Kylie Doherty

Finland

Hometown:Gainesville, Florida
School: Gainesville High School
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club:Gainesville Sunrise, Florida
Host District: District 1410
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Raisio

 

My Bio


Tere! I'm Kylie and I could not be more excited to say that I will spend the next year in Estonia. Currently, I am 16 years old and a sophomore in Cambridge at Gainesville High School. I played volleyball and golf for my school’s team but I also played soccer in middle school. Other than sports, I like to hang out with friends and read. I have lived in Gainesville my entire life, and although I love it, the thought of making a new home for myself in a whole new place is exciting. Rotary has given me the opportunity to add a lot of spontaneity to my life, and break routines that I have been accustomed to for the last 15 years. As far as my amazing family, I have three older siblings: Makena (25), Liam (23), and Conor (20). Each of my wonderful siblings had the opportunity of bettering themselves with the help of Rotary Youth Exchange. My family seems almost as excited as I am about my year in Estonia and has shown me unbelievable support. My parents are very happy for me to have this experience, and I am very happy to have my parents because without them, none of this would be possible. Seeing my siblings transform into the independent, multi-lingual, and mature people they are today through Rotary made the decision of whether or not to apply really easy. (Along with a strong wanderlust…) I want to become a better person with those qualities, I want to become a person who is not only sure of who they are, but also proud of it. I know that Rotary will make all of this possible for me, so thank you!

My host grandparent's Christmas tree!

My host grandparent's Christmas tree!

Independence Day President's program. Independence day really made me feel proud to be able to live in Finland

Independence Day President's program. Independence day really made me feel proud to be able to live in Finland

District 1410 in Pori

District 1410 in Pori

Journals: Kylie - Finland

  • Kylie, outbound to Finland

    Minä olen ollut Suomessa kahdeksan kuukautta! Jag har varit i finland i åtta månader! Guys I've been here 8 months, and I just wanted to say that I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity I have to live here in Finland. I feel like I cannot stress that enough. I have friends that I feel will have an impact on my life for years to come, and I have had the opportunity to become a part of two different families that I love. I honestly feel like I couldn't have possibly ended up in better homes and consider myself really lucky. I have learned a lot from them and know that I can speak to them about anything. I am definitely in love with Finland, no matter how cold. Something that really astonishes me is that a lot of the people who are so important in my life in Florida, will have no idea about what life here is actually like. Something that is so important to me in everyday life, they have almost no concept of.

    Anyway reader, I could ponder in my thoughts or tell you about how grateful I am to be here but what you're really wondering probably is what I have actually been doing here the past few months.
    Well, this is when it gets difficult for me to write. The thing about it is that the things that seem important to me are sometimes really small details, but anyway I'll give you the big parts. So, I left you last time at the Wanhat. It was a really stressful week. I had an issue that apparently I am between sizes in high heels and waited until the week before to shop for them. So my amazingly patient host mom took me around the mall and several other stores to try on shoes. I actually ended up not buying any and borrowing from a kind teacher at school. Another issue was that my dress was flowy and quite long. So there was a large possibility that my clumsy self could have stepped on my dress and 1. fallen 2. ripped my dress or the last, and my personal favorite 3.been torn down from my chest in all its strapless glory.

    My host mom and grandmother were angels and took up the hem of the dress and it turned out that none of those horrible things mentioned above happened! We danced 3 times that Friday. Once in a middle school with only 4 couples, the next in front of our school, and the last for the families in a large gymnasium. All went well and my host sister got a lot of pictures that I will keep (hopefully) forever.

    A few weeks later, I had the sporting holiday from school so I got a week off. At this point in time I was missing the sun and warmth more than you can imagine and my sisters took me to this hotel where they have cool water slides, heated pools, a small lazy river and saunas. It felt so humid and warm just like Florida. Being there was just what I needed. That weekend, I went skiing with my Rotary district. The first time I went skiing I had the flu, so this was pretty much my first actual attempt at it. Honestly, it was terrifying but my friends helped me a lot and the Rotarians were really good about helping me get down slopes that were too difficult for me. By the end it was actually enjoyable as opposed to just straight up terrifying so I'm glad I went.

    In the beginning of March, I went to Helsinki with Iris, my close friend, and something magical happened. As we were walking I spotted from a distance a place called "Southern Fried Chicken" and I got incredibly excited. I had been wanting fried chicken since the day I stepped off of the plane and finally I got it after 7 whole months.
    Then, I guess you could say I was inspired by my fried chicken experience and decided to cook some more southern comfort food for my family. I made them chicken and dumplings, it was good I think but also not the same. I guess with the different brands and such it's hard to make it exactly the same.

    March 16th was one of the coolest days of my life. In the afternoon, I went to walk the dogs with my parents since it was very nice weather. They took me to the place where people lived in the Bronze Age, a short walk from my house. We walked through the woods and along the river in my city. I found it odd that even though I had been living here for 7 months already, I had never seen that area of Raisio before. Later that night, I found out that the northern lights were supposed to be visible in all parts of Finland. I walked outside with my dad and he showed me them. They were really faint, so my mom offered to drive me to a place where I would be able to see them better. We drove to the middle of nowhere and it was so much more clear, the way the lights moved and changed color made it seem like my eyes were playing tricks on me. The northern lights are a little like magic. They seemed to make everyone who saw them remarkably thankful for life, and for Finland.

    One thing that I am really excited about is that I have been planning the trip my Finnish friend will take to stay with me in Florida in 2016.

    Another kind of interesting thing I have been able to do recently is to go see a Finnish play called "SIG: the musical" with my Rotary club. It is a play that takes place in my city. It was also the first time I got to see my first host mom since I moved. It was really nice to see her after seeing her almost every day and then not seeing her at all for almost two months.

    A few weeks ago, my host sister Isabella took me to her friend's party with her. Her friends are really friendly, nice, and welcoming. I had an awesome time, I'm glad she invited me. It made me realize the slight cultural difference between the Swedish speaking Finns and Finnish speaking Finns. In general, the Swedish speaking Finns are more outgoing and welcoming to new people.

    At the end of March, I had a lot of free time because I had exam week, and no exams. I went to Helsinki to say goodbye to one of my closest exchange friends, and to celebrate another friend's birthday. Going to Helsinki is always a good time. It's so exciting and different, at least for me. I think Helsinki in a lot of ways is different from the rest of Finland. One obvious reason is the population, and the fact that it's a capital but also I feel like there is a lot more diversity there. There's also more art, a different dialect, much more public transportation, a slightly different style, and a lot more to do...and it's only 2 hours away from me.

    Since it has been warmer lately, for example this week it was 15 celsius (I almost cried tears of joy) my family took me to the summer cottage on Easter. We drove the car to a motor boat which we then took to the island. It was astonishingly beautiful and I can't wait for summer and to live there. Even if it means I won't have plumbing. Later that day, I got to try a very typical Finnish Easter desert called mämmi. It looks very undesirable but to me, with vanilla cream and sugar it was actually good. When I told my friends that I actually liked it they were all very surprised. Mämmi is rarely liked. The week of Easyer, my host mom hid eggs in the morning and left clues on the table so we could find them. It was a cool spin on Easter egg hunts. Traditionally, on Easter children are supposed to dress like kind witches and go around to their neighbors singing a song to receive candy, much like Halloween. Although, I don't think that we had any come this year. Probably because it is a long and tiring walk up the hill to our house. On Easter Monday we were able to go to my mother's mom's house for a meal with my aunt's family.

    Recently, my family went to see my first host brother's floorball game and then went to my first host family's house. Since I had been here, I have really started to like floorball and I'm a little sad that it doesn't really exist in Florida, or the United States. It was fun to spend time with both of my families together. It's kind of hilarious when they get together. Both of my dads have an interesting sense of humor so it's always a lot of laughing.
    This week I caught some type of stomach bug, and I was really worried that I would not be able to come to my Rotary district conference in Pori, but luckily I was able to. All the inbounds and gave presentations to the Rotarians of cultural differences, which ended up to be quite hilarious. My group did a presentation shedding light on the differences in meeting someone for the first time between Australians, Americans, and Finns.

    The Americans met by one complimenting the other and then skipping off together. The Australians introduced themselves and decided to get together for a barbecue and the Finns met and just said hello and walked away. Obviously, these are very stereotypical, but I think everyone got a good laugh out of them because they still hold a lot of truth. We stayed in a nice dorm type place and we all went to the sauna and hung out at night. Sunday, we went to the mall in Pori and several groups of outbound gave presentations in Finnish, and we sang a song for the audience. All of us were dead from lack of sleep and sad to say goodbye!

    One last thing I have to mention is my language progress. With Finnish, I think my confidence is going up but my skill level is not changing very much. In Swedish, I am understanding more each day and it clicks in my brain much easier than Finnish does. I'm very lucky because my host family has been doing a lot to try to help me improve my Swedish. Even if it means saying the same story twice in two languages.


  • Kylie, outbound to Finland

    This week, I reached six months in Finland. When  I think about that, it really astounds me and I am not sure how to feel. In the Florida orientations we spent many hours reviewing the exchange cycle: all of the stages you supposedly  go through on exchange. Basically it says that exchange has its ups and downs, well that's definitely one thing they nailed right on the head.

    In these past six months I think I have felt more than ever. I've had plenty of time to think, to cry, to laugh until my stomach hurts, I've been sick, I've been sad, and I have suffered through my share of embarrassing moments. I remember talking to my sister in the first month saying, "it's so weird, I feel the happiest I have ever been and still sad at the same time." and she said to me, "well that's the exchange student feeling." Sometimes it can be really hard to be a minor living without anything familiar. Leaving everything you know can open your eyes to a lot of the things that were happening in your home country, both good and bad.

    For me, I've definitely started to realize how important family truly is, but I have also begun to realize faults in American culture and even in myself. It has also been a time for me to look at my friendships and see clearly who my true friends are and always have been. Then again me saying this is sort of funny because I still have a whole other six months to grow and figure things out and my opinions could change completely from what they are now.

    With my half way point, came my new family. I'll be honest I was a bit nervous to move. After six months with my first family, you can say I got pretty attached. Not only that, but also once you get comfortable it's kind of hard to uproot and move, and to make yourself adjust once again. However, so far, I can say that I was worried for nothing.

    My family has been very welcoming and I already feel very comfortable, but the thing is that I'm switching my focus language. In my first family, they speak both Finnish and Swedish but I go to a Finnish speaking school so I focused on Finnish. However, now I am beginning to study Swedish because it is the predominate language of my new family. This does create some complications since my school and my friends are still Finnish speaking but I will try hard and hopefully everything will work out. It does get a bit confusing though, even after one week because I go to school and I hear Finnish all day. That is, until I go to Spanish class. In Finnish. Oh, and Swedish class. In Finnish. When I'm thinking in English and listening in Finnish and translating to Spanish or Swedish. I anticipate that when I come back, my English will not be so good.

    Next week, Friday the thirteenth (what a convenient date for something important), I have the Finnish prom. Before you get the wrong idea, I need to explain. So, the second year students in Lukio have been going to practices to learn traditional dances for several months now and next Friday we will present them to secondary schools in our town, our own school, and then in the evening for the families. Needless to say, I'm a bit nervous. The dances are not really difficult, but they are a lot to remember. Wish me luck!


  • Kylie, outbound to Finland

    I realized that in my journals I have not yet written the thing I think about every single day, so I would like to start off by saying: Thank You!! Rotary.  Seriously, I cannot imagine how different my life, or the lives of students all over the world would have been without Rotary Youth Exchange.

    This past month has consisted of a lot of emotions, mostly good. Christmas was perfect. The weather was great too, a few days before Christmas it started snowing and did not stop until at least a week after. In the last few days of December it was very cold (-20 Celsius!) The day before Christmas (the 23rd here) I spent with my family watching movies, eating my father's oven baked nuts, and drinking glögi. Glögi, for those unfortunate enough to not know, is a hot juice that is generally served with raisins and nuts (you just dump them in). It is basically the Nordic equivalent to egg nog.

    The next morning, we all woke up and got dressed up. My father's grandparents came and we watched the reading of the Christmas peace. It is a document that is read in Turku every year on Christmas, a tradition that has been upheld since the middle ages. Then, for breakfast we ate Christmas porridge, another Finnish tradition. The porridge usually has an almond hidden in it and the person that gets it gets to make a wish. This year, my mom actually put two. I got an almond in my first bite! In the evening we ate more than we should have and opened presents. Overall, Christmas was more than I could have asked for. I felt happier than ever and very much at home. In the days that followed, we ate and ate and ate. After all of the eating, I did not feel hungry for about two days.

    A few days after Christmas, I tried avantouinti (ice swimming).  I went with my friend Mila and her mom. We first went into the sauna for about twenty minutes and drank a lot of water, then we walked across the icy dock and brought everything but our heads into the freezing water. Then we did it again. It actually was not as bad as I expected and was super interesting to experience. When I just stood outside, even though it was negative seven, I felt warm. The only drawback from it was the dizziness caused by drastic change in blood pressure.

    On New Year's Eve, I went with Mila to her boyfriend's house. There I had basically the most Finnish New Year possible. We went in the sauna where we sang "Maamme" while standing and water was constantly being poured on the kiuas until we finnish the whole verse. After, we went into this thing called a palju, which is basically  a wooden hot tub without bubbles. We walked to an empty field by the water and set off fireworks.

    The weekend after school resumed was my birthday, so two of my best friends from Helsinki area came to visit. We had a girl's night in Turku that Friday and that Saturday was my actual birthday. My family woke me up singing the Finnish birthday song and gave me a nice card but unfortunately my brother had a floorball game and I had a friend's going away party so we did not get to celebrate much on my actually birthday. However, we did celebrate on Sunday with my grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins and of course, delicious food made by my grandma.

    Our oldies left last week. For those who do not know, oldies are the exchange students who started their exchanges six months earlier. It was really devastating to have to face the fact that we will not be able to see these people on a regular basis, and that we will not just see them at Rotary events. Last week was hard for all of the exchange students. It's not only that we won't be about to see them, it's also that we realize that we will (sooner than any of us want to believe) also have to step on that plane and go "home".

    The good thing that comes out of our oldies leaving is that we get newbies! I will no longer be the only exchange student in my school because I am one of the lucky ones to get a newbie.

    This past weekend was a lot of fun for me. On Friday, I went to my friend Hilma's birthday party. I love parties in Finland because it's a really good way to make new friends and practice Finnish. Then on Sunday I got to go ice skating with my brother, aunt, and cousin. My aunt used to be a figure skater so she taught me a few tricks and the proper way to skate.

    In conclusion, I would just like to send out a PSA as a  warning to all of those Floridians who are traveling somewhere cold soon: Be careful of the ice, you probably will slip and it will hurt. I'm saying this from experience.


  • Kylie, outbound to Finland

    So I'm writing my second journal. This is a joke right? I'm already in month five and time has honestly never gone faster. I can count the number of days until my oldies leave in my fingers and toes and it's just, well...sort of terrifying.
    Before I give you a recap of everything that's been happening in my life, I'll start by answering some questions I've been asked recently. "How's your Finnish? Isn't Finnish the 3rd hardest language for English speakers?" Well to answer your question, yes. It is. I feel like the reason it is so difficult for English speakers is because it is extremely different. For those of you who don't know anything about the language, here is a quick overview:
    -Finnish (comparatively) has very few cognates to English
    -No articles
    - 6 verb types, and 4 tenses (no future)
    - Free word order (to a certain extent)
    -About 16 possible forms of every word.
    - There is no such thing as prepositions, and endings to words preform their purpose.
    - Spoken Finnish is very different from written.
    So to answer your first question, no I am not by any means fluent, but what is important that I am trying and I am getting better each day. It can get extremely frustrating but I guess I look at it as the catch for getting to live in such a great country.

    "How is your host family? Have you switched yet?"
    I'm still in my first host family until sometime in January. I loveeee love love my host family. I feel like we get along very well and they help me out whenever I need it. They put up with me eating probably a little more than I should. They aren't afraid to mess with me, surprisingly enough this makes me feel even more at home.

    "Isn't it always freezing an covered in snow where you live?"
    No. It's not actually. Until recently the weather has been afraid to creep below -2 c. It has snowed a few times but usually it only lasts 2 days. Luckily though, the snow is supposed to stick after it snows on the 26th of December.

    "How much light is there?"
    It's been a rough fall. Every day was shorter than the last and it noticeably takes effect on people. It's exhausting to go to school and it's dark and come home and it's dark. It's good to have distractions and the snow helps to brighten things up. Now, since today is the winter solstice, the days will become longer! To be completely honest I think I miss the sun more than any person.

    Now for the recap. The first Sunday of November was Finnish Father's Day. My brother and I made cards for our Dad and on that morning we went and woke him up by singing a Father's Day song (I did not know this song so I just kind of smiled and stood there) and then gave him some gifts.

    The following weekend was the Martinex outlet. Martinex is the company that my host mom manages. They usually just sell products online, but once a year they have a weekend outlet so it gets really busy. It was nice because I got to meet her coworkers and help package boxes for costumes.

    Later in November, I got invited to go volunteer again, but this time with my friend Mila. It was for a Christian rock festival. We worked and made sure that there was enough food placed on the buffet tables so that every person there could eat. After we finished, we got to go in and watch the performances. Mila was nice enough to let one of my best exchange friends, Pilo, join us too, even though she didn't know him. I'll be honest, it started off boring. As it got later, the music got better, and by the end it was more of electronic and everyone went to the dance floor.

    The following weekend was the Christmas party for my district. We all met and went to a building where we prepared gingerbread cookies and Christmas tarts. After it was all devoured, all of us left in groups and went off to do whatever we wanted. I went to eat pizza and walk through the snowy streets and then met up with a bunch of people at Burger King, these sort of nights are amazing.

    That next week I caught the flu. I felt really terrible and I was worried that I would be feeling horrible during Lapland which began that Friday. It turned out to be okay; I did still have the flu, but I felt immensely better. It was a longggggggggggg trip. Long. Around 16 hours. In order for almost all of the exchange students to go (somewhere around 140) we had to take 4 charter buses.

    On Saturday, we arrived in Muonio in the morning and ate lunch after that we mostly just got to hang out, go sledding, go to our rooms, and went to the ski resort to make sure everything fit. Sunday was the skiing day. We left in the morning and went to the resort. I figured out something that day...that everyone has their thing and that skiing is most definitely not mine. It was a lot of fun though. After that, we got to cook sausages by the fire. Later that night we got to go eat soup in a huge tent and hang out and have fun that night.

    Then Monday started off for me by going to a small museum specializing in the animals of the region, after that we went to a reindeer farm where we learned about the indigenous people of Lapland and about the life of a reindeer. It was crazy to get to see a bunch of reindeer right in front of my eyes and we even got to feed them!! After the farm we got to go explore an unfinished ice hotel. It was amazing, it was entirely made out of ice and actually pretty warm inside. After that, we got to go on a husky sleigh ride. This is something I have wanted to do ever since I was 9, when a friend told me that she went on one. Then later we got to go on a sleigh pulled by reindeer!

    We walked back to the hotel in snowshoes and ate reindeer and mashed potatoes. To be completely honest, reindeer is not my favorite. However, it's definitely a unique flavor and I'm glad I've had the opportunity to try. After dinner came the sadness. It was our last night in Lapland and we had a party where the fact that our oldies (people who came in January and will leave in January) are actually going to leave soon.

    Everyone, semi-unsuccessfully, tried to hold back tears. Then, as always, it turned into a huge dance party. Tuesday it was time to leave so we headed off to Rovaniemi to Santa's village. Forget what you've heard, Santa lives in Finland. It was funny to see how excited some of my friends were to meet Santa because they are from countries that don't have Santa Claus. After the time in Rovaniemi, we went to eat and said our goodbyes again. It was really hard, knowing that we may never see some of those people again but we tried to smile through it.
    Coming home was weird. It was the longest I had been away from home and thinking about coming back was sort of a reality check, like I realized what I was coming back to.

    The next Friday was one of my best friends here in Finland's birthday parties. I spent the night at her house and we had a lot of fun. That Saturday it was Finnish Independence Day so we went over to a family friend's house and watched the president and his wife shake hands of people invited to his dinner for about 3 hours. It sounds boring, but it's kind of fun to comment on all of the dresses and stuff while indulging in great food and, of course, with good company. The day before, at school, we had a program where students went up and sang or danced in honor of both Independence Day, and of some students graduating.

    Last weekend, I got the honor of visiting Finland's capital city for the first time. I went to Helsinki to visit my good friend Kat for her 19th birthday. Helsinki is different from everywhere else I have been here. Most places in Finland are pretty spaced out and even large cities are relatively quiet (until nightfall when people get drunk.) The amount of foreigners was noticeable because I heard a lot of English, and also a lot of noise in general. It was so nice to spend time with some of my favorite people there, but I almost think my favorite part of Helsinki was the food. It was actually pretty cheap and there was a better variety of restaurants.

    The Tuesday after Helsinki, something crazy happened. Kylie was in a Finnish play. I had been in a drama course for about 2 months after being, well quite frankly, forced into it. Generally, I get nervous in front of crowds. My role in the play was a circus director/ light man. My character was sort of insane, and I got to wear a golden hat and jacket. The play was in front of around 400 of my fellow classmates and I started out terrified but actually when I went out in front of the curtains, it wasn't as bad as I expected, but that doesn't mean I would willingly do it again. Now I'm on winter break and I get to celebrate Christmas the Finnish way. Today my family went to my mom's parents' house and had dinner and decorated their Christmas tree. It feels a little odd not having my family with me, but I guess you could say that I do. These people are my family now, just not by blood. I plan to make my family a pumpkin pie, which they have never had before! Here, we open presents on the 24th in the evening and it might actually be white. Merry Christmas/ hyvää joulua!


  • Kylie, outbound to Finland

    This week, the cold came with the autumn solstice and brought snow to all over Finland.

    Honestly, I've been putting off writing this journal. Writing a journal about everything that is happening in your life when you're on exchange is hard work, your life never stops moving! Even if you're just sitting on the couch watching TV it's still so new to you because you are sitting on your new couch in a new house, with a new family, listening to a new language. So I guess I should start from the beginning...

    I left from Orlando on August 1st and little did I know how mentally and physically exhausting the journey to Helsinki would be. I traveled a lot over the summer, so I thought that getting around the airports wouldn't be a problem. I was so incredibly wrong, but I won't get into how awful the process was but I will say that just because getting somewhere is a hard process, it doesn't mean that when you finally arrive it won't be worth it- I guess that applies to life too.

    After I arrived I was placed in a hotel just outside of Helsinki for a night before all of the students went to the language camp in a place called Karkku. I was a little nervous for language camp, I thought that there would be tests and if I didn't pass they would send me home. Again, I was wrong. The camp actually was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. It was over a hundred students from all over the world and nights filled with talking to amazing people, the sauna, swimming in the lake, and traditional Finnish foods (and of course I learned a lot of Finnish too). After camp, all of us students became a family.

    Immediately after camp, my amazing host mom took me to Tallinn, Estonia! This was interesting because if you read my bio, you probably noticed that originally I was placed in Estonia. Although Estonia was beautiful, I could not be happier that I was ultimately placed in Finland. I never thought that I would feel so much at home here, but I do. Almost every single Finn I have spoken to has asked me why I would ever want to leave Florida and come here, and it's hard to explain. Maybe it's because every plate of food I eat here is amazing, maybe it's because it's so peaceful, maybe it's the gorgeous nature or the modern houses or the school or the fact that when I told one of my friends that I was feeling a little sad, she brought me 3 pieces of pulla, or maybe just the fact that I ended up in an amaz ing family. I don't know really. All I know is that I love it here.

    Immediately after I returned from Tallinn, my school started. On the first day I was really nervous, but it turned out better than I expected and I officially like Lukio better than High School. My gym class has actually been a lot of fun. With them I have played floorball, Finnish baseball, and went canoeing! There are a lot of differences between Lukio and High School: people here seem to take school more seriously because they go by choice. You can use tablets/ computers/ cell phones during class. The schedule is rotating and you usually have each class 3 times a week and they last 75 minutes with 10 minutes in between and most people have about 4 classes every day. School has no official start and end, and no bell system, and if the teacher has nothing else to say, you can just leave. Another huge difference are the school lunches, they are completely free for students, and buffet style, and they are not allowed to bring lunch to school. Oh, I almost forgot! My school has a candy bar machine which is heaven on Earth. It's not surprising because Finns love candy you can tell if you walk into practically any store and see the aisles upon aisles of it.

    A few weekends ago my mom took me to our summer cottage which is on an island off of Turku. This was a huge cultural experience because almost every family in this part of Finland owns a summer cottage. Our summer cottage had no plumbing so I got to use an outhouse for the first time! It actually was not that bad. The weekend that I went to the summer cottage, was a special weekend because everyone creates huge bonfires because they need to get rid of the waste because the summer is ending and also because in the old times, boats were guided by fires to signal where the shore was.

    They also took me mushroom picking in the forest, here there is something called everyman's right which allows anyone to go onto another person's property and pick and berries or mushrooms as long as they do not damage or disrupt the property. I went with my mom, aunt, and two cousins. One of my little cousins kept saying in Finnish "Kylie knows the path!" and he was not a typical Finn, he kept talking and kept talking to me about everything even though I could barely understand anything he said. Most of the time, I just stared blankly at him but he still told my mom "Kylie is a nice girl."

    I think I learn more Finnish when I am with them than any other time because even if I do not understand, they just keep repeating it slowly to me until I get the gist or they give up. That night we went in the sauna. Yes, it's true, Finns go completely naked, but it's not true that men and women go together, at least in public places. When I first came here, I did not like the sauna. I thought that it was too uncomfortable, and felt like I was breathing in water! However, I kept trying and soon enough I started to love it. It really is a huge part of Finnish culture and it's something so different than anything I can explain. It's like when you are there, you are closer to someone, and your conversations get more in depth. Of course, afterward my mom jumped in the lake while my aunt and I went straight into the hot tub. We talked about Finnish culture while looking out at the still ocean and surrounding islands.

    The following Friday there was a celebration for the 3rd years (basically the seniors but they are called abi) because they only had 100 days of school left. They went to all of the younger kids and wrote and drew on their faces. My cheek had "insert coin" written with lipstick, andd then a slot to put the coin in. They also decorated the main hall of the school and dressed up in crazy costumes that were jungle themed. One guy came as a gorilla, another girl came as a smurf and was completely painted blue, and one of my friends painted his whole body brown. Music blasted through the halls and everyone was smiling and laughing.

    I think that I got very lucky with my placement too. Since I live in Raisio I have the best of both worlds. I am living in a peaceful small town, but if I get in a car for 15 minutes I'm in Turku, the 5th largest city in Finland. This past weekend, it was Turku day so there was a Rotary dinner which ended with a firework show. Everyone gathered on the streets near the river and watched the show, it reminded a little bit of the fourth of July in The States.

    This week, the cold came with the autumn solstice and brought snow to all over Finland. My region did not get snow but it's sure to come soon. I also started taking Vitamin D pills to prevent depression caused by the darkness.. Oh Finland. So far I am loving my life here, although people are much more shy here, they say that once you make a friend they will always be there for you. I can see myself changing and I feel like I am getting to know myself. My style is changing, the way I eat is changing, my taste in food, and the way I look at people.

    When you're on exchange you have to be ready to handle any type of situation: uncomfortable, awkward, embarrassing, or different but you are so incredibly honored to handle these situations because you love your host country and know that the good will come, and when it's good, it's really good.\

    Note to Kylie: Your photos didn't get uploaded. Maybe try sending two at a time. I tried to send to your email but it came back. Candy 

    Photo description:This is pulla, a traditional Finnish dessert

    Photo description:The view from the island our summer cottage is on

    Photo description:A crawfish party which is very typical for summer, and so much fun!

    Photo description:This is a typical Southwest Finland terrain, there are walking paths and trees everywhere.


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