Camille, Outbound to Finland

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Yksi kuukausi, en månad, one month. I’ve been in Finland, or should i saw Funland, for one month now and it’s honestly so weird to think time can move as fast as it has been lately. My time here so far has for a lack of better words been a dream. I left home on Aug. 5 with some really hard goodbyes, and hopped on a plane to Chicago where I met up with about 10 other exchange students and flew 9 straight hours to Helsinki. All 110 RYE students from all over the world going to Finland and Estonia went to a camp called Karkku, where we all got to meet and really get to know the Finnish language and culture. Karkku was really a soft landing for me which was nice, being able to calm down and in such a friendly and supportive environment. I met up with the other three exchange students from Florida, having familiar faces around me was amazing and we’ve all grown so close. Karkku was so much fun!!! We did all the stereotypical fi nnish things, from going to sauna then jumping into the freezing lake, to cooking Finnish markkara over a campfire. In the middle of the week we took a trip to the nearby city of Tampere, where we were set loose by the rotex with one goal: make some Finns uncomfortable. The last day of camp came with mixed emotions, as I was leaving my friends and the feeling of being comfortable, I was really jumping into my exchange head first… which was terrifying. When the host families came to pick up their kids, it was like a puppy adoption. People coming up and asking “are you my kid?” “do you know where I can find so and so?” but finally after everything I ended up in my beautiful home and city, Pori. My first day in my new home was great, everything was relaxed and I just unpacked, took a deep breath, and took everything in. My family surprised me and had a welcome dinner, since my host siblings are all older and live away from home I got to meet them all, and really get to know everyone. The two days I had before school started were spent with my host sister, who is now on exchange in the US, and exploring my new city. I’d just like to give my family some props for being so patient and understanding with me while I’ve adjusted, they’ve truly been amazing. School started the next week, and I’d like to tell you all I had the most amazing time and I felt so welcomed and happy… but the truth is, I didn’t. Finns are for being shy and unwelcoming, and let me tell you they really lived up to their stereotype. I found myself sitting alone everywhere I went for the first week, and just to sum the week up into one word it was awful. But then after some persistence, and trying my best to blend in with the culture people started talking to me. I’d also like to say there are five other exchange students with me at school, 2 of which are rotary and the other 3 afs, and they’ve all been such an amazing support system. Now that I am a month into my life here though, I’ve formed a routine and am really starting to feel at home here in MY country. I’m really happy with my life right now, and as I’m learning so many new things, and meeting so many new people, I’m falling more in love with Finland everyday! Kiitos to everyone who helped me through the shortest month of my life!!