Wow!!! Today marks a month since I set out on this journey. It’s crazy to think that a month ago at this time I was sitting in an airport in Chicago just waiting for time to pass. Actually, that’s not true. Time zones ignored, I had only just woken up to load up the truck and head out.
Since that day, I have experienced so many amazing things, met so many amazing people, and have learned more than I think my brain can hold. It’s been so wonderful. And I haven’t even left the city yet!
In no particular order, here are some of my highlights of this month:
- I have learned to budget. It took moving out of the country to make it happen but now I know how much I can spend and still have room for rent and food. At home, because of how American college dorm life works, I could essentially say “well as long as I don’t spend more than $x in two weeks, I’m good.” Here though, I didn’t get to pay for my apartment and a meal plan all at once, so I have to know where my money is going, especially since my income is basically nothing.
- I went exploring alone. And it was invigorating. I am a super extroverted person. I like my me time don’t get me wrong! And the bar scene isn’t my favorite place. But, I am not super comfortable being alone in a crowd. Shopping and exploring is always more enjoyable with others. But I embraced it and here I am, still alive!
- My classes are AMAZING! And I haven’t even started all of them yet! I’m learning about teaching young children foreign languages, about how culture affects the classroom, I’m observing and working in a primary school, and all the while I’m meeting so many people – both local and international. The stories people have to tell has to be the best part of being in class. In the next month or so, I will be adding a couple more classes about supporting special education students in the classroom, and how we communicate as teachers with other teachers and students and parents and stuff. Also, I’ll take a class that broadly outlines the Finnish school system. It’s exciting stuff!
- Two of my classes have included “Well, I just want you to explore the city, so grab a friend, go out, and we’ll talk about it next week. Have fun!” So, first, I went exploring with two Finns – one from a town outside of Jyväskylä and one from another part of the country. They showed me their favorite places in the city and told me about what it was like growing up and going to school in Finland. And we ended up finding a second-hand book store with my favorite book in it! One of those Finns ended up introducing me to some of her friends who were in town visiting after having moved away. It was amazing to get to interact with them and listen to the language. The second time, we were sent out in chunks of international students to practice Finnish language in real life. We were sent out to ask random Finns questions, and to explore some of the shops in the city (an art museum, the public library, and the movie theater.) I asked, knowing that in general Finns keep to themselves (which is a weird stereotype because they love to talk once you break the ice!), if these random Finns would be comfortable talking to us – strangers speaking timid, bad Finnish. I was told “well, they will be more scared than you but it happens a lot in this city so it will be okay.” Alright! But the experience was pretty cool lol. And it was fun to get a practical application of the language.
- Hiking in Jyväskylä is a dream. Everything is so green. Except, now it’s autumn so by green I mean green and orange and yellow and red and all of the magical colors of the changing seasons. So hiking is wonderful. I’ve been out a couple times both with locals and with exchange students and every time is amazing. It’s cool too because Finnish forest is a free public space. So people go in and pick mushrooms and berries all the time. That was a fun experience!
- My Finnish people connections are growing! In a previous blog post, I mentioned that I’ve only met 7 Finns but that was before classes started and now I’m happy to say I’ve been able to talk with and learn from a few more than seven =D
- My Finnish vocabulary is growing! Slowly. I would be hard pressed to have a conversation, but I am getting where I can start to understand what I hear, and when I read signs or go to the grocery store, I’m not a puddle of frustration anymore so that’s nice! hahahaha!
- I tried the sauna. Lol it wasn’t my favorite experience. It’s really hot in there which makes the air heavy which makes it hard for me to use my lungs to full capacity and I don’t enjoy that (horn players and other musicians, you will understand). But I understand how relaxing it can be in Finnish winter. So maybe I’ll give it another go when it starts dropping below 40˚.
- Finnish church is interesting. I’ve been learning about the concept of State Church and how the country handles religion and it’s really interesting to learn about! I’ve attended a Finnish service and it was really eye-opening to experience. Nothing beats my home church though…
- Coffee is the new water. It’s a social drink. A dessert drink. A thinking drink. It’s for all the time. And eventually, I picked up on a little trick: “Do you want some coffee?” is like being in the South and hearing “Do you want a coke?” Coffee doesn’t mean explicitly coffee. It just means going to a place that serves coffee and getting whatever you want – Pulla or some other baked good, coffee, tea, or just going and sitting and talking. Just like “Coke” means any soft drink south of Oklahoma lol.
- I got a library card! One of the hardest parts about packing to come here was that I wouldn’t get to bring my whole personal library. And I’m nervous about buying too many books (if I make it to any other countries, I’ll get whatever the next Harry Potter book in my list is in their language – so I will be returning home with at least an HP book in Finnish and Norwegian), but with a city library card, I can read whatever I can get my hands on in English and life will be grand! I finished the one book I brought with me before classes even started, so I’ve been parched.
My challenge to myself this next month is to do some exploring beyond Jyväsklyä. I also want to experience the night life. I know the city never truly sleeps here and I know my body definitely sleeps after 10pm ha! But when in Finland do as the Finns do yeah?
Well… that’s all for now I think. I guess it’s time to do some homework.
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt