Ian, outbound to Finland

Hei! This is my first journal entry, I have been in Finland for a little over a month now, so brace yourself I have a lot to catch you up on.

So I departed on August 1, once I landed in Europe I met the first of many new exchange student friends. Their names were Sofia Darovskikh and McKenna Middlebrook, both from New York. We flew from Amsterdam to Helsinki and arrived on August 2. From there we were met by the rest of the Inbounds to Finland and we spent the week at our Language camp.

At camp I had a great time. I made friends from around the world, there were Mexicans, Canadians, Brazilians, Germans, Italians, and people from France, Japan, South Korea, Spain Austria and I'm sure I missed some but I can't recall which. Although I made close to 100 new friends there were three that I became especially good friends with; their names are Malcolm Dunson Todd, Cora Gehring, and Annemarie Velemir.
During the camp we had Finnish classes separated by language/nationality. Once lessons were over we would head to sauna then play basketball, floor ball or soccer. We went into Tempere for a day trip on that Thursday. It was our first real chance to experience the Finnish culture. My new friends and I explored the city, ate doughnuts, watched a "different" public performance in which the dancers would walk like they were in slow motion and then freeze in a seemingly random pose, after a few steps. We also had a tour of the city and even visited the Cathedral in which there was some amazing art. On Saturday I met my Host Family.

Leaving camp was tough. I had just left all my friends and family in Florida, then I spent the week with these exchange student who became my new family, and I was asked to leave them again. Although I left I will never forget that week or those friends.

My first host family has been amazing! They have helped me get comfortable here, as well as teaching how things such as public transportation work. My host Mother has taken me to hockey games, showed me the bike route to school, taken my to a summer cottage and even a crawfish party. My Host Brother Jussi, has shown me around my new school introduced me to his friends and has invited me to hangout with them many times. My other Host Brother Kalle, is in the Army so I do not see him during the week, but on the weekends we get a chance to talk and he is very nice.

My first week in Lappeenranta, was also the first week of school. There I was met by two other rotary exchange students, both from Mexico, Maria Herrera and Maria Mendez, as well as a german named Lisa that is on exchange with another program. For the first semester I took easy classes. I am taking two art classes, english Finnish and a sports class. My schedule changes every day. Some days I start at 8:00, some 9:30 and then on Fridays I start at 11:00! I really like the way the school system works here. I feel much more independent and in control of my education, than I did in the States. Also having free lunches is pretty awesome! I have heard many Finns say that the lunch food isn't very good but I have liked everything I've tried.

So I also practice with the Lappeenranta basketball team, Namika. I have practice in the afternoons Monday-friday and the morning practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I went with my team to a tournament in Espoo, there I became much closer friends with my teammates.

After returning from there my school had some events for the "freshmen." Although I'm in the second grade I participated in these events. The first was a day full of team building exercises, such as races, games, and a few blindfolded courses we had to complete with partners. During this event I made some new Finnish friends! The second event was a dress up day for the first years (again I wasn't required to dress up with them but I participated anyway). The theme was babies, so most of the girls dressed up and some other guys did as well. At the end of the day I was awarded the title of Best Costume! Plus because I dressed up many new people talked to me, people who normally are very Finnish and wouldn't usually start a conversation with a stranger.

I have a few Finnish friends however there are only really two that I have hangout with, Kaisu Keltanen, and Konsta Urhonen. We have walked around the city, watched movies and spent time at the harbor.

So far my Rotary club has had me hold off on coming to the meetings, however on the 21st I am scheduled to go and introduce myself to the members there. I have already met a few during the "Rotary Day" that we had in the city. During this day there was music by the harbor, as well as a few Rotary booths with information about the Rotary. I spent the day there helping the Rotarians in any way I could, I ended up selling raffle tickets for the better part of the afternoon.

I just came back from my district camp. I was reunited with some friends from language camp. The camp was very relaxed. We had a lot of free time, but also went on a 8 km hike and had what they called "Camp Olympics." The Olympics included events like a dizzy race, a race to complete a phrase in Finnish and a quiz about Finland. In the end my team, Team Karhu(bear in Finnish), won! For winning we got a bag of Finnish candies. We then spent the night around the campfire roasting sausages. After that we went back to our cabin and watched movies until about 5:30 in the morning. Although I had to wake up at 8:50 I don't regret it in the least, spending that time with friends was worth the tired state that came with it. The rest of that day was spent in the train station, saying goodbye to those friends a second time was painful but I can look forward to the Lapland trip in November.

So now you're all caught up! From now on I will try to update this blog every two weeks or so, so check back soon! Now I would like to thank you for reading this and being interested in my exchange. I'd also like to again thank Rotary for getting me to where I am now, without them my life would be much less interesting. Moi moi!

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