So goes the life of an exchange student, always the odd one out.
The last week of Toukokuu (May) I had my sixth period finals, and on Lauantai (Saturday) everyone from the Lukio attended the graduation ceremony of the third years. I, along with the other exchange students, presented a short speech on my year in Finland. It was a really lovely day, even if it left many bittersweet partings behind. The next day, Sunnuntai, I took a train down to Turku, where fellow Coloradan Christina lived, and prepared to take a ferry to Sweden, the first stop on Eurotour for us.
Last minute studying for finals!
Plus host sister Mira came to watch me perform!
During the month of Kesäkuu (June) I went with around 90 other Rotary exchange students (from Finland and Estonia) on a trip across Europe. We went through* Ruotsi, Tanska, Hollanti, Belgia, Ranska, Monako, Italia, Ita-Valta, and Saksa. Christina was my roommate, and we had lots of wonderful and crazy misadventures with our friends. I'm really glad I was able to experience everything, and I will treasure these memories always. I met and formed close knit bonds with lots of exchange students from around the world, and when we parted ways it was downright tragic. (Seriously, after the flight from Berlin to Helsinki, teary-eyed exchange students filled up both the baggage claim and pick-up areas.) I spent the night with a professor of mine before heading back up to Kauhajoki. I spent the next week trying to go through all my belongings, packing up, and trying to do as many things as possible with my friends before I left. Oh, and experiencing Juhannus!** I did start on a blog post, but time just seems to have slipped past.
Posing with the Eiffel Tower!
Hiking in the Alps
Buying mansikkat (strawberries) in Tampere
Kansa Ystävät - With Friends
Making silly faces at the train station
By this point Heinäkuu (July) had come and my parents, brother, and grandmother came to visit me in Finland. They spent a few days in Kauhajoki, which came to a close by way of a barbecue with my friends and families. I'm so glad that we were able to have that event, for everyone's sake. It helps when I talk about people I met in Finland and why Finnish culture is the way it is. For the next week we traveled around southern Finland, taking a day trip to Stockholm (Sweden) as well as Tallin (Estonia). It was certainly interesting to watch my family experience Finnish culture firsthand. Our last week was spent in Helsinki, and it was a nice experience to be able to show everyone around the city. I really like staying there, even if it was a bit expensive. We were able to meet up several times with my Finnish aunt, Pirkko, and my cousin Eljas and my brother got on well. And on the day before I left, I was finally able to say that I had meet all my host siblings. My first family, the Oravamäkis, came to Helsinki to pick up Henna, my host sister who had been exchanging in Indiana, USA, over the past year. She was rather tired when I met her, having just arrived after who knows how many hours of airplane travel, but she was very nice!
Jenni and Johanna
My Grandmother Joan with Petri and Maisa Oravamäki
A Job Well Done!
So my last night in Finland I spent up late packing getting about 2 hours of sleep in order to be at the airport by 4:30 am in order to make my 6 am flight. (Although I was with my family in Helsinki, I had separate travel arrangements) I had a layover in Frankfurt, Germany, until around 2 pm. Luckily, there was a Chilean lady (Ivette) on my flight who I hung out with for most of my time in the airport and got to practice my Spanish with. My Spanish is a bit rusty after so much disuse, but the worst part was how I would always say joo for si!*** I also ran into another Rotary student (Ximena) who was headed home to Mexico after spending a year in Germany. The flight to Mexico City was located next to the gate headed to Denver, so I was able to sit with her without worrying whether either of us would miss our flights. The flight itself was rather uneventful aside from occasionally chatting with a young German flight attendant named Anna, though I did watch quite a few films to pass the time. It wasn't too long of a flight, only 10 and 1/2 hours or so. My uncle picked me up from the airport and after calling my father and a friend, I fell asleep until six or so in the morning. The next morning I went out for Mexican food with my uncles, which was refreshing after a 12 hour rest. The weirdest thing about being back in the US (which I noted at immigration and customs) was all the small talk, strangers just starting up a conversation. And hearing American accents all around me again - that was really odd.
Ivette in Frankfurt airport
Ximena and I in our Rotary jackets
So since then I've mainly been lazing about the house, running errands and chores, reading through all the Terry Prachett novels I can get my hands on, and visiting friends. Asides from that, I've traveled to Minnesota for my brother's soccer tournament, where I got in touch with another recent Rotary returnee from Finland, my friend Grayce. We had a movie marathon at her house. :) And then Christina also arrived back the last Friday of July, so I went up to the mountains to see her on Sunday. All in all, I've had a pretty decent time since I've gotten back home. My original American cultural re-introduction shock has mostly faded away, though I haven't gone back to school yet, which will be the weirdest thing (most likely). I have noticed that I use some odd phrases now, for example : uni (university) in place of college, football instead of soccer, and autumn rather than fall. But I'll just have to wait and see for how much living in Finland has affected me.
Oh, and on Elokuu (August) 1, I gave the first of many presentations about Finland to my sponsoring Rotary club. All who attended seemed to have thoroughly enjoy it, and afterwards many mentioned how I've matured since last year. It's hard for me to define what exactly had changed about me, but I would like to believe that I have matured, in some way or another. Time shall tell.
*Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France, Monaco, Italy, Austria, and Germany
** Juhannus is Midsummer. It is the second most celebrated holiday in Finland, after Christmas. This is the time of the year when the sun never quite sets, and the Finns celebrate this by making bonfires, getting together with family and friends, and going to summer cottages
*** This being an issue because joo (yes in Finnish) sounds like yo ( I ) in Spanish!
P.S. After reading this post through, it seems to contain an enormous usage of the word 'I'. Sorry about that!