These first few days have been FULL of new faces, new places, and lots of defining moments. I have so much to share and a lot of time to share it so I might as well.
I last left you on Wednesday evening after my first day of orientation and it is now Saturday evening…so much has happened! On Thursday I had another orientation session and it was up to us to find our way to the Agora building. This is a 40 minute walk from my student village and I had walked it only once the day before. Luckily, I walked with Anna, a girl from my tutor group, and we made a great team. We both remembered different parts of the trip to the correct building, so together we made it, no problem. That day we learned a lot about courses at the university and how to register for them. The way courses, instruction, and exams work here in Finland are much different than in the US. I will have to update you on a separate post once I have sorted out the system and am better able to explain it. Overall, I am very excited about the courses I will be taking. Four of the courses will be for credit to transfer back to Northwest. Those classes are Introduction to Classics of Sociology, International Management, Intergroup Communication, and Ethnology and Anthropology of Religion. I am also taking two courses of interest just for fun. Survival Finnish (which I’m sure will prove to be helpful) is a six week class and I will also be taking Education in Finland. The education system here is one of the best in the world and I am interested in learning a little about it while I am here and taking part in it.
At first, one of the classes I had originally planned to take was not available in English any longer and I had a mini panic attack trying to find another course to take in order to have a full semester of credits to transfer back home to maintain my full time student status. This is important to keep my financial aid and keep me on track to graduate in a timely manner so it was very important that I found an alternative. Thursday evening consisted of me searching Korppi, the student course sight, for courses. Me and my roommates all shared in the fact that there was some stress about courses. Some of theirs overlapped in time slots and they had to rearrange their schedules or, like me, some of the classes were only in Finnish. So most of our evening was spent sitting at the kitchen table sharing complaints and worries. We talked about everything from travel stories to things we needed to buy but couldn’t find. Sometimes there is nothing better to bond over than comparing times of struggle. It was so nice!
Friday morning my roommates and I left our apartment around 9:10 to make it to the last day of orientation by 10:00. 40 Minute walks are my norm now. Add the ice and snow and I will never complain about walking anywhere in Missouri ever again. I enjoy the walk actually, and it was nice to make the trek with my roomies. After orientation we had library tours with our tutor groups. This was what I was most looking forward to about orientation because I absolutely love libraries. When I am at home studying at Northwest I am in the library almost every day of the week. I love to study there and it is a good place to run into people. Here it seems to be no different. I found the inside of the library to be interesting though. It is not quite as cozy as the library at Northwest because the main color is a bright, obnoxious, yellow. It kind of cracked me up. The railings are all yellow, the bookshelves have yellow accents, and the walls of the study cubicles are solid yellow. Studying in one of those must give people headaches. It is an interesting color choice, but I can adjust. If that means wearing sunglasses when I study, so be it. My tutor Tina was such a great tour guide and she has been so helpful throughout this first week.
After the library tour it was about 4:00pm and me and the girls in my tutor group wanted to meet with some friends at a bar near by. We arrived and picked a table. The waiter came up and said some words in Finnish and all of us girls turned and looked at one another and then simultaneously said something like “Hello” or “Sorry” or “Excuse me” to let the waiter know that we were all very good English speakers but not at all fluent in Finnish. The waiter immediately repeated himself in English. Much better. After about 20 minutes the rest of our group showed up, there ended up being around 20 people sitting around our table. It was so much fun! We had such interesting conversations about things like if it was common to have middle names in your country, what currency looks like in different countries, and stereotypes. I was curious what people thought of America and they told me. My friend from Lithuania said that she thought of large, overweight people, a girl from Morocco said it was common to think that people in America are not informed and do not care about what happens in the rest of the world, and a gentlemen from Germany said “I think of all of your beautiful national parks”. Maybe he felt bad. He probably did. But honestly, none of this offended me, and of course they weren’t accusing me of these things. It is so interesting to hear what other people have to say. Our conversations were all very interesting! It was a fun evening. Then I walked the 40 minutes home.
This morning I had the pleasure of sleeping as late as I wanted and I was grateful for that. It was strange though. The sun does not rise here until around 10:00am and even then, it never shows itself. There is cloud cover at all times, just a hazy gray that brightens slightly with the sun and dims 5-6 hours later. So when I woke up at 8:30 this morning I was surprised to find that it wasn’t still five in the morning. I did go back to sleep and woke up around 10:30. My roommates and I had plans to go to the city center to make some essential purchases so we took our time getting ready. I was looking around online this morning for some stores to go to, but also on the “Second Hand Items in Jyväskylä” Facebook page for some cheap alternatives. I found a post by Panu Makinen about items for sale. He had so many things and he lived just next door so I sent him a message and within an hour my roommates and I were walking to his building to buy some things for no more than 2 euros a piece. I purchased a nice blanket for my bed and a pizza cutter for a total of 3 euros. My roommates bought bath towels, sheets, other kitchen utensils, and a few hand towels. I have also reserved a coffee maker and a nice rug someone is selling. It is an hour walk to pick them up, I will make it there eventually.
We headed to the city center afterwards and accomplished some shopping also met up with some of the girls from my tutor group. We ate dinner together in the city at “The American Diner”. Not my first choice, but once I saw cheeseburger and fries listed on the menu, I wanted nothing else.
It has been a wonderful week here in Jyväskylä. I have confirmed my courses, established friendships, and had my first night out on the town! What a busy few days. Tomorrow I will meet up with tons of exchange students for an official city tour and lots more exploring. Thank you for following my blog and showing an interest in my life here in Finland. It is fun for me to write these posts because it helps solidify my memories and experiences but also because I know that other people are reading and enjoying my posts as well. Talk to you soon!