Hayley from the United States and Sampo from Finland decided to study abroad in Germany. They had no idea on this study abroad trip that they would find love.
Hayley Grant sat in a classroom surrounded by people she didn’t know. She left the United States to study in Germany and the friends she had already made were assigned to a different class.
This was the first day and there were several students already in cliques, speaking Spanish. There was one guy, Sampo Sarasti Hayley thought was Italian. He would be laughing with the Spanish students and she had no idea what they were saying. It was until she was partnered with Sampo for an assignment she learned he was from Finland.
From then on, they would go to lunch together with their friends, different day trips, and excursions.
About a month after the first introduction they were touring an old brewery one day and Sampo pulled Hayley off to the side.
“Can I talk to you really quick?” he said.
“Did I offend him?,” Hayley thought. “Or perhaps, he figured out I had developed a crush for him and he is going to cut if off?” She was scared what was coming next.
Sampo confessed his feelings for her. And Hayley said she felt the exact same way. They agreed for the next seven months they would make the most of it while both of them were in Germany.
During the course of seven months the couple had opportunities to travel together. One special trip was when they ventured to Morocco. It was July during Ramadan, so they couldn’t eat during the day. They had the chance to ride camels through the desert. It was a culture shock experience for both of them, but a four-day adventure they enjoyed as a couple.
As the study abroad came to a close in Germany, the two weren’t quite ready to part ways.
“I invited myself to Finland,” Hayley laughed. “He was OK with it and his parents were OK with it. I changed my flight a month before I was supposed to fly home.”
While spending a month in Finland, Hayley immediately noticed one major cultural difference.
“There is this Finnish sauna thing, it’s a big relaxation and social thing,” Hayley explained. “[Sampo] had one in his home. He would get home and sauna every day. They would put it up to 100 something degrees, I felt like I was melting! And they are naked. Nothing fazed them. They sit in this hot room and sweat with strangers.”
Sampo, being sensitive to this cultural difference, would give her warnings.
“Hey, my dad is saunaing, don’t go downstairs,” he would warn.
But Sampo and his family did laugh about Hayley’s sweet tooth and her love for super-sweet cereal. They couldn’t handle the sweetness.
“They like black licorice and in Finland, seafood is their thing,” Hayley said. “I don’t like seafood.”
But then again, this visit would come to an end. The couple agreed to give the relationship a try using phone calls and Skype.
“I was so sad to leave,” Hayley explained. “I remember being so embarrassed, we would be waiting for dinner and [the family] asked if I packed yet and I would start crying.”
Hayley’s flight was a distraction from having left Samp behind. It wasn’t until she landed back home in Kentucky that reality set in. She was happy to see her family again, but sad to leave Sampo back in Finland.
But things are going well. Sampo visited Hayley in the U.S. from early December until mid-January this past year. They were able to celebrate New Years in New York City and watch the ball drop. They’re even lucky enough to Skype every day. The couple shared the following advice for long-distance relationships:
“It’s important to remain optimistic and keep in mind communication is easier now. Enjoy every minute you are together, that time has more value when you’re together.”