January In Review

In the past month, a lot has changed.

I have already completed my International Management course and just have to turn in a paper by the end of February to check it off my list. My Survival Finnish course will have its final exam next week and I will be studying for that in the coming week. I started a new class this week called Education in Finland. We’ve only met for lecture once so far and it seems it will be a very interesting and informative course.

I have officially become a member of the University (my mobile student ID never leaves my side) and have benefited from this because students in Finland get discounts on everything. It’s great. I have also successfully opened a bank account here in Jyväskylä and have my very own Finnish credit card. Through the program I am studying on (ISEP-international student exchange program), I get 340 euros a month for food and living expenses. This bank account hosts this money and I am free to spend it how I see fit. I’m mostly excited about the pretty, bright blue credit card I’m sporting in my wallet and the amount of fruit I can purchase in a month with that kind of budget. 🙂

The daylight hours have extended by over two hours already in just four weeks. When I first arrived the sun rose around 10am and set at 3pm. Now it comes up between 8:30 and 9 and sets around 4:15. By the end of my stay here in late May, the sun will rise around 4am and set around 10pm. Almost completely opposite of January. But, just because the sun is up doesn’t mean it’s visible. Most of the time the sky is overcast so the sun hasn’t made too many appearances. I have been promised that this will soon change. Even the past three days have been completely clear skies all day long. That is the most I have seen the sun so far, but I’m not getting my hopes up considering tomorrow and Wednesday have cloudy skies and snow in the forecast again. This really doesn’t bother me though. The winter time here, even if it’s grey outside, is still beautiful. Snow covers every inch of existence and it is stunning, even without the sun (check out the pictures at the end of this post).

My hands are perpetually dry, but that’s nothing new.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of the traditional Finnish candy Salmiakki, it is a strong, salty, black licorice that is very popular among Finns. I tried it my first week here and had to spit it out. It was disgusting. I have had it three times since and every time it has gotten better and better. Don’t ask me why I continue to try it, most people avoid things that make them gag. I had Salmiakki yet again today and ended up reaching for another piece. *shrug

Sauna has become the only element of my life here that is somewhat of a routine. I go two or three times a week. In the student village I live in, there are different buildings for men and women every night of the week that are open from 6pm-9pm for sauna. I have really taken advantage of this perk of living in Finland and I absolutely love it. When I first started going, to avoid awkwardness and the unknowns of the sauna, I went with friends, but now I prefer to go on my own. It has been interesting to go alone because most people assume I’m Finnish. Thanks to survival Finnish, occasionally I can pretend I am. Oh, and if you’re wondering about the level of nudity at sauna, your guess is probably right. No clothes, no shame.

Life is keeping itself interesting here in Finland. Enjoy some pictures of my sunny weekend and throughout the month in general.IMG_0013IMG_0153

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Little kiddos playing hockey on the ice.
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Last week it snowed A LOT. The piles keep getting higher and higher.

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Stockholm 1/26-1/29

This past weekend, me and seven other students traveled to Stockholm. There are several ways to get there but we decided on flying because it was the cheapest option. That is definitely something I will not get used to while I’m living in Europe. Regardless, early Friday morning ( I’m talking 1:30 am) we took two taxis to the Jyväskylä travel station and hopped on our bus at 2am.

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A few of us at the travel center early Friday morning (or late Thursday night, same thing)

Our three and a half hour bus ride took us right to the Helsinki airport and we boarded our flight and landed in Stockholm at 7am. Low on sleep and in a new city, we had an entire day to explore.

The first day we walked around the city and just took in what it had to offer. Stockholm is beautiful and was my first experience in a true European city. The buildings were old and the sidewalks were cobblestone. We had the chance to watch the changing of the guards ceremony at the Royal Palace of Sweden’s royal family, then headed back to our hostel for a much needed nap, and found a cozy, local place for some traditional Swedish food later in the evening for dinner.

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This view overlooks one of the three islands of Old Town Stockholm. The church you can see right behind my head dates back to the 13th century. Amazing!

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We found this cool little store and went inside. It was a comic shop that sold really old copies of comics and graphics. Really cool!
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Kassie in the dungeon comic shop 🙂
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During the changing of the guards ceremony at the Royal Palace. There was construction going on, the palace must be up kept!
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Outside of the local restaurant where we had dinner. The neighborhood was all cobblestone and small, unique buildings. It was fun to walk around.
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My DELICIOUS meal. I had braised pork cheek with lingonberry sauce and parsley and herb mashed potatoes.
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Almost everyone (minus Lara who came later this evening). 

The second day, we got up and headed to a portion of the Old Town where a tour began at 10 am. There are free tours daily of Old Town Sweden and also the city of Sweden and we took advantage! After the tour we did some more exploring and headed back to the hostel for another quick nap. Then we went to eat dinner at a CHEAP local Mexican restaurant called La Neta. You walk down steep steps from the street into this little restaurant where I ordered two quesadillas for 25 SEK (Swedish Krona) each. That’s a 5 euro meal. Aside from what comes on your quesadilla, there is a topping bar where you put additional sauces, toppings, and deliciousness to complete you meal. It was great! Afterwards we walked to a local bar and listened to some live blues music. It was so much fun! We got there early (thanks TripAdvisor) and lucky for us. By the time the band showed and started playing there were tons of people smashed into this small bar. If you moved at all you would bump into at least three people, but that added to the local flare and the fun of the live music. It was a great day in Stockholm.

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A statue of Gustav Vasa in front of the House of Nobility (Riddarhuset)
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The “Big Church” or Storkyrkan

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This archway guides tourists between the two parliament buildings. Above the arches from inside, there are walkways between the two buildings.
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The small, white building sandwiched between the two others is home to Sweden’s Prime Minister. Sweden’s “White House” if you will.
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The tall building with the steeple to the right of this picture is Stockholm City Hall.

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The Baltic Sea, and a bunch of ducks, swans, and the like enjoying the water.

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Inside Storkyrkan, beautiful!

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Enjoying the live blues, and also ignoring the people we were touching.
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Part of the crowd listening to Erika Baier & The Business. Really great group

The last full day we took tours of the Royal Palace and also got to see the Royal Treasury which is all of the crowns, capes, swords, and other royal things that belong to the King, Queen, and the princes and princesses that are born into the family. We also took a tour of the Swedish parliament building. This was so interesting to see and hear about how legislation works in Sweden and be able to compare it to the United States and even just in Missouri. After the day of touring, we split up and ate dinners we wanted for our last night. Me and three other girls went to eat one last Swedish meal. I had Swedish meatballs this time, they were delicious! Our hostel was home for the night and we played games and chatted. We also made a late night walk to a Seven Eleven (they were EVERYWHERE in Stockholm) in our pajamas for some snacks. The next morning me and two other girls were heading home so we enjoyed our last night in.

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The staircase in the Royal Palace. It was specifically designed to wind around the building. This kept it from obstructing anything, including the windows. The architect knew daylight was scarce in Stockholm during the winter and wanted to ensure windows were always visible.
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This may just look like a fancy thrown, and it is, but it also dates back to Queen Cristina’s coronation ceremony in 1650. The history here will always baffle me.
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These massive chandeliers were in several rooms inside the palace. These three together weigh 1 ton!
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An intricate hallway. It is made to reflect lots of light. There are windows on the right side of the room and mirrors directly across from them on the left. The blinds were closed…but imagine how the room would sparkle if there was sunlight dancing around.
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This doesn’t look like much, but it was made to be a breakfast room (my kind of room) and the light above was the first light put in the palace to be used with electric light. Pretty cool.
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A lounge/social room for guests.
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A sleeping apartment for guests.
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This was a cool element I liked about the architecture. Apparently illusions were a big deal back in the day. For example, in some of the rooms that appear to be ceiling to floor marble, are only a portion marble from the floor up maybe a foot or two. The rest is stone that was painted to appear as marble. This seems like the Swede’s were being cheap but in fact it was to create an illusion and also to show that mankind had surpassed nature by “creating” something thought only nature could make. In this photo, you can see a portion of the wall that looks like it continues on into another world. This is yet another illusion used to create a sense of a larger, continuing room. These scenes were painted in almost every archway in the staircase.
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This was in the Swedish Parliament building. This chamber is the new one that began dealing with legislation in 1971 when Sweden became a unicameral legislature. There are 349 members of parliament from 290 municipalities. One thing I found particularly interesting is that members of parliament are seated in the room based on where they are from in Sweden. Nice way to mix things up!
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The stack of paper on the table is the budget bill for 2018. The tour guide is holding a photo of the deliverance of the bill to parliament to read and approve. This is a big ceremony every year and the fancy lady in the photo (I forgot her title and why she delivers it) gathers this bill and walks it across the street to the parliament building for delivery. Our tour guide explained parliament focuses on the budget bill in the fall and legislation in the spring.
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This is in the old parliament building

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And one of two of the old chambers when Sweden used to be bicameral. These chambers are now used on Tuesdays for the two biggest parties in Sweden to gather and discuss matters.
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Marissa, Lara, Tessa, and I walking, walking, walking.
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Swedish meatballs ❤
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Just a picture of our hostel room. Featuring Peter’s feet, Lara’s feet, and Sophie’s face between the ladder steps.
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Walking to seven eleven in our pajamas. Swedish people will come around.

Us three girls leaving Stockholm the next morning woke up, turned in our linens at the front desk, and sat in the community area of the hostel for some complimentary coffee before we left. There was a small TV in the room and I noticed it was playing My Name is Earl. It made me think of my dorky dad 🙂

I was so happy to spend some time in a new city exploring the sites and the culture but this made me miss home just the smallest bit. It also made me realize how badly I wanted to share my experiences with the people I love back home. So, as I sat in this cramped, slightly grimy community area sipping coffee out of a mug hundreds of people had used with all of my belongings on my back and my coat in my lap, I watched My Name is Earl with Swedish subtitles and I smiled. This is what I have wanted for so long. To be a weary traveler out and about exploring places I have never seen before, sharing sinks with strangers, and walking more than I ever have in my entire life. I have officially completed my first trip here in Europe! Stockholm was a great start. I got to see sunlight and blue skies, streets clear of snow, and a wonderful city. In late February I will be taking a week long trip to Lapland, mid-March I will be scooting over to Paris for a weekend to visit a friend, and at the end of March for my spring break, I will be in Spain. I plan on visiting Russia at some point as well as Estonia. Lots of adventure left!

P.S.

I have officially been living in Finland for a month. Time flies.

“Nice” Weather 1/25

It was 38 degrees Fahrenheit in Jyväskylä today. Looking at the weather last night I couldn’t wait for it! So when I woke up this morning to the sound of rain, I grinned.

It has not yet been warm enough for snow to turn to rain so it was really exciting. I knew the snow on the sidewalks would melt and it would be kind of ugly and slushy outside, but what I didn’t know was that under that snow on the sidewalks are just layers and layers and layers of ice. My walks to and from campus were much longer and included many more moments of me on the ground. The city workers here in Finland do lay gravel on the sidewalks but sometimes you just fall anyway. The funny thing was, other people (I’m assuming Finns) just walked right along. Several people were even walking and texting! It cracked me up. Here are a few pictures from my walk home.IMG_0197IMG_0200

Regardless of the deceiving weather, I survived and am now back at home for the night packing for my first adventure outside of Finland. This weekend me and about 10 other students are going to Stockholm. We will arrive early Friday morning and I, and a few others, will fly back on Monday afternoon. It should be fun! I will post an update of how the weekend goes later on next week. Until then, beware the ice.

Sauna Like A Finn 1/13

“Yes, but have you ever been to a Finnish sauna?”

Through the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), exchange students from everywhere in Europe have the opportunity to take part in activities, events, and trips at a bargain student price. Today I attended “The Ultimate Sauna Experience” through ESN Jyväskylä and it was a blast. We traveled by bus to a small town outside of Jyväskylä and stopped at a sauna resort of sorts. We got to walk around and explore the ancient sauna buildings and huts still in use today. Then we came inside for a nice lunch, went to sauna, and then came back inside for a traditional post sauna snack, sausages! Although the saunas were hot, the frozen lake water was NOT. Oh to sauna like a Finn…I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy!

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Then the real fun began…IMG_0077

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