August 9 Journal
So it's day five in Finland and I got my computer working. Where do I start? Language camp was awesome even though we arrived late. Met some Finn Rotex, got picked up by my new family, and realized how amazing life is going to be for the time I will be with them.
I arrived in Jyväskylä to be met by my Rotary counselor for some coffee (it's like water to a Finn). Went to sleep late because I still haven't got used to the time difference....... My city isn't very big but its about the size of Gainesville!!! Which is awesome cause I lived in Gator nation for 11 years and I loved it so I bet I will love it here too.
I have found and seen 3 full sized ski ranges that are within 15km of my house... man I can't wait till it snows so I can thank myself for bringing my snowboard. Everyone in my family plays golf in the summer and downhill skis in the winter, so I'm perfectly set for the winter... I start track some time this month... and it's year round... I also met my host brother's best friend who is really cool... It's hard to believe but my host brother graduating class only had 25 students including himself. Oh yeah I'm going to get my schedule tomorrow so I will probably post it along with some comments about the school I will be going to...
The people here are very shy, but once you get to know them they are the most wonderful people I have ever met. I look forward to starting Finnish lessons so I can understand it more!!!!
December 5 Journal
So I'm writing this on a train because I just realized I’ve been here 5 months. Forgive me for now writing too many journals. I have made many friends at my school, I actually help teach my gymnastics class and English when the teacher needs it. We actually just got back from our ski trip to Lapland with Rotary. It was amazing to see the kids I met in the first district camp and the "Oldies" who will be leaving in January. Then I will become an oldie and meet the newbies.
In Finland, there is a tradition with the oldies and newbies. At the end of their stay here, the oldies give away a present to a newbie, but not everyone gets a present; these are things that have been passed down for several years or they are things that are new and being started into this yearly ritual. Sometimes they are personal from one oldie to their newbie, sometimes they are from all the oldies to one newbie, and sometimes they’re just stuff that someone did which reminded them of the person who had the gift before and they pass it on. I received one of the oldest gifts that has been pasted down. My gift is something that has been passed down from year to year to the guy who is single but is always with different ladies :D You have to keep in mind that these gifts are given from student to student, I felt very honored to receive this gift, and plan on continuing to live up to its name.
Many things have happened in the last months. I have become friends with almost all the Rotex in my country, some even that are not as active as others. Unfortunately my district is not so active as other districts in Finland, but at the same time other districts are so close, that when they have Rotex-planned events or trips, I have been traveling to attend them and meet other people. There are only 120 inbounds in Finland right now with Rotary, and even after 5 months it’s hard to know everyone.
I have switched families recently. It was interesting switching but at the same time I didn't want to switch. I had gotten used to my first host family and I was scared on moving into a new home. The transaction has been great - me and my two host sisters get along pretty well, even though our schedules are totally loaded and we see each other only at home for dinner or weekends. I never really noticed how much all the stuff that I was told before I left were drastically wrong and at the same time some things were amazingly correct. At least for me, the whole mood swing thing and how we would get sad after the 3 months and happy again after Christmas hasn't happened. I have been having an amazing time, I am open to trying anything new, and I am always doing something with my school or friends, I do see myself changing though, my motivations and habits are changing, I am adapting to the culture and experiencing it as much as possible. It is sometimes hard to avoid speaking about home and the experiences I have had at home, but I have been trying as much as possible not to focus my attention on things that will be there when I go back no matter what.
I still can’t believe that I am starting my 5th month in Finland. Time goes by 10x faster when you’re on exchange. I don't like it sometimes. I have 36 hrs of school a week and I believed that would occupy my time, but it really doesn't feel like it’s that long. It’s really interesting to see other exchanges, and listen to how they are adapting, help them if they are sad, and visit them when they ask. I used to not go and visit people sometimes because they live in the middle of nowhere, but lately I had someone visit me, and she lives in the middle of nowhere, but after she told me more about how beautiful her city is I have decided to go visit her soon. We have a Christmas break soon, it’s longer than the one at home. My new family has plans for us to go somewhere the 20th-27th, but I have no idea where because it’s a surprise :D
Well, from now on I will try to keep my journal updated. Probably after my Christmas trip I can make another one. Also, pardon my English if it is deteriorating.
April 15 Journal
So today I am sitting on the train. I just noticed I haven't made a Rotary blog since November.... Well, since November I have been in one family and I recently switched to my final family. We had a very "White" Christmas, which means there was a lot of snow. My host sister said that a few years ago there was no snow during Christmas. We went to my family’s Winter Cottage for new years and it was really awesome. I met some cousins in my host family and we went snowboarding for 3 days :D
After the winter break it was back to school. School has become the biggest Drag ever... But honestly there no point not going, I mean if you sit at home on your computer you have officially wasted your exchange year. I attend school every day unless I am traveling, which happens a lot. Thanks to Finnish public transportation and regional train system it is very very easy to go visit other exchange students in Finland and meet their friends and their city.
For future students coming to Finland I recommend thing one: as soon as you get here get a student card so train tickets are 50% off, meaning bring extra passport style pictures with you (also to give to host families if you want to). Second is an mp3 player of some sort! And a very good library of music. You will have a lot of times where you have nothing to do and music really does help pass time :D Oh books are good too, I usually don't read much but here in Finland I have so far read 9 full novels :D
Finland is not a huge country and not a lot of people know much about this country. Honestly I think that’s why I am so happy I came here on exchange, and I will probably do one year of college here. I have made some amazing friends and my host families will always be a part of my family. One of my best friends here is actually coming to stay with me in Florida for a month during summer! Oh another thing for Future Finlanders (I know that’s not a word :D). People are very shy here; at first everyone is different and kids in this country have very unique personalities. But trust me you will make friends and suddenly you will know like everyone (more know you ) - it’s been hard for me to remember everyone I meet here, but trust me they find you on Facebook and if you stay 5 months without seeing them they will remember you and the exact conversation you had last time :D
It has been 9 months since I left the good old sunshine state, I have sat through 3 months of dark winter, now I experience myself walking in full sunshine at 8pm and I can’t thank Rotary enough, they really do know and prepare us for 90% of what is going to happen to us on exchange :D The 10% they can’t help you with is the part where it is very different for every exchange student, your host families, friends, and how you change over your exchange. You don’t have to worry about none of these things though because it’s all things that work out and make your exchange year priceless! I think my exchange has been the best year of my life and best exchange ever!!!! Honestly everyone will say their country is best :d But Finland is definitely the Crown winner :D
I have 2 more months and honestly I barely have time to sleep :D My actual parents are coming to visit … actually in 20 min I am meeting up with them :D Then I will be going to Russia with 97 other Rotary exchange students in Finland :D Then in June we start The Rotary Eurotour :D I am very excited for these trips and I can’t wait to see all my fellow exchange friends :D I will miss Finland very much :(
June 2 Journal
So my year is over in Finland. I feel like I'm leaving my life behind again. I have had an amazing year and no regrets, I honestly can't thank Rotary enough for giving me this opportunity to mature and experience such an amazing culture.
I really wonder why kids don't fight to come to Finland! My parents came to visit me and they also agree that Finland is one of those countries many people would never think of coming to visit but turns out to be one of the most beautiful countries. The people here are so shy people sometimes portray them as being rude or not friendly. I believe this is totally untrue! Yes Finns are shy but if you take the first move into becoming friends you will see the people are wonderful and kind! A Finnish friend is to me like family nowadays. I have come to learn how much they care and are willing to help you! I guess being here has made me appreciate my friendship back home and notice that you don't need many friends! Just a few friends that are there for you no matter what! Rain or 3 meters of snow, a true friend will come see you to make sure you're ok :D I really hope more kids start coming to Finland from Florida! I can't wait to get back and meet the kids coming to Finland next year!
I am now going on Eurotour from June 6th-24th with all the other Rotary ex students in Finland! We will be traveling by bus all around Europe and I honestly couldn't be more excited! I get to spend the end of my year with people I will forever remember :)
Even though I'm leaving right after Eurotour and will not be able to see all my friends in Jyväskylä, I'm 100% sure I will be having many friends that I have made who are going to come visit me in Florida. Kids in Europe love and dream about coming to Florida and yet I talk to people back home and they complain there is nothing to do! I have learned to appreciate the silent fun :D something Finns specialize in! You don't have to be partying all the time to have fun! Sometimes just sitting on your porch and just talking to your best friends is enough!
Never look back! Just keep you memories and experiences in front of you! Live by them and cherish them! One small decision could have made everything different! A simple thing as not filling out your form because of fear can stop you from experiencing the best thing In the world: Change :D
I am now a Rotary exchange student from Finland, inbound to Florida :D Life is an endless exchange; once you start your journey, it will never end!