Sunday, October 19, 2014

Finlandia: Time for Rest

So sorry this update is going to be late and short, but I honestly didn't really feel like blogging this week haha.

The first period is now over which means I have completed two exams and now how a week off. Well, except for the class I have on Wednesday, but that's neither here nor there. I don't really have any huge plans for my time off other than seeing a hockey game and cooking with my friends, but it's nice, I like having time to relax.

I'm hoping I can hang out with some of my Finnish friends in my free time, and just generally get some relaxing in. I also need to work on my revisions for my senior thesis, but come on, lets be real, I would really prefer to get some sleep than do that.

Anyways, again, sorry for the short update but I promise I'll make the next one longer!

Moi moi~!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Finlandia: The Helsinki Adventure

So let me tell you a little something...

Going to visit a new place can be a heck of a lot of fun when you have a guide who's actually from there, and trust me, that fact made this Helsinki trip one million times better. Don't get me wrong, Helsinki is interesting and pretty, but I dunno, I don't think it's a place that I'd be all that interested in visiting by myself.

Anyways, seriously, today was absolutely amazing, the rest of my week doesn't matter at all comparatively. I rode my first train since forever and it was quite enjoyable. I went to my friend's parent's house which is absolutely gorgeous let me tell you, like seriously, I want to decorate like them if at all possible haha, and we did a lot of walking, I mean A LOT OF WALKING! Even the people who were used to walking around a lot were super tired by the end of it all, and my running on around four or so hours of sleep didn't help me I guess.

One of the greatest stories of the trip? Probably having a security guard approach me when I took a picture of a gate because it was beautifully ornate. He thought I took a picture of the security booth, I hadn't even noticed there was a security booth honestly, and so asked me what it was I was doing and why I was doing it. I explained about the gate and showed him the picture I took as well as my other pictures just to prove I wasn't causing any trouble and he kinda slinked off back to his little hidey hole. He was just doing his job so it's not like I got mad, but we all definitely thought it was funny.

Let me tell you something, Finland is EXPENSIVE! Like, outrageously expensive. I know I've covered it before, but it was just another reminder when we went to the big department store Stockman because they were having a 'sale'. I don't know if they know what sale means though, or if we're just used to things being relatively inexpensive in the US, because jeez louise it was all expensive! I wanted to get my best friend a scarf, and they were all between 20-50 Euros! FOR A SCARF? No, absolutely not! That scarf better be made out of spun gold or something, because no one in their right mind should ever pay that much for a scarf.

Helsinki's a nice place to visit, but it's really a place you gotta have a plan in. We went with no real idea of what we wanted to do, and it made the trip a little lackluster. Don't get me wrong, I rarely ever plan a trip because I like the adventure, but Helsinki just doesn't have as much stuff to just randomly do as other big cities. For instance, we went to a free art gallery and it was gorgeous, but there were literally only three rooms of art, and none of the rooms had over fifteen or so paintings. 

So, apart from Helsinki my life's been pretty good here. I've got one more exam for this period on friday and it's over Finnish. I'm a little worried since if I fail the exam I completely fail the class, but there's also a makeup exam, so there's always that option. Fingers crossed I don't need it though.

I'm picking up my overalls on Monday by the way, just saying ;) Expect a big long happy post about that in the near future!

Moi Moi~!
Bri K.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Finlandia: A Culinary Adventure?

So it's a little later than I would usually post, but I swear I'm still here and I'm still alive haha.

I went to the sauna for the first time earlier in the week, and wow.... it was something else. I didn't do the naked thing, I hate nakedness, and luckily this sauna was a bathing suit sauna so no one else was naked either haha. Either way, it was quite the experience. You have to take a quick shower first, and as soon as you're in the sauna you're sweating. Think that your tough? Sit on the top bench first then. All the steam is stuck at the top and you'll suffocate if your not careful. More importantly though, DO NOT BREATH ON OTHER PEOPLE IN THE SAUNA! Seriously, you think you're hot, but any puff of air from anyone will feel like dragon fire. I learned that the hard way when a friend sighed very hard right on to me and I thought I was going to start burning haha. I mean, okay, it wasn't that bad, but come on ;)

Anyways, so you must be wondering why the title 'culinary adventure'? Well, I'm sure you've caught on already, but I've cook a lot of food while I've been here. More importantly though, and a lot more interesting, a lot of other people have cooked food from their home countries as well! Homemade pizza, a Brazilian chicken pie, a Scottish fish pie, the list just goes on and on. We're having a Finnish dinner next week and I'm super excited since there's not anything that is just... quintessentially Finnish food wise. I mean, I can have reindeer, but it's really really expensive, and there's a type of pastry with rice pudding I could have, but other than that a lot of foods are just... I don't know how to say it, neutral? I'll go with neutral. Think of it like asking an American (US citizen, I'm not having the whole America's fight right now, I don't feel like it), "What's the one quintessential American food?" Anyone from America knows that there isn't just one. People say 'hamburger', but hamburgers aren't from America, they're from Germany.

I'm babbling though, anyways, I thin what I'm happiest about right now is the simple fact that I've had the opportunity to cook, and no matter what I cook someone likes it. I'm used to having to cook and worrying that no one but my best friend will actually eat it because it's too exotic or something like that. I haven't gotten fish yet here, but now that I think of it I need to get some of that.

It's almost the end of the first period which means soon I will be changing classes! Thank goodness, because most of these classes are beyond boring. I dunno, it's not just because I'm in Finland, I think it's a combination of Senioritis and the fact that I've been really interested in some very specific subjects lately and my hyper focus makes it hard for me to care about other subjects as well haha.

I miss being home sometimes, I mean, not achingly so or anything, but sometimes I just want to be back at MC so I can do things. I want to go out to eat with my bestie, cook dinner for my Mum, go to homecoming, those things ya know? I'm fine here though, and there are a bunch of perks to being here instead of home so I'll keep going on. I only have 77 days left in Finland before I go to Germany for Christmas and New Years, and I plan to make the best of it. Helsinki this weekend for example, and I need to see about going up to Lapland ;)

Talk to ya next week, Moi moi~!

Brieana K.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

This is intimidating.

This is intimidating.

I’ve been here nearly three weeks now. It seems a lot longer than that, already. I’m so happy and just obscenely grateful to be here, I still can’t believe it. Honestly, it’s still hard a lot of the time, though. I feel really out of my element here. That’s not to say I’m unhappy, but I’ve come to realize that I am very comfortable with myself within a certain context.

Over the past couple years, I’ve really grown as a person and become a lot more confident in myself and comfortable with who I am. That was such a long journey for me to get to that point of being really happy with who I am and where I’m going. Because I had reached that point, I wanted to keep pushing myself, becoming better and stepping even further out of my comfort zone… that’s why I wanted to study abroad.

I’m definitely out of my comfort zone here; I’m unsure of how just about everything works, and that’s a very difficult realization to come to. I keep alternating between exhilaration, panic, excitement, and exhaustion. I love that I’m getting this experience to push myself and learn, and it’s also pretty freaking intimidating. I cycle through these emotions constantly, I can tell you I feel all of them even within a bus ride, every day. This is a big change; it’s a big step, bigger than I thought it would be. This is a really amazing place with really amazing people, it’s just not my place and my people yet. Yet.

I can come out of this as such a bigger person, with more experience, more knowledge of the world and its people, and a new perspective on all of that. I’m feeling like a fish out of water, but I look at these five months with optimism, and I know I’ll look back at them with gratitude.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Finlandia: Just another week

I've got my own little routine in Tampere and it's quite nice.

Wake up
Go to the school and eat lunch (optional)
Wander around town
Go to Lidl (grocery store)
Return home
Relax (Can be switched with cooking)
Eat dinner
Socialize in the kitchen sitting room
Go to room and relax
Talk to best friend

Of course that's my week routine and it's different on the weekends and it might change a little during the week, but that's my basic life and it's kind of nice really. I miss my bestie of course, but considering I talk to her like, every day, it's practically like we're hanging out like usual anyways.

I've met a few people who share some of the same obscure hobbies as me and it's wonderful! I've already learned so much and they've all just been so friendly, welcoming, and more than willing to help with anything that I might have trouble with.

Which reminds me, I need to talk to my one friend about organizing a trip to Lapland and Helsinki. As soon as I get my bank account I can afford to go and I'm so excited :)

Anyways, classes are kind of boring really, and my Finnish course is going well. This week's a short update but whatever haha.

Moi moi~!
Brieana K.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Finlandia: Finnish People Are....

So in these weeks news, let's focus on the Finnish people!

Firstly though, I have to mention something about Finnish people in relation to my learning. To put it bluntly there aren't a lot of Finns in any of my classes. You'll find one or two maybe, but nine times out of ten the student next to you is just as foreign as you are. On one hand that's nice, you already have something in common, but on the other hand, I came here to have classes with Finnish people, and I'm kind of missing out on that.

Which leads me to the real point: Finnish People Are...

1. Shy! Of course not all Finns are shy, you can't generalize a whole culture, but even Finns will jokingly admit to this fact.

2. Really interested in talking to you, but they won't. Unlike back in the South, people here live by the rules, "Keep your nose out of other people's business". I can't even explain how many times I've been talking at a shared lunch table with someone and looked up to see a Finnish person practically bursting at the seams to join in on the conversation. So what do I do? Of course I include them in. After the quick look of shock that undoubtably will pass their face, they'll happily join in and you'll have a lovely conversation.

3. Always willing to help! Even if they can't speak English very well and you can speak little to no Finnish, they won't give up on you. They don't raise their voices either which is something a lot of people could really take notes on. My two prime examples are when I went to Ikea and I asked the cashier a question and she did everything in her power to mime and use her little English to explain to me what I needed to do, and the sweet boy at my University who walked me through the whole building to show me where my classroom was even though he wasn't 100% sure where it was either.

4. Hilarious~! Once you make a Finnish friend you'll completely understand this. Maybe it's just the friends I've made, but I've not met a Finn yet who wasn't completely hilarious. Sometimes jokes get lost in translation, but when you find them again, man, it's hilarious.

5. Clean. Do you wear your shoes in the house? I do! However, the Finns do not. I notice though that a lot of places outside of the US do this. Honestly, I think it's a great thing to do. Sure, it can lead to clutter around the front door if you don't set up a good shoe rack, but it keeps so much dirt and debris from the rest of your house.

6. Recylcers, but not in the way you think... Finnish people do recycle, and there are containers for biowaste and regular waste all around the school, but what is taken most seriously is plastic bottles. The thing is though, a strange thing happens with these plastic bottles. Too lazy to take it to the store and get your money back? Just throw it in the street! No joke, that bottle won't even be on the ground for more than a minute before someone (usually homeless) will come by with a bag filled with other bottles to pick it up. I've even seen people with little sticks so they can reach into garbage cans and pull out these cans and bottles. You usually get like 0.20€ for them, but money is money, and at least it helps with recycling.

And Lastly....

Finnish people are friendly! I'm sure you've gathered that from everything I said already, but seriously, once you make a Finnish friend you always have someone to do something with. So far I've gone to an American diner, played table top games, had dinner, and just relaxed with my Finnish friends either at their own houses or out in public and it's wonderful. Sure I still mostly hang out with International students, but that's simply because we have more time to waste. When my Finnish friends have extra time though, they always invite me to come hang out with them. It's wonderful, and it makes me feel so much better about my decision to come here.

Anyways, at the end of another long post I just have to say that I do enjoy it here, and though I've had some awkward run ins and some pitfalls, I look forward to every day I wake up in my dormitory in Tampere.

Moi moi~! Until next time!

Brieana K.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Here I am, living the dream

Thursday, September 11

I landed in Belfast International Airport on Tuesday, September 9th at 9:30 AM. It is now 2:43 AM on Friday, September 12th. 

To describe my experience of a few days in a few words, it has been terribly unorganized, incredibly overwhelming, mentally exhausting, and the most excitement I’ve ever experienced in such a short time. There are seventy international students in the program here at Jordanstown, and I am desperately trying to get to know everyone. It’s been two days. My most desperate problem is how much I want to know, explore, and learn about everyone and everything. It’s my own greed for knowledge and experience that has made me feel so greatly overwhelmed for the past few days. I want to be friends with everyone, so I just keep talking to different people every time I see someone new. My brain has been simply overloaded with information. I’ve been alternately extremely excited and drained trying to learn names, places, language, and everything else.

Starting tonight though, I’m finally feeling a sense of belonging. Twenty of us took a train into Belfast and walked for two hours, exploring the streets. We bar hopped and ate at the Alley Cat, my new favorite pub in the city, drank beers, and talked about everything except which subject area we were studying. I felt like I was among friends.  We came back to campus late in a cab, and met up with another group in the Courtyard playing games, and we hung out with them for hours after that. It felt to me finally like a community. We all sat and talked and laughed and shared, and I felt, among all these people from every other country, that I was beginning to be at home.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Finlandia: The First Real Week

Wowie zowie this first week has been.... Hectic to say the least.

Due to a schedule misunderstanding twice, I missed one class on Monday, and had to change a class because I found out a class I really needed met at the same time as another one. Talk about annoying. There's nothing worse than sitting in an hour and a half class and only thinking about all the stuff that you have to go and do. I'm the kind of person who has to do stuff immediately, so when I'm forced to stay in one spot I get really antsy and I can't pay attention. It's one of the downsides to hyper-focusing, and though it can help to finish projects, it can also be a hinderance.

All the classes are fixed now though, and I officially don't have classes on Friday which is perfect considering the fact that every party that seems to go on in Tampere happens on a Thursday. I'm not big on heavy drinking and partying at clubs, but when I do want to indulge I don't want to worry about going to class the next day. It's not fair to the professor and other students when you come in to class hungover.

So if you're a friend of mine on Facebook you've already seen this picture, but I wanted to add it in here because it helps to explain something super important about Finland. We live near the water, it only takes me like, two or three minutes to walk down to the lake, and this is totally an outdoorsy town. People like walking around the lake, running, biking, hunting for mushrooms, all those kinds of things. Why is this important? Well, it's because I'm about to draw a huge parallel! Tampere, in a sense, is a lot like Maryville, just a lot bigger. Sure they've got public transport here and sidewalks, but Tampere feels like a really big and really spread out Maryville. 

It's nice in a way, I mean, I know I'm safe and that I can get help with anything if I need it, but it's also not exactly what I wanted when I signed up for this. I get antsy back in Maryville, I want to do things, I want to go out and go to museums and plays and everything. There's a Moomin museum, and a few other museums and theaters (I actually went to the Moomi museum and a dress rehearsal of Evita thanks to my Finnish friends), but I don't know, it's still not big enough for me, not busy enough. Maybe it's the culture shock talking, but on the other hand I know I've felt content in other foreign places. Limerick was pretty small (though I still adored it), but I remembered really liking Dublin, and of course I adore London. I also really liked Salzburg though. I don't know, I'm not going to think about it too much. I do love it here, it's very peaceful, but maybe it just feels too familiar to me. 

The good thing though, is I've made quite a few new friends here, and you can never feel lonely or bored or anything while they're around. Here's a picture from last night when we had a bonfire and tried to see the northern lights. The bonfire went out quickly (the students who set it up really don't know how to make a fire but I didn't want to be that person), and we didn't see the northern lights, we we still had an amazing time and it was totally worth it all. I keep forgetting to buy marshmallows so me and the other American students can teach everyone how to make smores. I'll remember one of these days though. There's a really weird brand here that is the most patriotic thing I've ever seen, but it's cheap American stuff, so it's kind of nice. I can show my new friends some of our 'weird' and tasty traditions and it barely costs me 5€!

Which reminds me, so far these are the things I've looked for and either I could not find, or they are not like what we have back home: BBQ chips, Mountain Dew, Fritos, Chex Mix: Muddy Buddies, McDonald's chicken nuggets, Mcdonald's spicy mustard.

I've added the two McDonald's things and I just wanted to point out that no, I did not pick to go to McDonald's, one of my Scottish friends did, but you never say no to fast food after a night partying and knowing you have to walk home haha ;)

Which brings me to the food category of my life here. Wow, WOW! I might have mentioned it before, but it's outrageously expensive to eat out at most places here. Like, we think it's a little pricey to do a 2 for $20 deal or my favorite 2 for $35 deal at Chili's (you get 2 margaritas, an appetizer, and entree, and a dessert ;) ), but that's nothing compared to the prices here. The pricey food has lead me to eat at home or in the cafeteria since it's only €2.60 which means I'm eating a lot better than I usually do. A banana or a croissant for breakfast, lunch in the cafeteria which automatically comes with a salad and bread as well as your entree, and either I cook or one of my friends does in the evening. It's actually funny, I barely eat processed food here. Like, I had a frozen panang curry dinner and it was pretty good, but like, a week or so later I had frozen fish fingers and frozen french fries just as something cheap and filling and I couldn't really eat it. I enjoy some chips every now and then, and I just had my first Mountain Dew in Finland today, but it's definitely not an everyday thing, and I really like that. It's reasonably priced to eat healthy meals here, and I love experimenting with cooking. When it comes down to it, Finland, or at least Tampere, is a healthy eaters paradise haha!

Wow, I had no idea how long I'd babbled on for, I guess I'll leave you all until next week. Should probably start studying for my first Finnish vocal quiz anyways.

Moi Moi~!
Brieana K

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Finlandia: A slow start

First week passed with no problems~!

Curiously enough though, as I was going through my morning routine I noticed something crazy, I'M ABOUT TO START MY THIRD WEEK HERE! Time is already going by so incredibly quickly. I feel like I just got here less than a week ago and it's already been three weeks. I haven't done a lot, which is kind of a problem.

I really really really need to start working on my thesis again, but I just don't have any motivation to look up all the sources. I think what I might do is just write (since I know exactly what I want to say and I already know the information that I'm going to put into it), and then go back and change everything so I can add in sources. That might be better. I can write pretty quickly when it's all coming straight out of my head, but if I have to worry about sources and other things it really slows me down and keeps me unmotivated. Plus, if I finish up my thesis I can finally get back to writing my short stories!

Anyways, my first week of classes was more like a tester week. I only had one class on Wednesday and then Friday so it was a super easy week. The course is survival Finnish, and though I do like it, I find the teacher a little hard to understand. He's very nice, but he has a super thick accent and does what seems to be a very common Finnish thing where he just starts and stops talking at random intervals. I say it seems to be common because I hear Finns doing it in their own language too, so I know it's not just when they speak English.

Next week starting Tuesday is my real first week of school. I have one class on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and two classes on Wednesday. Not so bad at all! I also finally get to open my Finnish bank account on Wednesday, so that means I'll finally start getting money from ISEP on the 30th, and I can pay in Euros online for fun things like hockey tickets and plane tickets ;)

Which reminds me, I might be going to Poland during my period brake in October to see Auschwitz and a few other major historical places so that's exciting! I'll get back to you on that though.

Talk to you guys later, Moi Moi~!

Brieana K.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Finlandia: The Training Wheels Come Off

This whole week has been orientation, and let me tell you, it's been hard to sit through.

Orientation at a new school is incredibly important, and I believe that it can be chock full of extremely important information, but I also think there is such a thing as too much information. We're all adults after all, and some things should just be common knowledge to us. Take for instance the constant reminder to clean up after yourself if you use the kitchen. We got it the first time, no reason to repeat it 80 more times, and moreover, if you need to be told to clean up your own mess there's a problem.

That's beyond the point though! I really love it here in Finland even if I don't always know where I'm going haha. My sense of direction here is okay, but due to the length of the names of certain places I tend to forget the names which makes it hard to find them when people want to go there as a meeting point. Luckily I've got great friends who are practically like homing pigeons and they always make me feel safe if we end up having to walk home because we've been out too late.

Speaking of friends, today was a beautiful example as to why you should make local friends!

Firstly, when I went to go to my overall fitting (I'll talk about the overalls in more depth when I actually get them, until then live in suspense), I found the directions given to me extremely vague and unhelpful. If it wasn't for my friend I would have stood outside that office with no idea what to do. I can't wait for my survival Finnish course so I don't always have to ask for her help.

Secondly, I was invited to see a dress rehearsal of a professional production of "Evita", like I'm talking about I got in free to a show that has ticket prices starting at 28€! So, of course the whole thing was in Finnish so I didn't understand everything, but it was still a great production and I picked a lot up from context clues and from my friends.

This week has been really great all the same and I'm going to the flea market and the fresh market tomorrow so I'm going to have a lot of fun.

Moi Moi~! I'll talk to you later.

Brieana K.