When I am feeling slightly homesick, it is easy to forget why I am where I am. Lately, I have been spending the days pining over Montana and dreaming of all the things we will do first upon arrival in Big Sky Country. Today, I realized that I am missing out on my totally awesome study abroad excursion in Finland, because I am longing for the future. I am longing for warm weather, sharp cheddar, and Montana beer. But in the meantime, I want to appreciate every little moment and cultural difference that Finland has to offer. So without further ado, here are five things we love about Finland.
1.Kid Friendly Zone
People in Finland love babies. I mean, I feel like most people love babies, but the Finns REALLY seem to appreciate and love children. I took this photo on a train from Helsinki to Seinäjoki. Many restaurants and other public places have play areas or books to read and always have a really comfortable changing area. It is not uncommon for a Finnish person to just walk up to us and start chatting to Wilder in Finnish. He smiles and blows kisses and we just smile and nod, because we have no clue what is being said. At first, these kinds of interactions were intimidating, but now we appreciate the small gesture of love from a stranger.
2. A River Runs Through It
Seinäjoki is a small town in Finland with a river separating the campus area from the city centre. This picture was taken from the balcony of our first apartment (yes, I said first… We have already moved to our second apartment in Finland). I love walking along the river to and from school. Micah and Wilder would wake up and watch the frozen over river break apart and float away. Micah was sad to move away from the view, but luckily we are only a five minute walk away.
3. HOLY MOTHER OF COFFEE
THERE IS COFFEE EVERYWHERE. I DRINK SO MUCH COFFEE NOW. But seriously. The first thing we did when we got here is rented a car so we could drive around the city and pick up some essentials for our apartment. We bought a cheap coffee pot and these cute mugs with our signs on it (we think). Little did I know that coffee is a way of life here. There are places to get coffee on every floor of the university ranging from cafes to self serve coffee machines, where you can get lattes, cappuccinos, and basically any variation of the caffeinated drink for 2 euros. The professors at the university give us regular 10 minute breaks throughout the day to refill our cups and replenish our souls. I am hoping this is a habit I can break when I get back to the United States.
This photo does not do the university justice. I go to school in a beautiful building with huge glass walls and funky metal architecture. The professors are highly intelligent and compassionate people. The classes are much longer than the classes I take in the states (sometimes seven hours for one class), but most of the work is hands on. We hardly ever have homework, and when we do, it is a group project of some sort. Most of my classmates are Czech, French, German, and of course, Finnish. I am the only American student here, and I am the only exchange student with a baby. This can be a bit daunting, but I have met some really cool and interesting people in my classes.
I belong to the Cultural Management Program at the Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences. In all of my media classes, we are encouraged to be creative entrepreneurs. We are given little direction and are welcome to make artistic decisions on our own. I think this is why the students produce such incredible work. I think there could be some lessons to learn from the Finns and their methods of education is one of them.
5. Walking, walking, and always walking.
I am so glad we decided to bring our stroller, because we are walking everywhere. I thought I was going to hate not having a car here, but I am so happy we don’t. It is nice to walk home from school and to the market. We definitely have to spend a couple more minutes before we leave, getting all bundled up for our walks, but we have become quite used to it. It’s an environmentally friendly, healthy option that I have always wanted to take up in the states, but have become so accustomed to just hopping in my car whenever I need to go somewhere. Walking everywhere has given us opportunities to look around and explore our new city, and I am thankful for that.