Olivia, Outbound to Finland

Part of exchange is never having a real sense of time. These past five months have been the fastest of my life. Days blur together and sometimes I find myself wondering what the date is. But to me, that is beautiful because life back home is so structured and pressured, and here my main focus is taking advantage of every opportunity that is presented to me.

Since I last wrote I have had so many more opportunities. I’ve been to many other cities here in Finland and traveled to Lapland (the northernmost part of Finland) twice! Lapland is definitely my happy place. The first time I went was with Rotary and we went on husky safaris, reindeer sledding, and downhill skiing. It is hands down one of the best experiences of my life, especially since I got to spend it with some of my best friends. The second time I went to Lapland was with my host family for the holidays. This is very common in Finland because many families have small cottages all around Finland that they love to spend their time in. We took an overnight train to a town called Kolari and unloaded our car from the train and drove an hour to our house in Olos. The next day was Christmas Eve, which is when Finns celebrate. We ate the traditional Christmas riisipuuro, went to a church service, opened presents, and had Christmas dinner. We spent the rest of the week cross country skiing. It was my first time trying it and I absolutely fell in love. For new years my host family’s friends joined us and we set off fireworks, went sledding, saw the northern lights, and rung in the new year.

Even though I have been having such a blast it's not all fun. At the beginning of December, it was time to move host families. I was sad because I love my first host family so much but I was also excited because it was time for a new adventure. Also, just this week we had to say goodbye to our oldies, which are the exchange students that come from the southern hemisphere from January to January. It was so sad to see them go, but part of exchange is knowing that it's not goodbye forever. Also, Finland itself can be hard sometimes: the winters are dark, grey, and wet, the language is hard, and the people are so quiet. But, these things never stop me from loving Finland. If anything they make me appreciate it more because it is so different than home. In Georgia, I never would have had the opportunity for a week and a half of arctic nights or to experience -30 degrees Celsius. But, the winter solstice has come and gone so every day gets lighter.

Exchange is hard but every struggle is worth it because you will make the most amazing memories. I can’t believe my halfway point comes in less than two weeks; I'm not ready for it to end!

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