Sydney, Outbound to Finland

I have been in Finland 5 and a half months. I am half way through my exchange here in Turku. I will be flying back around the second week of July. In my last update I had been here only 2 months, and everything was fairly new. Now I am getting settled in and I am used to my routines. I really want to tell you about some of my amazing adventures and the many things that I have learned, but first I want to tell you some exciting news.Today I met my second Host Family, and I loved that my host sisters were so excited to meet me. The whole family made me feel welcome, even their two dogs 😊 I will be only about 5 minutes from my current host family, so I would be able to easily visit them. I will be moving in with my second family in 1 week. I am happy and a little sad at the same time, but that is part of this exciting Rotary adventure. I have had an amazing time with my first Host family and I am very grateful for everything that I they have shown me, and they will always be a big part of my life. I know that there are more learning opportunities and new things to experience before my time in Finland is over.

One of my favorite activities with my host family is cooking and learning how to make Finnish foods. My host mom and sister helped me make Pulla (a sweet bread similar to cinnamon rolls). We also made some amazing sushi the other day. Some days, just like at home, I have a lot of free time. I have found that I love doing puzzles, sometimes with my family and sometimes on my own. I have also joined a gym close to my school to help me stay busy and healthy. My host parents have also helped me find a tennis coach so that I can continue to practice while I am here. Just like in the U.S. I have been going to the movies with my friends from school, the last one that I saw was Fantastic Beasts. The movies here are almost always played in English and subtitled in Finnish which is very helpful for me. A couple of things that I have had to get used to are first Less sunlight (only 6 hours a day or less) and second if I am listening to a long class or a concert in Finnish, I find that I get a head ache. I didn’t realize how much my brain has to work to try to translate that much information. Something really important that I bought since I came to Finland and it has started to snow more was my Vans snow shoes/boots. I love my Van’s from back home, but they were not practical at all, unless I enjoyed slipping and falling down all the time and having cold wet feet. These may be one of the most important purchases I have made here yet (Thank you Ulla for helping me find them). Now at school I really enjoy my Art class and have created a lot of art work (my planets portrait being my favorite). I also had a party in my homeroom class and we made pizza, Yum!

I love that Rotary and my family have made sure that I have been able to take trips and see new places. In October I took a trip to the Capital, Helsinki, and got to see the beautiful Capital Building, the Town Square, a Church built into the rocks, and the Amos Rex Art Museum. Also, in October I attended 2 different Halloween Costume Party’s, one with Rotary and one with friends from school. Both were great! November brought some beautiful Fall leaves and some more trips to Korpo, Russialo (with other In-Bound Students), and finally an amazing Rotary trip to Lapland. Lap land Tour began with a 16-hour bus ride that I tried to sleep through. We had many stops, some picking up more students and some to eat and use the bathrooms. Once in Lapland (In the Arctic Circle) we participated in some really unique activities. We skied, visited Huskies and Reindeer and also went on sled rides pulled separates by Huskies and then Reindeer, cooked sausage on a camp fire, and walked across a bridge that was half way between Finland and Sweden. We always stayed on schedule because there was only about 2 and a half hours of daylight each day and after the sun went down, we stayed inside. If you have the opportunity to go to Lapland, I highly recommend it. On the way back to Turku we stopped at Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi to meet the real Santa Claus. It is Christmas there all year around and it is magical. December brought more snow and Christmas. Christmas is Celebrated on Christmas Eve and Santa brings gifts to every child personally. I baked cookies for my Host family and I also made some for a club that I am in at School. Everyone seemed to enjoy them. On New Year’s Eve we saw fireworks and I got to wish my friends and family in Florida Happy New Year 7 hours before they had their New Year, which was pretty cool.

There are many small things that happen everyday that remind me how lucky I am to be on this amazing adventure. Some days I will still get a little homesick and miss family,friends, and even sometimes American food, but then I realize that I am in Finland and then I look forward to my next adventure such as a new Host family, a wonderful trip to the Archipelago, or even a trip to an amazing underground Museum in Turku. Sometimes just the unknown is part of what makes my Rotary Youth Exchange exciting.

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