They say there is a psychological process to the experience of studying abroad. It looks like this:
Being me, I hoped to surpass most of these and just stick in the honeymoon/adjustment phases. But alas… Kalliope is human so that didn’t happen. The thing is, this graph doesn’t show it exactly as it is – it’s only a basic outline. Everyone’s experience is different and it’s not always even linear. People can move around on the graph depending on the length of their stay. It’s been a crazy ride! It’s not even over yet. So here’s a little insight into my emotional roller coaster.
You can look back at my old blog posts and see just how excited I was to get started with this. I’ve been dreaming about traveling the world forever, and I’ve been making plans to go to Finland since my last year of high school. This has been a long time coming and I’ve been so, so, so looking forward to this experience!
This stage was really well assuaged by my amazing Tutor and being thrown into a support group of other exchange students and amazingly wonderful, helpful Finns to make the transition fun and relaxed. Although I was definitely confused, I was never 100% overwhelmed. My first trip to the grocery store was a bit of a disaster – but we were racing the clock to get what I needed to be fed at all in 24 hours before the store closed. Unpacking my bags felt like I was in a dream. My bed was really hard and, mixed with the jet lag, it was really, really hard to sleep (I’m now used to it and sleep just fine). As always, being in a new place was weird because I hadn’t adjusted to where everything was. But I adjusted pretty quickly.
This was my favorite part. Of course. I am a fairly wide-eyed, fairy tail type person to begin with so of course I really milked the honeymoon phase for all it’s worth. I like to think that after being in Emporia back home for two years, I still have a bit of the last vestiges of honeymoon phase left over swirling through my days. So being in FINLAND on ANOTHER CONTINENT is OmgICan’tBelieveItThisPlaceIsMagicAndWonderfulAndAaaaahhhh!!! It was just turning from Summer to Fall when I arrived which is literally my favorite part of the year already and I was meeting so many new and amazing people which makes my heart happy and I was getting ready to take all the education classes and and and. I was pretty darn happy okay?
This part literally only lasted a couple days. Before I got my vitamin D. I was just realizing how rainy and cloudy it’d been and suddenly I woke up on a day I didn’t have classes and I felt so heavy. I couldn’t motivate myself to get out of bed, to shower, barely to eat. I just slept through the day.
Once classes got started, there was some serious adjusting I had to deal with. At home, I am used to overloading on class credits, working a job, and holding office in a couple student organizations. On top of trying to maintain strong relationships with my boyfriend two hours away and my best friend over an hour away and my family an hour away and still make time for my new college friends. So I have a full schedule and almost no time to hide in my room alone and be by myself except for the hour before I sleep. And I love every minute of it. Here though, I don’t have a job. I’m only taking the bare minimum of classes. I’m not involved in any organizations except a choir that meets once a week. So I have all the free time. And not a lot of homework to fill the time. So it’s been really weird. My mind and body have not appreciated all the empty space. Or the constant cloud cover.
This was good. When I realized I’d been here for so long and everything was familiar. When I realized I could get to school and the city center and conquer the grocery store with ease.
Confronting Deeper Issues/Adapting and Assimilating
This part, instead of being one big plunge before a steady climb, seems mixed together. There is so much happening here to be a part of, and there is a lot happening at home that make it hard to be away – both tragedy and excitement. Some days, I wake up and I’m ready to handle another Finnish day. I get work done, I do something fun with my friends, I go on an adventure. Other days, I wake up, and despite my Vitamin D supplement, still feel heavy and mushy. I don’t want to motivate myself to do anything. I really miss home. I miss familiar foods and experiences. But there’s been so many amazing experiences, and I have so much left to do!
There are things I don’t like here, but a lot that I do. Mostly, I just really, really, really am put off by the sun going down before 4pm. I don’t like the drinking and partying culture, although I’ll admit I’ve tried it. I went to a club once (completely sober) and had fun, but not enough to want to do it often. I’ve drank a few drinks but it’s expensive and I don’t like feeling funny. I also don’t enjoy the saunas too much, probably because Finns make it 90ºC (194ºF) and I feel like I’m going to implode in that kind of heat! Maybe if it was 10º cooler, I’d enjoy it more. I do like riding my bike though! I enjoy the mild weather! I just got home from an ice hockey match that was super fun to watch! I enjoy that everything is close enough to get to. I enjoy how easy it is to travel. I love everything I am learning, I love the people, I love the coffee shops, I love how relaxed and quiet the city feels. It’s homey here.
And I have so much more to do!! I’m hoping to take some day trips to Tuku and maybe Tampere in the next couple weeks. I’m spending a long Thanksgiving weekend in Tallinn, Estonia with a bunch of Americans. My last week will be spent with Santa and some huskies in Lapland (where we’ll spend a few hours in Norway)! Next week, I’ll go to an orchestra concert where they will play some Finnish folk music, a Sibelius piece, and a medley from a Finnish movie. I also plan to see a couple movies in the theater in the city center – English movies, subtitles in Finnish (they only dub a few movies, and some movies are made in Finland). My trip isn’t over yet!!!!
I haven’t reached that part, obviously. But I am getting excited to go home. I think part of the timeline should include “Anticipation of Return” or something, because as much as I really love being here, I really miss home. From talking to people, it seems that I’m not the only one with this feeling.
So yeah, bring on this last month!!!!! I’m ready to embrace it. Although, I might be procrastinating the homework part hahahaha!
“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” – Paulo Coelho