Friday, June 1, 2012

Farewell Speech

(I gave the speech today, in Finnish. there's an English version below.)

Ihmiset kertoivat mulle ennen omaa vaihto-oppilaaksi, etta olin niin rohkea. Totuus oli, että en pitänyt pikkukaupungeista. Olin valmis alkaa seikkailun.

Voi tapahtua paljon vuodessa.

Olen ollut kymmenen kuukautta, kun tulin Suomen. Se oli ensimmäistä kertaa lähden USA:sta. Sen jälkeen, olen ollut Lapissa, Ruotsissa, Venäjällä, ja heti jatkan kolme viikkoa kiertueella Euroopassa.

Olen yrittänyt niin monia asioita, joita mä en olisi ehtinyt kokeilla Jenkkissa. Olen tutkinut tämän kaupungin, tehnyt taidetta, ja yrittänyt oppia uutta kieltä. Olen elänyt eri elämäntapa viimeiset kymmenen kuukautta, ja se on ollut mahtava kokemus.

Luulen, että mitä tulen kaipaamaan eniten on ihmiset. Olen tavannut paljon ihmisiä, joita en koskaan unohda. Olen tehnyt paljon ystäviä, ja paljon muistoja. Mä muistan puhuin tunnilla sijaan tehdä harjoituksia, söin jätskiä, ja katsoin kun Biisonit voittaa kultaa.

Mä en halua lähteä Loimaa. Ehkä se on tylsä sinulle, mutta luulen etta se on upea, koska se on meidän kaupunki. Tulen kaipaamaan teitä kaikkia, paikkoja, ruokia, kaikkia.

Kiitos että annoitte mulle paras vuosi elämäni.

Mä en tiedä missä olen menossa tai missä tulen olemaan, mutta elämä on matka. Lupasin tulla takaisin Loimaan. Toivotan parasta kaikki olen tavannut tänä vuonna, ja toivon nähdään taas.

Minulla on vielä yks kuukausi Loimaalla, ja haluan vain sanoa, se on ollut todellinen, Suomi.

People told me before my exchange year that I was so brave. The truth was, I was sick of that small town anyway. I was ready to start an adventure.

A lot can happen in a year.

It’s been almost 10 months since I arrived here in Finland. It was the first time I’d left the USA. Since then, I’ve been to Lapland, Sweden, Russia, and I’m about to go on a 3 week tour of Europe.

I’ve tried so many things I wouldn’t have had a chance to in the US. I’ve explored the city, I’ve created art. I’ve tried to learn a completely new language. I’ve lived a different lifestyle for the past 10 months, and it’s been an amazing experience.

I think what I’ll miss the most is the people. I’ve met so many people I’ll never forget. I’ve made a lot of friends, and a lot of memories. I’ll remember the days spent in class talking instead of doing work, going to get ice cream, and watching the Bisons take home gold.

I don’t want to leave Loimaa. It might be a boring city to you, but I think it’s beautiful, because it’s our city. I’m going to miss all of you, all of the places, the food, everything.

Thank you so much for giving me the greatest year of my life.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going or where I’ll end up, but life is a journey. All I know is that I’ve promised to come back to Loimaa someday. I wish the best to everyone I’ve met on my Exchange, and I hope to see you again.
I still have a little over a month before my return to the US, I just want to say, it’s been real, Finland.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Diamonds and Pearls

Hi everyone! Sorry for not only neglecting this blog, but also not actually having blogged about something that has actually happened to me since October.

I've changed host families last December, and I'm supposed to change again later this week (despite the fact the Rotary doesn't actually have another home for me yet... I'll be staying at a rotarian's until they can find one so don't worry about me living under bridges!)
In this house I have two younger siblings - Oliver, who is 7 and just started school, and Camilla, who is 5 and in kindergarten. Jarmo, my host dad, works on a ship and is gone every other week. Pia, my host mom, works at the pharmacy in town.
It has been really nice being able to walk to the city from this house, I don't really like relying on another driver to get around (and since I'm not allowed to drive, there aren't many other options)

I met Santa at Christmas, and here is proof that he is Finnish:

Santa, Me, Oliver, and Camilla.

I spent New Year's at my friend Johanna's house with some other friends of ours.
That is about the extent of excitement for January other than hanging out with friends sometimes.

Now, let's talk about "Vanhojen Tanssit"
It literally means "Old's dance", but old people aren't really involved. There is dancing though. I've been taking classes during school for a few months now. The vanhojen tanssit is where all of the 2nd year students perform old dances (like the Waltz) to kick the 3rd year students out of the school. So yeah, this is like a big dance performance.
I took the classes without a partner, so I would fill in for whoever was gone that day. I thought it was pretty fun, I got to know (well, dance with... not all of them talked to me) people I wouldn't have talked to otherwise.
Last night was the dance and so the 3rd year students are now gone to study for their final test to graduate high school. (apparently the English word for this is Matriculation Examination, but I have never heard it used)
I didn't get to dance, but I was in the procession with Toni, who couldn't dance because of an injury earlier in the year.
You can watch some of the dancing and the procession here:

I'm kinda bummed that there isn't a video of my class singing though. They chose to sing Maailman Toisella Puolen by Haloo Helsinki, which is about being on the other side of the world and the singer is telling her parents that they shouldn't worry about her. It's been the exchange student theme song for us in Finland, whenever we get together we have to play it. I thought I would start crying at the final performance, but I was "backstage" (it was in a gym) so I didn't really see/hear it. I was getting emotional at the rehearsals though, remembering that my year is over half way through, and that it'd had been over half a year since I had first heard the song with all of the exchange students at language camp.
To quote a Finnish friend, "time goes fast"

I'd post pictures of the dance here, but my camera cord is currently MIA. If we're friends on facebook, there are plenty of pictures taken by my friends there. If not, I promise I'll make a post once I'm able to find my cord.

To finish off this blog post, I'd like to talk about how much the people here rock. It seems like everyone I talk to is the coolest in their own way. I keep remembering people and thinking "they're my favorite person" but then I remember my other favorite person, and it just keeps happening. I don't know if this is because of Finland being the best, or they can really filter what they say to me when they speak English, or that I was just literally placed in the most awesome town ever, but everyone has something about them that just makes them awesome.
I think I just have a lot to say about my friends because I really do love them all. I don't know how I'll leave this country, because I don't know if I'll want to leave all of this behind. Ever.

So, I'll leave you with a song that basically sums up my current feelings.

I am now off for a long week of... nothing! It's Winter Holiday now - yeah, we get Christmas Holiday and Winter Holiday. (we don't get Spring Break though)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Looking Forward and Looking Back

Being an exchange student is something only other exchange students understand. Literally, you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, except you didn’t even know shoes like that existed.
I’ve learned to eat bread every morning instead of cereal, that silence is golden, that sometimes if you can’t say something to someone, it probably wasn’t that important anyway.

I know my adventures for this year aren’t over yet. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe that I’m here and I haven’t died from culture shock. Every passing day I forget a little bit more about what it’s like to live in the United States and I learn a little more about what it’s like to live in Finland.
There has not been one day that I’ve regret taking my trip from the Minneapolis Airport to Helsinki. I love every person I’ve met since I left Minnesota. Every face I’ve passed on the street, every kid that’s too shy to talk to me in my classes. I want to know everyone. Everyone has an interesting story about their life, and I want to hear it.

The most interesting thing about meeting some people is that not one person I’ve gotten to know reminds me of someone else I know from the US. Every personality is different enough that I can’t think of anyone to compare them to, and I don’t want to try.
People are remarkable.

I’ve never been able to wait for the future, and now is no exception. I’m excited to see the adventures ahead of me still in Finland, not to mention when I get back to the United States to attend college. I hope to travel the world someday, and while it might be an expensive dream, there’s no other way I’d like to spend my time. I want to capture the world in my memories, the people, the languages, the lifestyles. I want to influence people in person, not by word of mouth or anything like that.

This past half year has proved to be amazing and I hope that my adventures get bigger during the second half of my exchange.

I think the most important thing I’ve learned so far is that home can be anywhere you make it, and as long as you are willing to talk to anyone, you will always have friends. I know that when I mess up there will always be someone there for me to talk to, whether I’ve known them for years of I just met them on the street.

So, maybe I’ll leave this as a challenge for those of you who aren’t on exchange.
Talk to someone new, maybe it’s someone you see every day but have never talked to, or maybe it’s someone you see at a coffee shop. Make a friend in an unlikely place, you’ll never know where you’ll end up.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Great Comeback

Isn't it great how I keep this blog updated?

Quite a bit has happened since I last wrote here... (which is understandable because that was almost two months ago... oops) so prepare for a long blog. I've been Mushroom picking, I stayed with a few other families, hung out with Finnish friends, went to my first ice hockey game, learned a little Finnish, made a speech in front of all of the 1st and 2nd years at my school, painted a little, and baked the perfect chocolate chip cookies.
Okay, I can slow down a bit.

Before I talk about the language, let me give you a little perspective as to what I am learning. I was going to watch a movie and this was the menu that came up. Yes, the third one is Finnish. (the second one is Swedish)

I think Finnish is coming easier now. It's getting easier for me to understand things when they're directed at me and spoken slowly... sometimes I assume based on context though. I hear someone saying 'Finnish' in their question and I can assume they're asking if studying the language is going well... I usually answer with 'no'. Of course, I never really understand conversations, unless they're about colors or nationalities (and when I do understand I smile like and idiot and think 'YES I UNDERSTOOD THAT!'). Sometimes I understand what someone says after mentally translating it, but by the time I've done that the conversation has moved on and I missed what the response was.
And just in case any Finns are reading this, yes, I do know when you're talking about me. I don't know what you're saying but I know when you're talking about me.
Being an exchange student is definitely an adventure in language (and probably the only time you are encouraged to 'give in to peer pressure').

Things seem to be getting into a 'normal' routine now. I don't hang out with friends nearly as much as I did in the US, which gets me the most. I used to do something almost every day after school, and now I'm not doing much even on the weekends with friends. Most other daily things seem to have become relatively normal though. At least, until something is happening and no one is explaining it to me. Then I remember that I am the exchange student and I don't get to know what's going on.

It's picture time!

This is my house. 

This is an anthill - it's huge!

My first mushroom picking harvest!

My school

My first Reindeer sighting! (okay, we were at a farm) There have been no sightings of moose, but there will be soon.

Our second mushroom picking adventure!

... and the harvest!

Elisha and I went to Tampere to see Petteri (an exchange student from Finland to Northfield last year)
... of course we didn't think to get a picture of the three of us, so here's Petteri and I.

Cooked dinner for my family, dad's mashed potatoes and pork.

A not so pretty batch of cookies... but still quite delicious.

So, let's talk about ice hockey! Minä rakastan jääkiekko (I love ice hockey).
I went to my first game last week, TPS vs Blues, and it was wonderful. Men slamming other men against walls for a little black puck, screaming (and eventually drunk) Finns, brawls having to be broken up by referees, what a wonderful sport. I'm being completely serious too. It's possibly the most fun I've had watching a sport. It's amazing how many times they can hit each other without falling.
I've learned a total of one Hockey player's name, Mikko Koivu, who is one of the Finns who plays for the Minnesota Wild. For some reason everyone here knows him. Maybe he's the best player.
I want to learn all of the Finnish terms about hockey so I can expand my conversation topics and have 3 things I can talk about instead of two.

So, I think this blog is long enough, but to prove I made the perfect cookies I will leave you with a picture (and also because cookies are the best way to end anything)

See you soon (hopefully)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Fog.

Before I begin this post, I'd like to share a series of comics I drew a couple of days ago that basically sum up the extent of my communication attempts with the people here.

But as far as good news goes, I have plenty. 
For the first time I feel like I could actually say I speak a little Finnish. Before I felt like I didn't really know how to respond to most things, but now I can sometimes understand questions and answers. Sure, I'm far from having conversations beyond "Mita kuuluu" (how are you), but mostly I feel like I'm getting the hang of the sentence structure and verb conjugation. It's down to more of a memorization thing. (or maybe I've just gotten the hang of the tip of the iceberg, and there's a secret life to Finnish that I don't know about) 

Yesterday there was a welcome party for the exchange students in my district, it was very fun. I got to meet with people I haven't seen since Karkku. It was nice hearing about their experiences in school and with their families. It was also nice hearing people speak American English, and being able to joke around and be understood. 
Here's a picture of the place we were:
It was in an Archipelago of Turku, on a beach in Ruissalo.

Now to tell you a bit about my daily life, every morning when I wake up there's a mysterious feel that looms over the area that I like to call:
Those two photographs are out my bedroom window, only about an hour of time in between them.
Every morning I bravely face the fog, and fortunately nothing terrible has happened yet. 

I apologize for the relatively short entry, but with thoughts of Moose to be seen and the many adventures to be had, I'd like to leave you with a piece of advice from Jim Morrison. 
"The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can't be any large-scale revolution until there's a personal revolution, on an individual level. It's got to happen inside first." 
 Start a revolution, Northfield. I'll see you in 9 months, but you'll hear from me again soon.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Getting in Tune

As of this Wednesday, I've been in Finland for a month. It's kind of funny to think, it feels like it's been so much longer. I still don't really miss anyone from the United States, I mostly miss not being able to talk as much as I usually would. It's always awkward starting a conversation in English because I know everyone would much rather speak in Finnish. It doesn't help that I keep forgetting English words...

Despite that, I've made quite a few friends here. I don't think I can spell any of their names properly, that is if I remember their names, but it's nice having people to talk to (or, people to listen to talking in Finnish). While most of them have been girls, I'm not really complaining. It was nice, in my P.E. class I was sitting out, watching the others play Pesäpallo (Finnish Baseball) there would always be someone who would come over and ask if I could understand what was going on, and we'd talk for a bit.

Pesäpallo, by the way, is much more interesting than Baseball. Not that I ever really liked Baseball anyway, but just look it up on youtube, you'll see what I mean (or maybe you'll try and revoke my US citizenship).

I got my first package from my mom this week, she sent me a US flag, which I proceeded to use as a blanket. I'll admit, it made me feel a bit like Evel Knievel or something, but I'm just not sure where else to put it after reading that I'm supposed to burn it if it touches the ground. It's kind of funny though, I went to Turku with Aiti and Kaisa (My host mom and sister) and there were US flags on good amount of the clothes. I couldn't help but laugh, it's like in the USA when you see something with Paris or London, I bet people from those places see that and wonder why anyone would buy that if they hadn't been there.

Here are some pictures of my room, just as I promised.
My bed, complete with my flag.

I have my own TV and sound system... and look at all of those CDs and records.

This is where I am now. There's Lucky, the stuffed travel-monkey.

This is the poster on my new door. It's wonderful.

So, I'll leave you with that. I need to mentally prepare myself for not only my first train ride tomorrow, but one that will be completely in Finnish. Well, at least I get to hear people speaking normal American English afterward, which I'm not so sure I can do anymore considering the amount of "Finglish" I've been hearing.
Moi moi!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Kuinka Kaunista Täällä On

It's been a crazy couple of weeks.

I arrived in Helsinki on the morning of the 7th, and I didn't sleep the entire plane ride.

After 3 more hours of sleepless travel, I arrived at camp Karkku where I spent the next week.
I met so many people from around the world, and it was so much fun.

I've been with my host family for a week now and it's been great. It already feels like home here.
I've also been to a week of school, so I guess I'll highlight the differences I've noticed so far.

They don't use normal lined paper in notebooks, it's always graph paper. Many people (including myself) are using notebooks about half the size of a normal notebook as well. Textbooks are always bought by the students, and they're much smaller than American ones (but that's not very surprising considering the size of some of our textbooks...)
The schedule is different every day, and some classes last two hours on certain days. I also have a "free period" where I can basically do whatever I want until my next class. Unlike study halls in American school, you can leave and come back, or just chill in the commons area.
There are also no bells. The teacher tells you when class is over, and there's 15 minutes between classes.

People here are a lot more quiet, especially strangers. I've introduced myself to a few people and they didn't seem too interested in smalltalk. The hallways aren't half as loud as the ones at NHS. This is one thing I'll have to get used to, I've stood with a group of people in complete silence, it was pretty awkward. I would start conversation but it's almost worse talking in English with people because they don't want to say much. Everyone tells me they're bad at English. Most people are actually very good at English, or at least I can understand them (I'm not sure what that says anymore because it feels like it's been years since I've had a conversation with a native English speaker.)

There is no set fashion in Finland. I've seen more different hairstyles here than what probably exists in all of Minnesota, and the mullet seems to be a fairly popular one. Most styles are modernized versions of various past decades, I can guess what people listen to just from what they are wearing.
... which brings us to the subject of music. I have been proved wrong again that not everything dies with the decade. Just last night I was at a rock festival in my town and one of the bands that played... well, I think it's best if they speak for themselves.

Fulfilling my duty as an exchange student, I went with some friends to get their autographs after they played. 
Heavy Metal is also quite popular here, and rock in general. I have heard some American music as well, although it was popular about a month ago in the states.
... and there's Finnish rap. We don't talk about Finnish rap.

I think I should definitely get back to doing homework then studying Finnish. I'll update again soon with pictures of my bedroom and perhaps a report of the food.