Cynthia "Cindy" Harburn
2008-09 Outbound to Finland
Hometown: Oviedo, Florida
School: Oviedo High School, Oviedo, Florida
Sponsor: Orange County East Rotary Club, District 6980, Florida
Host: Lahti-Joutjärvi Rotary Club, District 1390, Finland

Cindy's Bio


I am Cindy Harburn from Oviedo, Florida. I’m a sophomore at Oviedo High School and I hope to be going to Italy, but I’m not sure of where I’m going yet. I am originally from San Diego, California. Because my dad was in the military, we’ve moved all over the country back and forth and now we’re planted in Florida. Florida is nice but I just wish it wasn’t so hot all the time.

I have a few pastimes that I enjoy, most of all softball. I have played for well over half my life. I was in a club team for awhile but then had to quit because I broke my arm. I joined a varsity high school team in 7th grade and I love the competition and the necessity of teamwork.

One thing I’m very interested in also is history. I plan to go to a Big Ten college and major in history. In the end of it all I hope to be a teacher either for high school or college, college being the more desirable choice.

I’m excited about leaving and joining another culture. I hope to learn a lot from this experience and I’m sure I will.

August 20 Journal

 The appetizer …

I’m not sure where this path I’ve taken will lead me. But I know that I’ll discover some hidden part of me that I never would have known had I not chosen to do this. The experiences I’ll have here will shape and mold me differently than before and I know it will be for the better. Some know me to be a movie quoter, I do it constantly, and here I’ll do it again. Hakuna Matata! No worries!

The entrée …

This is the story of my greatest adventure to date. My trip to Finland. I think it best I start from the point where we got to the airport. The check-in took no time at all! My mother and I breezed through the lines (my dad and sister were parking the car). While we were waiting I talked on the phone with my brother (he’s in Korea) while my mom went to the restroom. By the time she got back I was off the phone and the rest of my family was there. Then she realized something, “Holy crud! Cindy, where’s my purse?” She knew the answer herself so she ran off so I didn’t have to answer. She had left it in the bathroom, so with the purse found and the first scare over we went to lunch and as I’m sure you read in Jenny’s journal we all ate at the same place.

We (Jenny, Danny, and I) reunited in front of the terminal and said our goodbyes (family: I saw you three tearing up, no denying!) We had no trouble at all until some uptight passenger made Danny go back to his seat. I can’t honestly say what happened on any of the flights, I don’t know if it was exhaustion, or just pure adrenaline muddling my mind! But a 2-hour plane ride later and we were in Detroit, where we 3 had the time of our lives. Through glittering halls to train rides to just sitting and talking to everyone who was embarking on a similar journey. On we went to Amsterdam and again I don’t have much to say about this, all I know is that I sat next to Jenny and across from a guy from Canada and I didn’t even get a wink of sleep! Finally we were in Amsterdam, a day later, and made for the passports lines. There I got jostled a bit. People in those lines are so pushy! There we parted ways with Danny and many others to be united with others at our terminal. And on the plane to Helsinki I actually remember what happened! I slept, the entire 2 hours.

Groggy and uncoordinated I stumbled off the plane and made my way to baggage claim and waited and waited and waited. Until finally, with the last batch, my bags came through which was a great relief! We all went out to where Liisa was waiting for us and was I surprised! My host-mom and sister had come to meet me! My sister was leaving to go into an exchange in Florida. We got on the bus and rode for a couple hours to Karkku (the view was fabulous!) and when we got there we all tried to get settled. And since I don’t feel that this is long enough, I’ll tell you about that experience as well.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about it except a few of the things I enjoyed. First of all, the classes. Mimmu was a great teacher and I shall never forget her and all our tutors who I really bonded with over the week. Second, this was the place where I fell in love with the sauna. The Finns are geniuses. Especially when jumping into a cold lake afterwards. Totally refreshing. Thirdly, Tampere, we all had a great time there, got lost a couple times and yet we found our way back, always laughing. And now that I look back I see that I had been in my shell the entire time… until the last night. Another girl and I rallied a lot of people to jump into the ice cold lake with us and almost everybody came at least to watch. That night I will never forget. So the next morning, after some confusion, I found the people who were transporting me to my new family, my new home, and my new life. The rest is for a different journal.

August 29 Journal

 My first few experiences in Finland...

Confusion. Don't ever go into a city without the use of your cell phone unless you know your way around! One day I decided I wanted to go to the posti (post office) and I thought I knew pretty much where it was. Apparently I didn't though. I walked to the city and tried to find the main road and I thought I knew the general direction of where it was; I found it, went to the posti, bought my school books at a book shop and then I tried to find a place to eat. By this time I had already been walking around for a good hour, but then my stomach started to growl so I figured I could find someplace to eat. My first thought: McDonald's. I walked and I walked and when I thought I found one, it wasn't, it was a coming soon sign so I walked some more. Needless to say I was pretty miffed, there were advertisements all over the place and I didn't really feel the need to be the cliché American. I was finally fed up so I went to a random Spanish restaurant. I ended up walking around an extra two hours looking for a McDonald's. My advice: ask someone where it is before you try to find it!

Anger. The locks are so different here! Apparently you have to nudge it to the left then try it to the right. Complicated! I mean I have a hard time getting into my own house back in the States, and if I can't get it within the first ten minutes the neighbor comes to help. : )

Aggression and Pain. Salibandy. It's a really crazy sport, which is kind of like floor ball. My first time ever even holding a hockey stick in my hand, and we had practiced a little, but I was still a little confused, well OK, I was a lot confused, so we start to play, and by the third point I'm totally confident and having fun. This is a game I like to play! But then people were getting really aggressive, some other girls were fighting over the ball, and this gym had steel bars running along the side wall, and a girl fell and hit her head on them. That stopped the game. The ambulance was called, and all the equipment safely put away. The girl is fine but I still want to play some more!

Celebration! My birthday was in the last week and my family and I are going to a Mexican restaurant and I am about to find out how the Finns celebrate.

Craziness. Another word for school. My schedule is so crazy I don't even know what's going on most of the time. For a more in depth description of the system, I'm sure Jenny has explained it but here's my schedule. Monday, Sports, German. Tuesday, Spanish, English 1, English 4, German. Wednesday, Sports, English 4. Thursday, Spanish, English 1, German. Friday, Sports, break, English 4, Spanish. that's only until October, and speaking of school my break is almost up so Moi, Moi!

Cindy Harburn.

October 23 Journal

 Well, this is my almost-three-months-in-Finland journal and whoaaaaa a lot has happened in that small space of time!!! I think it's pretty freaky how much I've changed, I'm sure if you threw me into a party where all my old friends were, they wouldn't know me. I don't mean that I've changed in appearance, they would probably recognize me, but I wouldn't be able to really TALK with them anymore. It's sad but it happens, I know for a fact that I'm changing for the better, I've become less noisy and well teenagerish. But... enough of the sentimental stuff.

Since my coming to Finland I have been on two trips. One to Helsinki (where the most amazing cafe in the world is! Fazer), and another to Stockholm, Sweden. Both were absolutely amazing! Helsinki was beautiful, and well really big. We drove around practically the whole city and walked a bit...I was in awe. But then that trip was ended by me and my sister Pinja getting sick :( The other one to Sweden I just got back from today and it was great! We went on a cruise and there were Finnish guys beatboxing and a dance-fashion show. I wish I could describe it all to you, but I can't because this journal would be wayyyyyyy too long. Well anyways when we got to Stockholm we had so much fun, I mean first we went to the king's palace and ahhhh I compliment myself on being the trendsetter in this situation. There was a guard on duty, of course, and I asked Äiti (Mom) if she would ask him if he would take a picture with me. She said 'oh of course!' so now we were looking at the other end of the courtyard because there was this loud noise.....Asian tourists coming to take pictures. Anyway she asked, he said 'yes you MAY' and we took the picture. The other tourists were heading our way and had obviously seen me take the picture with him and they were all like 'OHHHH we want a picture!!!!!' so they lined up to take a picture with the guard hehe. Well when we were back on the boat we were getting ready to do something...I don't remember what but the three of us girls were getting ready.

Well here I'll have to take you away from the story a bit by telling you how weird and awkward it is to speak Finglish. Finnish+English. I just feel stupid most of the time, because everyone just sound so GOOD when they talk.

OK back to the story. We were getting ready to leave and Äiti says 'Shall we go?' So I say 'Nonnin' which is, well, to translate it, it would be soooooooo..... and I was feeling really weird saying it and my host-mom flipped! She was yelling 'Oh Cindy that was very good! Ahh yay!' So that made me feel better. :)

But days are getting so much shorter here, it's pretty sad, I mean I do miss the sun. It hardly ever shines here; it's so cloudy.

I started my second jasko (period) a couple of weeks ago and this week is our break week, so that's why we went on vacation. Next week though Pinja, her friend, and I are going to a Simple Plan concert in Helsinki. So that will be fun, and we're getting there super early.

Anywho that's all that's really happening in my life that's exciting for moi!

December 3 Journal

 I just got back from Lapland and now that I remember my 4-month anniversary! It literally feels like a month since I got on that plane, and most of the oldies (people from Australia and New Zealand) say that the last half of the year goes super fast. Well I suppose I'll give you an account of my trip.

Ok so there I was, standing in the melting snow with about 7 other exchange students waiting for the bus which was late, it's always late, and the bus finally drove up 20 minutes later, then when we got all our things on, they said we had half an hour because they had to change the tire, our bus was cursed! We started out when the tire was replaced and were talking the whole 12 hour drive, none of us got a wink of sleep, so we staggered off the bus and started shaking because guess how low the temperature was: -20 degrees Celsius, I'm not sure in Fahrenheit. Anywho we got there at 8 a.m. and had breakfast, un-packed and off we went to a hill which they called a mountain and everyone else went either skiing or snowboarding. About 1/3 didn't and we just played in the snow :). That night after we had got back to the hotel, we had maybe an hour then we were off again to go eat dinner outside! These people were crazy. We ate reindeer soup :(.

I roomed with Jenny, Stephanie (California), Hope (Oklahoma?), Jocelyn (Washington state) and we had alotttttttttt of good times in that room, I'm pretty sure that none of us expected to like our room arrangement, but after a while we had so many bonding moments that we couldn't help but have fun! Well the next day, we spent the whole day at the hill, I skied (really hard!!) and snowboarded (pretty easy) and got covered in bruises. I don't really remember much of that night.

Ummm the next day we went to a reindeer farm and I named almost every reindeer, then we went snow shoe walking and I felt like a cat who has shoes on. After that experiment we went to actually get a sleigh ride from a reindeer and I named all of those, but the really funny thing is that the men who were leading them actually started using my names :). Then we went to the husky place and saw over 400 dogs and there were the cutest puppies! I wanted one so bad. Then that night was a bit dramatic because we locked our keys in our room and reception was closed so they couldn't open our door so then we had to room with tutors.

Yesterday we went to Rovaniemi, where the real Santa Claus is, and went to see him, but let me just say that if I were 5 I would have been scared out of my mind, because first there was fake snow, then red snow, I felt as if I were in the 7th circle of hell. After we were done there we started the 12 hour bus ride home, and yet again we did not get any sleep. That trip was soo fun I wish it could have lasted another week, but this just makes me even more excited for our euro tour!

January 21 Journal

 Well it’s been a while since I’ve written anything…

So I’ll let you all in on a well know subject between us exchange students…the second half of the year goes SUPER fast…I’ve been here almost 6 months…where did that come from…that means in 4½ months I’ll be home. And just so all you future exchange students know the beginning goes fast until the shock wears off and then everything slows down…then the half way mark comes…when you’re living it doesn’t feel fast but when you look at the calendar….it’s really shocking…

Just to make sure you all understand that is REALLY sad.

Anyways let me address one thing before I really start…Jenny mentioned that she dared me to eat 10 salmiakki….well let me just tell you how amazing THAT was. OK you know how you can smell something and you can faintly taste it in the bad of your mouth? Well if you use that it tastes like the smell of aftershave………No one ever gets what I mean when I say that but it’s true! And let me tell you that experience I will never get over…thank you VERY much Jenny.

On to life as it is to me…I changed families about a month ago and I could not be happier than I am here, every exchange student has at least one family who they LOVE and this is mine.

In Finland they celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December and nothing really happens on the 25th, but since they live in Finland Santa actually comes to every single house and delivers the presents in person…unfortunately my host father was gone for my new experience…from what I hear he misses it every year ;) anyways there wasn’t much different from ours: they eat and eat and open presents…and eat.

NEW YEARS!!! Now I will never ever forget this new years, I went to a party with my host sister who I had known all of 10 days and we had the funnest time getting to know each other and I got to meet all her friends…it really was a blast.

April 15 Journal

 Hey everyone, it's been a while since my last journal...and a lot has happened that's changed everything: my life here in Finland, and back home in Florida.

Wow - thinking all the way back to January is very difficult, I never knew how difficult it could be. I think back in January and February everything was just the way I wanted it to be, my life wasn't perfect, but I was enjoying my life as much as I could. I can't remember any significant things, except that I went on a cruise to Tallinn, Estonia, that was a very interesting trip.

The rest is just a blur now, I can't really remember much past March 17th. The day that changed everything. Forgive me everyone, but this is supposed to be about my life on exchange and this happened on my exchange. Now, all of you up-and-coming outbounds, I'll give you just a bit of advice if you don't want anything to happen to you like it did to me - make your parents go get physicals with you, it's good for them, and it gives you the insurance you need, and that I didn't have. On March 17th my father died of a heart attack. Period. That's all the bad news I have. I hope.

Of course I went home to his funeral and to help with some arrangements and family stuff. I won't get into that. Although......the weather was AMAZING in Florida, I am now back in Finland, with my third and final host family. Life is moving. Fast. I can't seem to get a handle on it. Getting back into routine is really hard too. Not to mention because I don't live in the city anymore, I have to take one of those huge buses and I don't know where I am most of the time...but things are actually OK. Which surprised me. I always planned on coming back, but there was always that little part of me that wondered...'What if...?" What if I should be at home, helping my mom? What if I should be home with a job helping pay for things?

Well, you can't ask "what if" questions like that. It makes you regret. I DO NOT REGRET, however my coming back to Finland, I regret other things. Exchangers if anything like this happens to you...go back. It really provides a nice place for you, an escape if you will, I'm not saying escape your problems...but it gives you a better grasp on things, a better outlook.

Well, so I came back, and my new host parents are trying to keep me very busy :D for the Easter weekend we went to our cousins' summer cottage (almost every Finn has access to a summer cottage) and then when we got back, a Rotarian family took me to an American car show :) Now, I'm afraid that's the most up-to-date I can get. Thanks again Rotary for all you've done for me and my family.