Sunday, December 14, 2014

Finlandia: One More Week

So I've been holding off on writing this because I don't know what to say. I'm in that horrible limbo between leaving and still being here that is both awkward and extremely stressful. This time next Monday I'll be off to Germany to hang out with my friend and his family for two weeks. It just doesn't seem real honestly.

I haven't even begun packing...

Welp, just gotta make the best out of this last week really. I can't believe that it's finally here.

Moi moi~!
Brieana K.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Finlandia: Winding Down

Hey there avid readers~!

So I'm at the two week stretch and it's kind of crazy to think that it's almost time to go. It only feels like maybe a month at most has past since I got here, and it's been nearly four. My European adventure doesn't end hear of course, I still have two weeks in Germany with a friend, but it's hard to think that soon I'll no longer be in Europe.

I've made some pretty fantastic friends here, and I'm really going to miss them. Not just the people who live in Finland, but my new friends that live all over the place. It won't be the same not going into the common room to cook dinner and speak really bad Spanish or make Italian jokes and all that other stuff.

On the other hand going home means doing a lot of stuff I want and need to do. I need to print off my thesis for example and pay my car off, I also just want to see all my friends and family again. It'll be weird coming home, but I know I'll be just fine.

Anyways, update next week on how I'm going. I've got one paper to finish before Thursday and then I'm free to be completely irresponsible haha. Promise I won't get into trouble ;)

Moi moi~!
Brieana K.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Finlandia: Thanksgiving

Hey there folks, look at me writing this blog post on time for once. Aren't I just a fantastic blogger? Very responsible, totally not an insomniac who is avoiding the fact that they could be doing something productive during their time of inability to sleep, nope, no way that's me.

Anyways, today we all celebrated Thanksgiving, and man was it a ride! Yeah, I know we celebrated a day later than we should've, but we had a birthday on Thursday, and it's not really about the day anyways so whatever.

I dunno, overall I think the event was a pretty big success. Sure I was a little stressed during the whole preparation stage, but isn't that just part of the experience. It was interesting seeing all the different roles of Thanksgiving being filled by my friends here. I kind of played the Mum, or maybe the Grandma. I made the ham and then kind of helped out when everyone else was cooking. I also ran around like an idiot making sure no one was eating yet and that nothing was going too terribly wrong. One of my other friends fit the role perfectly of kitchen support, you know, that person who helps hold a conversation while you're cooking and helps you relax. Then we had the loud and the boisterous, the drinking before dinner, and the super surprised. There was no television which meant no sports, but there was a computer so someone could fulfill the role of showing old (from the beginning of our stay) pictures of all of us and how we've changed while being here.

The whole thing was nice though, like, I don't even really know how to explain it. I made sure no one ate until everything was served, and then I made everyone sit down to listen to a speech. Nothing fancy, just simple. I told everyone to look at the person sitting next to them, I told them to see who all was in the room, all these people are our friends. We're all different, we're all interesting, and we were all there. I told them Thanksgiving wasn't about eating or about the Pilgrims or about anything like that! Thanksgiving is about friendship and family, that's it. I think that might have touched a few people, and I really hope it did.

I was one of only three people who had experienced Thanksgiving before, and it was amazing seeing and hearing what everyone thought about the whole affair. I might not have fallen in love with Finland, but I sure did make a new family. If that wasn't worth the trip, I don't know what is.

Gobble gobble everyone~!

Moi moi <3

Brieana K

Monday, November 24, 2014

Finlandia: The Lapland Adventure

So so so~!

Howdy faithful readers, I'm late as per usual, it seems I'm on a trend. Don't get me wrong, I love writing, but with so much going on I dunno, I guess I just don't think of writing updates here. Anyways, this week I made a special trip up to Rovaniemi in Lapland, and the Arctic Circle where I went to Santa's Village and saw the opening ceremony. That's right, it's officially Christmas time in Finland and Thanksgiving hasn't even passed yet haha.

I had a lot of fun while I was up there, and I don't even know where to begin on describing it. The way the frost sticks to the trees is magical, and though I wasn't able to get any pictures of it, the frozen lakes and rivers are incredible. Geez, also, the baying of the huskies was amazing! There were husky excursions going on and the dogs were so excited you could hear them all around Santa's Village.

I got a really cool hat actually up at the Village, and my mother would be so proud about all the work that went into getting it. Originally I found it in the main Santa's Village shop for 25€ and my heart sank. There was no way I was paying that much for a hat even if it was cute and said Finland on it. I just could not find a reason to buy the hat since I've already got my beanie and it's plenty warm enough. So I left the little shop and went to check out what the other shops had to get Christmas presents for my friends and family. Imagine my surprise when I see the hat again but this time for 18.20€! Well, seeing the change in price got me thinking, if a shop in the same village has the exact same hat for cheaper, maybe I can find it for EVEN CHEAPER! So of course I went on a hunt finding things I thought would make nice presents until I found it, the holy grail of savings~! Well, okay, let's be real, it's not the holy grail of savings and I could've totally lived without this hat, but I did eventually find it for 15€~! So now I am the proud owner of a Finland hat and it is super cute and I'm very pleased. I guess I finally have a Finnish souvenir that isn't my overalls haha.

So lets talk about the weather. It wasn't snowing sadly, but it was -9°C which is a comfortable 15.8°F! Good thing I brought my heavy coat and my Irish wool sweater because it was pretty chilly haha. I was warm the whole time I was up there, I even got a little hot in all those layers at one point, but more importantly I had no idea how tired being out in the cold could make you. I spent around six hours at Santa's Village, and sure part of my tiredness was from the train ride, but all I know is when I got back to the hotel at around 7pm I was absolutely down for the count! Not going to lie, I got online for a little bit but then called it an extremely early night. 

Overall I had a really nice time, but unfortunately I didn't get to see the Northern Lights. It was simply too overcast and cloudy outside which meant there was no point even going out and trying to see them. I got back home to Lapinkaari safe and sound though, and now I just have to keep my fingers crossed that I can see the northern lights while I'm here.

We're celebrating Thanksgiving on Friday, so hopefully I'll have an interesting update for you on Saturday. Take care everyone~!

Moi Moi,
Brieana K.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Finlandia: The First to Go

Whelp, I don't really have much to say about this last week, but I can say that we had our first departure from my close group of friends today. It's crazy to think that some of my friends are already going home, but it's even crazier to think that it's just the beginning. If it's not her it's someone else. As much as I'm ready to move on to the next leg of my journey, I'm not really ready to leave my new friends behind. For now, thankfully, I don't have to think to much about it, but soon I will. Hard to believe I've only got five weeks left, talk about absolutely crazy.

Until next time!

Moi Moi~!
Brieana K

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Finlandia: Winter Wonderland and Waffle Cafés

What a week it's been! 

Everything was going well, I had classes, and then BAM! It started snowing! I can't even put into words how excited we all were. It's absolutely beautiful, and it was a real treat. Of course, now the snow is starting to melt away, but that doesn't take away from the fact that is definitely came. IT really makes me hopeful that I'll have a white Christmas this year. I mean yeah, I'll be in Germany for Christmas, but that doesn't take away from the excitement.

Even more exciting however, is the fact that I went to a waffle cafe with my friends. Of course, the picture above isn't the waffle I had, but it's a toned down version of the one that I got. The waffle cafe here doesn't scrimp on toppings, and my waffle was piled high with whipped cream and chocolate. Talk about a treat! Next time I think I'm going to try the taco waffle actually. How could a waffle with taco stuff not be interesting after all?

Anyways, sorry this is a short update, but I'm sure you'll forgive me. Until next time!

Moi moi~!
Brieana K

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Finlandia: Culinary Adventure Part II

So so so...

What've I been up to this week you ask? Honestly, nothing much! New classes means new teachers, and mine are definitely pretty interesting. This celebrity politics class is going to probably be my favorite, but that's only if I can finally get a dig back at the professor. Call me out all you want if I'm actually doing something wrong, but don't call me out just because I'm American and you for some reason are a stereotypical Brit who doesn't like Americans or the French.

"Americans don't even speak English, they speak American", "Americans are notorious for not learning another language so here try to translate this", I don't need your crap sir. I grew up with a mix of the Queens English and 'American' English thank you very much. I've studied multiple languages and it's mandatory to take at least two classes of a foreign language in most schools. Don't be that guy sir. The only person you're really embarrassing is yourself.

Anyways, moving past him, I am having more and more culinary adventures! I learned how to make caramel sauce since Halloween just passed, and that lead to caramel fudge, which lead to fettucini alfredo. No homemade noodles sadly, but definitely a homemade sauce. Let me tell you something, you haven't lived until you've had homemade alfredo sauce. I will never eat the jar stuff ever again. I swear that to you right now. I've got a big pot of it sitting in the fridge just waiting for me to eat it tomorrow and I am so pleased.

I should start food blogging or something with how much I cook. I usually make at least one meal a day, and the meal is usually dinner, and I always feel really nice after finishing. It's great because I can share with all my friends and most the time they've never tried what I'm making. I have been dubbed the culinary queen, and for some reason I am extremely proud of that fact. Maybe it's because I'm used to frugal cooking, but I don't understand not being able to make yourself a great meal out of basic ingredients. I've had plenty of nights where all I have are potatoes, rice, carrots, and maybe a few other random things, and I've never been disappointed or hungry. I really want to do a fish dish, but fish is super expensive here strangely enough. Maybe sometime in the future.

Anyways, this Friday I'm going to the really popular waffle cafe with my friends, and I'm seriously looking forward to it. Catch ya guys later~!

Moi moi,
Brieana K

Monday, October 27, 2014

Finlandia: A Deep Look Into Me

So I'm late again this week, my apologies, but what I had to say for this blog took a lot of time to think through, and after writing a version of what I wanted to say on my personal blog, I decided I'd post a watered down* version here because even though I figured it wouldn't be important or no one would care, it doesn't matter. I care, and it's directly related to my growing experience here.

*I say watered down not because it's any less pertinent, but because I definitely use a bit more language in my personal blog, and because I took out a few extra things that would just muddle things up here.

Anyways, so, starting at the beginning.

I've never felt highly intelligent. That might sound like an odd thing coming from me, especially with how brash I seem to be, but it's the truth. I've always felt that I was not below average, but definitely barely average when it came to intelligence, and that everything that I was confident about knowing could be lumped into the category of, "useless trivia".

Being in Finland has taught me, however, that I'm a lot smarter than I ever let myself believe. As any student from the US knows, anytime you go to a foreign country you are automatically saddled with a plethora of stigmas: American's are fat, lazy, loud, and stupid. Ask anyone in the world, and those are the stereotypes you will probably hear. Of course, you'll also get nice ones like: helpful, friendly, creative, and others like that, but they'll rarely ever be the first thing that comes out of someone's mouth.

So how does my intelligence and Finland fit together you may ask? Well, since this is my blog and this is what this post is all about, of course I'll tell you, what point would there be if I didn't?

Finland hasn't so much taught me, as it has been a catalyst for me learning. I've given numerous crash courses on US history, politics, and geography, and I've been able to hold my own in explaining poverty, violence, racism, sustainable energy, and other topics. Not only that, but I've been able to speak about events outside of the United States, foreign affairs, the state of different countries affairs, and more 'blasé' things like art, culture, sexuality, and learning.

Being here has taught me that I'm not just a one trick pony. I'm a storyteller, always have been, but now I'm starting to see that the stories I'm telling aren't just my own, they're truth, they're history, they're opinions, and I've been able to teach and learn in turn. I'm not full of 'useless trivia', in actuality, the majority of the knowledge I know and have regurgitated to others has been not only extremely practical, but relatively important.

Now, I'm sure right now anyone from MC would say, "That's obviously your Maryville College education showing through," but I'd just like for you to take that comment and really think about what you're saying. Yes, the MC curriculum has allowed me to learn about some of these topics in depth, but there's no way you could ever possibly give the school the majority of the credit. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't get them to drink after all. Saying something like that also detracts from the empowerment I've felt through finding that hey, maybe I am actually kind of smart, maybe I can learn things even if I find it extremely difficult.

Anyways, what I'm trying to say is this:

Out of all the things Finland has taught me, the one lesson I am really going to take to heart is the simple fact that I need to listen to and praise myself more. As narcissistic as that sounds, it's true. I'm tired of living in a constant cycle of believing I'm not intelligent and that my intelligence or lack thereof is directly correlated to my worth.

Maybe it's a naive thing to say, maybe it's just optimistic thinking, but let me tell you something, I haven't felt better about myself in ages...

Until next week faithful readers.

Moi Moi~!
Brieana K.

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.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Finlandia: the Beginning of an Adventure

Brieana Kepley
University of Tampere, ISEP Program

Wow wow wow!

I mean seriously, what else can I say than wow?

Well, I mean of course I can say more than that, but it's all about finding the beginning I guess.  So, I'll start where anyone else would, departure:

To put it simply, the flight from TYS to Chicago O'Hare was nothing, very enjoyable, it wasn't until I got to Stockholm that all hell broke loose. I knew I had a 14hr layover, but you don't really know a 14hr layover until you've experienced it.

You get in to the airport tired and bleary, you have to go through customs and get your new flight ticket, you try to figure out the general direction your flight might be leaving from, and then you wander aimlessly finding a nice spot to either sit or lay down. Have to go to the bathroom? Don't forget to drag your 30lbs worth of luggage with you (not your under the plane luggage even) and god forbid you take your eyes off your luggage for even a second because the man over the intercom is constantly reminding you that there are thieves, thieves everywhere! Most importantly, make sure you know the currency for all the places you are stopping at!

I knew that Finland used the Euro, as many countries around here do, but I totally forgot that Sweden doesn't use the Euro, they use the Krona. Mind you, the Krona will make no sense to you at all if you are from the USA.

So, take for instance the idea that you have €15, about $20, (I'm using €15 because the wonderful woman at the currency exchange counter told me if you convert €15 or under you don't have to pay a fee) and you want to get some SEK, which are Swedish Krona. When I did that exact thing I got back 133 Krona. I still look at the little coins I have left over mystified! You know why? Because, even though I had 133 Krona, which sounds like an awful lot, a simple ham and cheese sandwich cost me 68 Krona! I'm not even surprised about the fact that that's a lot of money, it's an airport after all, what I'm surprised about is the fact that 133 Krona sounds like an awful lot, but it really isn't a lot at all when you look at the price of Swedish items.

Anyways, I took the short 45min flight from Stockholm to Tampere and was greeted by a teeny tiny little airport with no one there. I mean, maybe the departure gates are bigger or something, maybe it was because I arrived at night, maybe it was even because I was dead tired, but it looked even smaller than TYS!

I left for my hotel, and trust me, if you ever need a hotel in Scandinavia I totally suggest Omena hotels! It was a little pricey, €77.90 (really not that bad when you think of it), but you really got your money's worth. Two comfy beds pushed together with the ability to fold out two more beds, tea, coffee, a shower and bathroom to yourself, a television, and all the space! I mean seriously, it was so spacious! Don't expect a good view or anything of course, but who cares when it really comes down to it?

Anyways, that was all last night and today has been all about getting myself ready for the school year.  After forgetting to grab my passport and acceptance letter I rode the bus by myself back to my dorm before I picked up my kitchen starter kit (pan, cups, forks, knives, spoons, etc), got a few groceries (forgot an umbrella twice and still don't have one), a new 10meter internet cable (the internet cable connector box is practically on the ceiling on the other side of the room, who does that?!), and dealt with things like my student ID and Student Union fee.

Now as I lay here typing this I'm exhausted. It's only 8pm, but I've done so much and there is still so much to do. I met (actually stopped and talked to, not a passing glance or hello) the guy who lives across the hall from me and his friend who lives upstairs (they're both from Edinburgh, Scotland if you're curious), but unfortunately, as is often the case in my life, I've completely forgotten his name. I remember his friend's name is Michael since I have a friend by the same name who he reminds me of, but for the life of me I can't remember his name and I actually feel kind of bad about that. He's super sweet, and he helped me since I'm not tall enough, even when standing on a chair, to plug in my internet cord. He even invited me to come with him and his friend to the party tonight and a pre-party party he's going to. I was going to go, but when he knocked on my door I backed out. I am just too tired and I had to finish unpacking. Luckily he completely understood and told me he was actually pretty tired too, and if he hadn't already promised he'd show up to the pre-party party to a few people from the same country as him he wouldn't be going at all.

Anyways, I'm going to try to stay up for a little bit longer so I'm not going to bed too early, and tomorrow will be a brand new day~! I'm hoping to go to Ikea (I LOVE IKEA), and generally take some pictures and just relax. There's plenty of time to be busy, I just want to have some time where I'm not rushing or dying from exhaustion haha.

Until then I'll catch you guys later.

Moi Moi~!

Brieana :)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Guía de Montevideo: cómo ir, llegar, y triunfar (Montevideo Guide: How to Go, Arrive, and Triumph)

Entender el sistema de transporte de una ciudad nueva siempre complica la vida. Estudiantes de intercambio viviendo en Montevideo tienen 3 modas de transportación: el ómnibus, el taxi, y los pies. Lo siguiente es una guía de cómo utilizar estos recursos con confianza.

Antes de salir, es muy útil ver el camino y encontrar las opciones de cómo llegar. El sitio de web oficial de la Intendencia de Montevideo  que se llama “Como Ir” es una herramienta que muestra cuales buses ven a tu destino desde tu origen. Se pone la esquina de las calles de cada ubicación, y se puede ver los horarios de los buses que te sirvan. Como Ir también da instrucciones de cómo llegar caminando, aunque la vista satelital de mapas google muchas veces funciona mejor para eso. Además, aunque no tenía un plan de internet en mi iPod 5 (que sí puede conectar al wifi), el GPS de mapas google me siguió por la ciudad –no la entiendo esta tecnología, ¡pero me ayudó!

Understanding the transportation system of a new city always makes life a little harder. International students living in Montevideo have 3 modes of transportation: omnibus (bus), taxi, and their own two feet. The following is a guide of how to use these resources with confidence.

Before leaving, it’s really useful to see the route and find your options of how to get there. The official website from the Intendancy of Montevideo called “Como Ir” (How to Go) is a tool that shoes which buses go to your destination from where you are. You just put the cross streets of each location, and then you can see the schedule of the buses that serve your route. Como Ir also gives walking directions, although the satellite view of Google Maps often works better for that purpose. Further, although I didn’t have a data plan on my iPod 5 (which can connect to wifi), the GPS function of Google Maps followed me through the city – I don’t understand how that works, but it helped me!


Sin duda, escogí esta opción la más frecuentemente y la disfruté muchísimo. Andar por la ciudad es una manera de entender los hábitos y estilo de vida de la gente. Se puede ver los barrios distintos, la arquitectura, plazas y monumentos conocidos, y las comidas de las calles. Un beneficio extra es que, después de algunas semanas caminando, es fácil hablar con los locales de lugares y eventos con la confianza de conocer exactamente de dónde están hablando. “Fui a la Ronda – la conocés? En la ciudad vieja, atrás del Teatro Solis…” “Sí, la conozco!”
Yo recomiendo que siempre camines cuando sea posible.


Without a doubt, I chose this option most often and enjoyed it the most. Walking though the city is a way of understanding the habits and lifestyles of the people of Montevideo. You can see the different neighborhoods and parts of the city, the arquitecture, famous plazas and monuments, and the street food. An extra benefit is that, after a couple weeks of walking, it’s easy to talk with the locals about places and events with confidence of knowing exactly where they are talking about. “I went to La Ronda – you know it? In the Old City, behind Teatro Solis…” “Yeah, I know it!”
I recommend that you always take the opportunity to walk whenever possible!

El Taxi

Los taxis son caros, pero confiables y rápidos. Son mejores durante la noche cuando los buses no vienen tan frecuentemente, o necesitas llegar legos con mucho equipaje. No estoy segura, pero oí chismes que los taxis calculan el precio solamente por la distancia, no por la duración del viaje. Ir 2.5 kilómetros sale tipo $5USD – depende en dónde vives, pero regresar del boliche normalmente salió $5 hasta $10 USD.
Los taxistas típicamente son amistosos, y están más feliz con una propina pequeña al fin del viaje. A veces tienen GPS, pero muchas veces es mejor ya saber la esquina de dónde quieres ir y aproximadamente la ubicación en comparación con otros lugares.  No olvides que los taxis no aceptan tarjetas, y muchas veces no tienen cambio por billetes grandes. Como siempre, es necesario tener dinero en efectivo y en una variedad de billetes.

By taxi

Taxis are expensive, but reliable and fast. They are best during nighttime, when the buses don’t run as frequently, or when you need to get somewhere with a lot of stuff. I’m not sure, but I heard gossip that the taxis calculate their fare based only on distance, not on how long the ride takes. To go two and a half kilometers (about 1.5 miles) costs about $5 – so, depending on where you live, returning from a night out dancing costa somewhere between $5 and $10.
The taxi drivers typically are friendly, and are happier with a small tip at the end of the ride. Sometimes they will have a GPS, but usually it’s better to know the cross streets of where you want to go, as well as roughly where it is located in relation to other places. Don’t forget that taxis don’t accept cards, and many times they don’t have change for large bills. As always, it’s necessary to have cash and a range of bills.

El ómnibus (el “bondi”)

Antes de discutir los omnibuses públicos de la ciudad, un comentario sobre los buses que van por el campo y a destinos internacionales. Aunque es posible encontrar información y los horarios de los buses por el internet, es mucho más fácil encontrar la información en persona. Si quieres planificar un viaje, va a Tres Cruces, el terminal de bus principal de Montevideo. Se ubica sólo 15 minutos caminando de la facultad, entonces se puede ver los líneas de bus durante almuerzo o entre clases. Por lo general, los precios de los boletos no son muy altos, y la calidad de los asientos es mayor que los de los EUA. Los asientos “semi-cama” se reclinan y son bastante cómodos, especialmente en comparación con los de MegaBus o Greyhound. Para viajes más largos, el bus proviene una comida igual a las comidas de los aerolíneas, y el baño (aunque no es algo de lujo) no es muy feo. Tomar el bus es más barato que volar por avión, y hay el beneficio de ver el campo lindo.


Los omnibuses públicos en Montevideo son de buena calidad: por lo general, llegan dentro de 10 minutos de cuando los esperas, no son sucios, y van a todos lado de la ciudad. Cada viaje por bus cuesta UY$22 ($1 USD), y si compras una tarjeta de bus, puedes comprar una hora de buses por el mismo precio. Algunos buses directos que van al límite del departamento cuestan UY$32 porque van lejos sin muchas paradas. Después de 21:00, hay pocos buses hasta la mañana tipo 7:00, entonces si quieres salir por la noche, es mejor buscar el horario de los buses o tomar un taxi. Siempre hay buses en la calle central 18 de julio, pero en sitios más aislados o bravos es necesario buscar el horario y parada del bus que necesites, o conseguir un taxi. 

Las paradas de ómnibus normalmente tienen una banca cubierta o al menos un signo de metal. Algunas paradas tienen signos que muestran cuales buses sirve la parada, y la ruta de tránsito. Entonces, se puede adivinar una ruta basada en la información de la parada si no estás segura de cual bus necesitarías. En realidad,  es mejor no tener que adivinar, porque las paradas no siempre tienen tanta información.

Cuando subes el ómnibus, hay que pagar el conductor o el cajero más adentro del bus – presta atención, porque los conductores no quieren estar molestados cuando hay un cajero! Después de pagar, recibirás un papelito que es el ticket. Por mis 5 meses, sólo una vez necesité  mostrar mi ticket a un agente de la compañía de bus, pero es una buena idea guardar el ticket hasta bajar. Lamentablemente, es común ver los tickets en las calles, una fuente grande de basura. 

Si utilizas el ómnibus frecuentemente, vas a acostumbrarte muy rápido al sistema, y vas a disfrutar un método bastante eficiente de viajar por la ciudad. Aventura y explora!

Omnibus (the “bondi”)
Before discussing the public city buses, I want to comment about the buses that go to the countryside and that run internationally. Although it’s possible to find information and bus schedules online, it’s a whole lot easier to find that information in person. If you want to plan a trip, go to Tres Cruces, the main bus terminal in Montevideo. It’s only a 15 minute walk from the university, so you can go to see the bus lines during lunch or between classes. Generally, the prices of the tickets aren’t very high, and the quality of the seats is way better than the buses in the US. The “semi-cama” (almost-bed) seats recline and are rather comfortable, especially compared to the seats on a MegaBus or Greyhound. For longer trips, buses provide meals equivalent to airplane food, and the bathroom (although it’s not anything luxurious) isn’t so bad. Taking the bus is cheaper than flying, and it has the added benefit of seeing the beautiful countryside as you travel!

The public omnibuses in Montevideo are good in quality: generally they arrive within 10 minutes of when you’d expect, they aren’t dirty, and they go all around the city. Each trip on the bus costs about $1, and if you buy refillable bus card, you can buy an hour of bus use for the same price. Some direct buses that run all the way to the limit of the department (province) cost about $1.50 because they go so far without stopping so often. After 11PM, there are few buses running until about 7AM, so if you want to go out at night, it’s better to look up the bus schedule or take a taxi. There are always buses in the central street 18 de Julio, but in places that are more isolated or rowdy, it’s necessary to look up the schedule and stop locations of the bus you would need, or to catch a taxi.

The bus stops normally have a covered bench or at least a metal sign. Some stops have signs that show which buses the stop serves and the routes of the buses. As such, you can guess the route of a bus based on the information given at the stop if you aren’t sure which bus you would need. But really it’s better not to have to guess, because the bus stops don’t always have so much information posted.

When you get on the bus, you have to pay the driver or the cashier sitting farther into the bus – pay attention, because the driver don’t want to be bothered when there’s a cashier on duty! After paying, you’ll get a little piece of paper that is your ticket. In my five months, there was only one time that I needed to show my ticket to a bus company agent, but it’s a good idea to go ahead and keep your ticket until getting off. Sadly, it’s common to see the tickets floating on the streets, a big source of litter.

If you use the buses frequently, you’ll get used to the system fast, and you’re going to enjoy a pretty efficient way of traveling through the city. Adventure and explore!