Busy, Busy, Busy

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!

Maps and laptops and late night snacks strewn across the table. Here are Julianne (on the left) and Sydney (on right). Julianne is from Kansas and Sydney is from Iowa. Our third roommate, Alena, is from California.

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.

Me and girls from my tutor group walking to the library for our tour. From left to right: Anna from Austria, Stacy from Russia, and Victoria from Russia.
An entrance to the library. See the yellow?
Our tutor showed us this fancy room on the second floor. As long as no one is already occupying it, feel free to nap away.

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.

At Sowhi Bar. On my left is Kamilė from Lithuania and Stacy from Russia again on my right. You can see the nice German who complimented our National Parks in the mirror taking the picture. What a nice guy!
Almost everyone fit in this picture. There are about 6 people to the back left that you can’t see. Of everyone there were people from Turkey, Korea, Canada, France, Russia, Morocco, Germany…you name it.
Little viv in a big city center. I read this morning that the sidewalks in the center are heated so it is always comfortable to walk around.
A tunnel I walk through everyday when I head to school or the city center. 

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.

The first time I have looked out my window when the sun is up! The forest in the distance looked beautiful this morning.
Our friend, Panu, with all the goodies! He came out the door with all four of these bags full of useful items for sale. Nothing more than 2 euros.
My roommates and I with our bargain buys. We stopped for this picture just past the entrance to the building. I’m sure Panu saw and thought we were weirdos.
One interesting thing in Finland, you must recycle. Today we took out our trash and recycling for the first time. These recycling areas are situated in several places around the student village. They are labeled (in finnish) for what goes in which. What I wasn’t expecting was to open the top and be looking down into a deep, insulated pit atleast 4 to 5 meters deep (that’s about 15 feet for you Americans).  

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.

A church near the city.

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!

I Made It!

In Finland time (8 hours ahead of most of you), I have officially been in Jyvaskyla for about 24 hours!

Yesterday was eventful and so was today. I will try and catch you up.

Most of my flights went well, with only two minor delays. One of the delays was my connection from London to Helsinki, Finland and that is the one that caused me some worry. My flight was supposed to depart at 10:20 am and arrive in Helsinki at 3:15 pm. My flight didn’t leave until 11:30 which put me back an hour arriving in Helsinki and gave me only 45 minutes at the very most to unboard the plane, go through passport check, make my way to baggage claim (which was a LONG walk), wait for my luggage, go through customs, and find where the buses departed to catch my bus at 5 pm that would take me to Jyvaskyla. My plane landed around 4:15. I can’t tell you how I made it on that bus, but I did.

Once I got on the bus, I had a moment to soak in my environment. I was no longer in an airport with a wide variety of nationalities and languages. And I was no longer just waiting for my connecting flight. I had reached my destination and was now alone in a sea of Fins, on public transportation driving through a country I had never been to. And even though the sun had set, I could still see the beauty of the country. There was snow, EVERYWHERE and I could tell that the trees were all tall, skinny Aspen trees except for a few evergreens by the light from the street lamps.  I couldn’t help but notice the street signs as well, and I also couldn’t manage to read any of them either. They are all in, Finnish, oddly?! This was truly when reality struck me. Sitting in a bus seat looking out a window into the night could have happened anywhere. But looking at a store sign that reads “Stockmannin Helsingin keskustan tavaratalo” out that same window at least tells me I’m not in the U.S. anymore. All bus announcements were also in Finnish and I was completely clueless as to what was being said, but I knew the city I needed to make a transfer in and I knew what time I was scheduled to arrive in Jyvaskyla, so that wasn’t too difficult. My eyes kept closing and eventually I stopped fighting it. When I arrived in Jyvaskyla, my student tutor (which is a student at the university who is my walking, talking savior my first week here) picked me up from the travel station and we began walking to my apartment. I arrived but didn’t have access to wifi, I would have to contact my family the next day that I had arrived. I slipped into my pajamas and passed out.

The bus stop where I had my transfer to the bus traveling the final three hours to Jyvaskyla.
The view out my window, lots of snow!

The next morning, me and my three roommates met with a group across from our apartment and walked to the orientation session at Agora building on the Mattilanniemi campus. The walk was anywhere from 20-40 minutes and I didn’t mind because the past 24 hours had been nothing but sitting on a plane. The orientation covered basic information, I have another session tomorrow and on Friday, and then we ate lunch with our Student tutors and the other students in that group. My first meal included a salad and fish curry along with a boiled potato and some bread. It was very good! Campus tours followed and then we went to the city center to walk around.

My makeshift breakfast (nuts and fruit I packed from home a pretzel and cream cheese I had saved from my flight to London, and some water).
My first meal at a student restaurant. Very tasty!

Me and a few students living in Kortepohja decided to make the 1.5 mile treck back to our housing around 5 pm or so. When we made it to the student village, they headed for the M and N buildings where they lived and I headed towards building R. Well, I thought I was heading towards building R. I got so lost and so turned around. I probably asked 10 people where I could find building R until I finally found it. The Kortepohja student village is much larger than I thought and there are no distinguishable landmarks. Just trees, and trees, and trees, and snow. All of the apartment buildings are white and at some point I just couldn’t remember where I had been. I couldn’t use internet because I am using wifi until I can buy a sim card, so it was up to me and the many strangers I passed to find my way home. I walked around for about 45 minutes trying to find my building, but then I did. 🙂

Walking back to the student village from the city center. The trees are so ominous. This was before I got lost…

Once I got home, I realized I needed food. So me and two of my roommates set out to the grocery store, yet another walk but only about 10-15 minutes. The grocery store was small, but we were in there for over an hour just trying to figure out what everything was. Would you believe that grocery stores in Finland have products in Finnish? Crazy. As a bargain shopper, I bought quite a bit of food for only 27,40 euros. Then I realized I had to carry it home. Hah! You should have seen me and the other girls lugging our groceries over our shoulder along the icy sidewalks. But we made it back and ate our respective dinners.

Apples, i think.
Just an example of the helpful signs posted in every aisle at the supermarket.

Realizations from my stay in Jyvaskyla so far:

  1. Walking is unavoidable. If I hadn’t lost my fitbit in the Dallas airport, I would tell you how many miles I have walked today. Well over 5.
  2. The university campus is a good distance away.
  3. Every Fin I have stopped at the airport/bus station/along the street/in the supermarket has been extremely kind and extremely helpful.
  4. I don’t know very much Finnish.
  5. I will learn very quickly.

It is 11:30 in the evening here in Jyvaskyla and I am tired! Tomorrow brings another orientation session and a few meetings about courses and the beginning of classes next week. I am heading to bed, goodnight!