina_Rautavirta_2125_leipis_860x490.jpgMorning porridge is a tradition that Karoliina brought with her from her childhood home along with her mother’s and grandmother’s lessons ”Grandma gives me the best life advice, from healthy living to dental care.”

Freedom and responsibility

Independence changes life in many ways and brings both freedom and responsibility. Money is tight, the fridge is no longer filled with what you’re used to and if you happen to buy too much food, some of it will go to waste even though you know it shouldn’t.

“There’s still a lot to learn. Besides the oregano, all the herbs that I planted died,” says Karoliina with a chuckle. 

Still, one habit from Karoliina’s childhood home has stayed with her and given her security. Microwaved porridge with blueberries that her grandmother picked is a basic pillar of Karoliina’s everyday life. 

“Instant porridge showed up in my parents’ cupboard during my final year of upper secondary school. Since then, I’ve always started my day with porridge. I used to eat my breakfast on my parents’ balcony. That’s why I take my porridge all the way to our apartment’s rooftop terrace.”

Karoliina_Rautavirta_2351_leipis_860x490.jpg“Being close to the sea still feels incredible! If the weather’s good in the morning, it’s refreshing to take a short walk. I also often bike along the coast to the university or to work.” 

Karoliina wanted to move from her childhood home because travelling an hour from Espoo to an environmental and food economics lecture at the University of Helsinki or to visit friends always took some planning. Now, it’s easy for Karoliina to meet her friends, which is important, because one negative side of independence is loneliness. Before Karoliina started living on her own, she always had her sisters and parents around her, but now she might not even see her roommates for a long time.

“When I’m with my friends, we often notice that we’re going through the same things. We made a WhatsApp group to stay in touch. We also help each other with things like walking our dogs,” says Karoliina as she explains her circle of friends.

“I found my courage”

Moving into her own home changed Karoliina’s life. As she’s noticed that she’s going to be okay on her own, life has become more relaxing.

“During my first year, I thought about whether I was going to fit in or what other people would think about me. I don’t think about things like that anymore. I’m now more like myself, braver, more relaxed and happier,” Karoliina says.

“I’ve also learned that I’m good at taking responsibility and organising things. As a tutor for exchange students, for example, I asked for and was granted a budget from the faculty, which let me organise a sauna evening for the students. I was casually joking in front of 90 exchange students!”

The fact that the future holds endless possibilities is slowly becoming clear. It doesn’t make Karoliina anxious – it inspires her. Karoliina’s goal is to do work that she finds meaningful.

 “The best thing about moving is the strong feeling that my life has now begun. I’m no longer a child but a young adult. I’m creating something of my own, and that’s great!”

Read more: ”Sometimes I feel like crying when I think about how lucky I am.”

Read more: “You can come as you are”