Amanda, outbound to Finland

I’ve been in Finland for nearly two months now! It’s crazy how the time has flown and how much has happened. It’s been quite the adventure so far and I have been busy non-stop in the best way possible. I’m starting to adjust and create a routine for myself here and it’s starting to feel more and more like home with every passing day.

When arriving in Finland, I immediately went to orientation camp. I was a day late due to my flights but it gave me the opportunity to meet five other exchange students who were also arriving late, as well as, a boy from Finland who was on his way home from his exchange year in New York. The six of us who were late were brought to the train station and told where we needed to end up; the rest was for us to figure out. 6 teenagers, 13 bags of luggage, 5 different languages, and 2 train rides created quite an interesting first day in Finland, and a day I’ll always remember. Orientation was fantastic and took place in a beautiful place, Karkku. Over a hundred and twenty exchange students from around the world all meeting, learning Finnish, going to sauna, swimming, and exploring, I couldn’t imagine a better way to have started off my year in Finland.

I’ve been in school now for over a month and it’s been really great. I like the dynamic of it much more than school back in the states. It’s much smaller than schools back home, the high school here has around 300 students total. It’s much easier to get to know the people around you since there are so few students. The schools here allow you to have much more freedom as well; you get to choose your classes and your schedule and there’s a 15 minute break between all of the classes in which you get to socialize. It seems a lot less rushed and stressful than at home and the students hold much more responsibility here. I’m taking six classes right now so I’m there from 8am to 2pm. Currently I’m in: two English classes, biology, math, music theory, and art.

I’ve been trying new things and trying to fill my time with all types of different activities. Two weeks ago, I went on a three day hike through the Tammela forest which was incredibly beautiful and I’m really glad to have gotten the opportunity to go. We walked about 20km and the views were definitely worth it. Two weeks ago I also visited a car factory with my Rotary club and competed in a soccer tournament with my school. This past week, I started all of my after school activities. I started P.E., Finnish language lessons, guitar, and dance lessons. The Finnish lessons are really useful and I hope they help me more with my language skills. It’s really fun taking guitar and dance and trying new things that I’ve always wanted to do but have never had the opportunity to do before. Any free time I have is spent with my host family or my friends.

Last weekend, we had our first Rotary district meet-up. We all met in Turku then took a bus to Ruissalo, an island in the Archipelago Sea, where we had a picnic and we shared food from our country. I spent the day before biking to the store and baking an apple pie from scratch to share. It was really great to be able to see everyone again since orientation and meet the Australians for the first time. This past weekend, Emma (an exchange student from California) and I took the bus up to Tampere for the day to visit another exchange student, McKenna, for the day. The transportation is great here and I love being able to travel around so much.

So far everything has been so much better than I could have ever imagined and I’m really grateful for this opportunity. Leaving home sounded terrifying at first and it was harder than I expected but as soon as I left it didn’t feel so hard anymore. After you leave, you realize it’s finally happened, and the journey has begun. It’s crazy to think of leaving home and living in a new country for a year, but after you arrive in the country, then you just live and try to make the most of every second you’re away.

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