I served a mission in Finland from 1974-1976. I was a convert while in college and 1-1/2 years later I was asked by my Bishop to serve a mission. I did not know at the time that on the quarterly ward report, which is sent up to the stake, there is a part that asks how many young men from 19-26 years of age have not served a mission. The Bishop was apparently anxious to improve that number. I reluctantly accepted knowing full well I would be sent to Finland as that is where my family is all from. My grandfather and many other relatives were still living there. I firmly believed in Mormonism, but really did not want to serve a mission as I was in graduate school in metallurgical engineering and was hoping to eventually get a teaching position after obtaining a doctorate in engineering..
My family was completely against my serving a mission. I did not hear from anyone for over 8 months though I wrote to my family, like the dedicated missionary that I was, every Monday. Finland was a difficult mission as there were few converts. The entire day was spent knocking on doors and trying different door approaches. The boredom of the mission is nearly impossible to describe. We used to make games of buying our companion an ice-cream for whoever got the loudest slammed door that day. We ran into JWs all the time. Also during this period, there was strong antagonism towards Americans and during my first Christmas there (1974) the mission president told us not to attend any ward socials or Christmas parties as the members did not want us present. So we were unwanted by the Finns who did not like religion and unwanted by the LDS members who did not like Americans. I really regret having wasted two years of my life knocking on doors and accomplishing nothing. The bright side is that there were few converts so they did not waste their lives in a cult like I did. I also became more outgoing and less timid of people. So there were a few benefits.
A Mormon mission is more or less compulsory for young men at the age of 19. The social pressure to serve is immense and near impossible to overcome so most young men go on 2 year missions. This comprises about 40-45% of all young men in the Mormon church.
When I returned from my mission I found I had lost my scholarship and so I went to a different university where I acquired a masters in engineering. I got married and found that I no longer had time to get the doctorate I had planned on all my life. My wife had gotten pregnant right away and then she was stricken with severe arthritis to the point where she was hospitalized because she could not even roll over in bed. I no longer tried both working and going to school. I had too much to do at home and in my church callings. I put my career plans aside for the sake of the church