"The world is a book, and to those that do not travel it never get to see how the book ends."

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tiistai 3. toukokuuta 2016

About a Month To Go...

"A year is so long!"- Everyone
Well it's not... The weirdest thing to me is the fact that I am actually physically leaving this country. Not in nine months or six months, no, in ONE month. Actually forty-four days to be precise. I remember it feeling not so long ago when I was informing people back in the states that I would be returning in a larger amount of time. Soon I will no longer be dead to the people of my community. Actually funny enough some people didn't even know I was gone... Surprise!

Having around a month left has really given me the mindset to reflect and also nervously feel like I need to do EVERYTHING in this time I have left. I still feel like I have things I need to do and/or accomplish before I go. Don't get me wrong, I have done so much and have learned more then I thought in this one year. Yet, I have the haunting feeling like I need to do more.

This year has forced me to crawl out of my cozy burrow of comfort and embrace the world (cold world) around me. I have done more than I can count that has taken me full force out of my comfort zone. While doing that I hope I have pulled others out of their comfort zones as well.
Being an American in Finland is such an interesting experience since the social culture here is so different. I'm loud, annoying and I love to talk where as Finnish people are pretty much the exact opposite. I've had to learn to censor and calm myself down a bit to 1. make friends and 2. actually be able to become part of the culture around me.
I think one of the best things that Finnish conversation has taught me is that, you don't have to have it. Finns treasure their silence and don't care if there is a lull in conversation. There is no awkward silence when people sit quietly and it happens so frequently that I've learned to grow out of my awkward shell. I love the feeling of just being ok to sit with someone and not have the pressure to always be speaking.

This exchange has really helped me add more dimensions to my personality and open up new realizations about me as a person. Finland, Finnish people, and their culture have taught me so much about the world and about myself. I didn't even know being here would teach me all I know now. I am beyond grateful for this exchange.

With a month left to go I hope I can cram as much information and experience into my head as I possibly can. It's weird to think about how it has been almost a year since I came here. It has been almost a year since I received news about being with my beautiful host family. It has been almost a year and I'm almost coming home.

The Sappy American,


torstai 7. huhtikuuta 2016

Fantasies of France

A while back I took a little journey over to France. Nice, to be specific. I promised I would talk about my trip.

Me and my host family went for a week leaving on a Monday and coming back the next Monday. We had to switch to another plane in Munich but still it didn't take long to arrive in Nice. I didn't know really what to expect since I had never really seen pictures of Nice or heard much about it. France had been on my bucket list of places to travel for years though so I was so excited to be visiting. On arrival into the Nice airport I noticed that the city is pretty much one big waterfront. The land and sea meet perfectly with a long boardwalk and an abundance of seaside restaurants.
I won't lie, the vacation wasn't all ups. We did have some set backs, or I should say I did. 
At first we were set up with a BEAUTIFUL apartment right on the water and was really good size. We were so excited about the place but the excitement was soon snuffed out by the landlord telling us the place was having electrical problems that could not be fixed for a week. We were scattered trying to figure out a new place but in the end we got put in an equally great apartment close walking to everything.

The first few days were really great. The weather was perfect, not to cold and not to hot. A perfect medium. We spent most of the days walking around the waterfront and old town of Nice. Really just trying to take in every aspect of our area. Unfortunately my perfect days ended with the deadly wave of sickness... The first day or so I could just take some IB profen to keep my symptoms at bay. Let me just say, this only works for a day (that all rhymes and I'm proud). One day my body felt the need to let out all my repressed sickness by giving me a great cough and stuffy nose on top of radiating head aches and a sore throat. I woke up one morning to the joy of having an ear infection. I made the great decision of staying home that day so I wouldn't die on the streets of Nice. As the day went on I realized pain in my eye and that it wasn't functioning normally. This fabulous sickness had now also led to an eye infection that spread from one eye to the other like wild fire. My whole body was just rejecting itself at this point. I ended up going to the doctor in France and they are the most efficient doctors I have ever been to. I was in and out of this office in no joke... 7 minutes. I was back at the apartment with antibiotics in a good 20 minutes. I stayed home another day but braved it out the last day.

This whole sick experience makes it sound awful and like my trip was a mess but in reality I had an amazing time through my sickness. The days I was well were great! I saw a lot and got to experience a whole different culture. My feet would hurt extremely bad by the end of the day but it was worth all the walking for everything I saw. I am so grateful to my family for taking me on the trip and adding on to this already amazing experience.
I would highly recommend going to Nice on vacation and I'll probably be visiting again at some point but it is just such a quaint beautiful city. Also, the food is to die for! Having fresh baguettes and croissants to wake up to every morning was one of my highlights. After eating fresh French croissants... there is no going back.

(Quick Story):

My host sister for some reason is really scared of pigeons. If we are walking and they fly by she squeals and like fast walks away. Well, one evening after we had eaten at a restaurant and were starting our walk home a man comes up to us. He happened to also be carrying two pigeons. He doesn't ask or anything but just puts these pigeons on my host sister and she just stops moving. Like she freezes and these pigeons are just chilling on her. He then puts one on her head and I can just see death in her eyes like her worst fear had come true. She was like laughing and internally crying. I'm just there laughing on the side. The man eventually takes his pigeons back and we start to walk away but he asks for money and we wave him off saying we have no coins. That's when he started to fallow yelling at my host parents asking if they have money. We fast walked the hell out of that situation.
I don't know if that either helped her fear or just heightened it but either way it was funny.

Hope I didn't bore you too much but if I didn't I will also be posting soon about my recent trip to Germany!

- Cici 

tiistai 22. maaliskuuta 2016

Ultimate Pet Peeve..

Ok, I wanted to write about one thing that gets so far under my skin and happens on the daily that I just had to share it. I know it is definitely other peoples pet peeve as well and it happens more than often while on exchange, especially if the country doesn't know English that well.

Everyday I will be part of some sort of conversation and more times than not it will be in Finnish since... That is the majority of peoples comfortable and mother tongue language in Finland.
In common situations I am seen standing, usually staring off into space imagining what it would be like if I knew what everyone was saying around me.
My biggest... BIGGEST pet peeve is this:
When people are having conversation around me in another language and there is a reaction or they are saying something that I want to know I will ask for someone to tell me... a lot of the time I get this response:
"Oh it's nothing.." or literally just the word nothing.
I Hate It So Much.
Like obviously it's not nothing if everyone is laughing like damn hyenas or gasping like someone died. All I get it... Nothing... I just want to throw the word nothing out of everyone's vocabulary. Never to be said. Again.

I only realized how much this annoyed me until I came on exchange because of how frequently it happens..
Just a heads up to everyone thinking about exchange. This will happen, a lot. You will hate it. You will most likely get mad at the people around you. In the end you just learn to live with it. Doesn't make it any less annoying but.... Oh well...

- Angsty Cici

tiistai 1. maaliskuuta 2016

The Wanhat Experience

Well it's been a hot minutes since I last wrote. Even after I said I would write more frequently but here I am again after way too long. Sorry for the infrequent posts.

Winter is starting to come to an end. I can go outside and not feel like my body is going to freeze in a second. I no longer really need to go out with layers of clothing packed on. The snow is dwindling down and the sun comes out to say hi once in awhile. With the ending of Winter also comes my dwindling days of me being in Finland. Currently I am about seven months in with three and a half more to go. It's a really weird feeling realizing that I won't be here for much longer, just like the winter.
Quite a bit has been going on. A lot of new experiences have been packed in these past months. I got to go cross country skiing one day with my host family and it was so nice. We went right at sunset so the snow covered golf course that was turned into a cross country path was now covered in bright oranges, reds, and pinks from the sunset. One of the prettiest views I have seen.
You would think that the snow slows us down and keeps us inside, and sometimes it does. However, we adventure just as much as we did at the beginning of our exchange. Places look different and have different things to do during the winter and it's like seeing a new perspective. My exchange student "squad" went to Suomenlinna (a small island a ferry ride from Helsinki) and climbed the snowy hills of the island at sunset. We also visited little towns in close to Helsinki like Porvoo. It is one of the cutest little old towns. I would recommend it if anyone wants to come to Finland, as well as going to Turku.

About a week ago I got to experience one of Finland's biggest high school traditions, Wanhat. Wanhat is kind of like the equivalent to Prom back in the states but like way bigger and has a lot of big differences. First of all, about 200+ students learned an rehearsed around fourteen dances for two months in a gym for an hour three times a week. These dances were a mix of traditional Finnish dances, Latin dances, and some others that I had no idea. We also learned one dance that was student made by some people in the class.
About 95% of the time I walked around super confused by what we were going to learn, are learning, or where or what to do next. Since the guy only spoke in Finnish. I got help along the way though... Thank God or I would be way more lost
What happens is that we perform twice, once on Thursday evening for friends and family and then again on Friday morning for people at the school. Not only do we perform these fourteen dances but we girls bought huge poofy princess gowns that we all had the joy of occasionally tripping over and risking our lives dancing in. We all looked so good in them so it didn't even matter if you fell on your face, you looked good doing it...
For the Friday morning dance I bused to school and had many confused looks as I climbed on with my arms full of my huge dress and petticoat. My dress needed its own seat
It was so much fun to get all dressed up and perform all the dances that we spent hours working on. My partner was a gem and he was a fabulous dancer and saved my ass a couple times... So many thanks to him for putting up with me and my two left feet for two months.
After the dance on Thursday people went to a fancy dinner afterwards but I did not attend that part. However, there was an after party on Friday and I did go to that.
The after party had to be one of the biggest parties I've been to. It was at a club in Helsinki and there were around 10-12 school and about 1'000-1,500 kids in this club. If that didn't seem intense it also went till 4 in the morning. I arrived home at 4:30 with the sorest feet known to man. The after party was way too much fun and the whole Wanhat experience is one that I'll cherish forever. I had no idea what to expect from the event since we don't have anything quite like it in the states but it exceeded any expectations. I met so many new people from this and it really opened them up since I had to dance with random people. I made a few good friends from the experience and it was overall just really great.

If anyone is thinking of coming to Finland on exchange like honestly look forward to Wanhat. Even with the $375 dress and all the "stress" that comes with it... It is so worth it.

I will soon be posting another post I PROMISE, about my trip to France!

Till next time,


maanantai 11. tammikuuta 2016

Cold Toes and Grounds Froze

Christmas, New Years, and my 5 month mark have all passed. Winter is starting to take full force on Helsinki and Espoo. There is a few inches of snow on the ground and for the past week and a half it has been below 0 degrees fahrenheit. This is probably the coldest weather I have ever experienced and going outside takes many layers of pants, socks, shirts, and gloves.

I haven't written a post in quite a long time. Probably cause I have been busy but mostly cause I'm just a lazy human being. Christmas here was probably one of the best Christmases I have had. Definitely one of the top 5. It was so nice to be surrounded by my host family and all their family. I tried new foods and new traditions. Christmas food here is quite weird to be honest, very different from what I have in the U.S. It is a lot of casseroles (carrot, turnip, potato), ham, and salmon. They also eat fish eggs which at first I was pretty disgusted by since fish eggs seem like a weird food to me. However, I eventually tried it with sour cream and onions and it wasn't too bad... but not something I would eat everyday or any other time. I ate so much salmon in a dill sour cream mix. It was probably one of the best things I have ever eaten and I ate at least 3 pounds of it. Lets just say if I went out in public after Christmas dinner, someone could have mistaken me as a couple months pregnant. My favorite part of this Christmas was when I got to dress up as Santa for a 6 year old boy Josh. The tradition here for Christmas is different than in the U.S. Instead of Santa coming down the chimney  and waking up to presents under the tree on Christmas day, here Santa comes to your house, comes in and gives presents to you. People here open presents and celebrate on Christmas Eve. 

To be Santa I had to wear a ridiculous beard and mustache that I could barely breath or see through and Ray Bans with the lenses popped out. I probably looked like the sketchiest Santa. When Josh asked where I was (as Cici) some people said I was getting milk and others said I was meeting a friend... I showed up with no milk sooooo.. He also explained Santa to me when I came back and he just said "Santa was here and he was SO funny... HAHA... He also had a really weird voice but he was nice." I have the worst Santa voice ever but it was so funny and really exciting to be this character for Josh. The one thing I really wanted for Christmas weirdly was socks. Their grandma makes the most comfortable and warm homemade wool socks and I really wanted a pair. I got a fabulous as well as everyone else in the family and they are amazing! All in all Christmas was a great time for me and a huge highlight of my first 5 months of my exchange. It'll be a memory I will keep forever. 

New Years was not as exciting. My whole break I had really bad sleeping problems and couldn't sleep before 4 in the morning so I was really tired. I did go to Helsinki and spent time there with a friend and that was fun but came home before 12 and around 10:30. We actually missed the midnight mark by like a couple minutes and realized it is a new year after 12. I took some melatonin to get me to sleep and just kind of passed out after midnight. 

It was a good and calm end to 2015 into 2016 and the past 5 months have been a great few leading up to 2016.  I feel as though already 5 months in I have learned a lot about myself and have matured in a lot of ways. 

I have got to the point in my exchange where things feel normal. I feel like this is everyday life now. This family feels like my family, this house feels like my house, I am used to this life. I am half way through my exchange now and have about 5-6 months until I leave Finland and come home. I have also gotten to the point that when I think about leaving it kind of crushes me inside. I have become so close to my host sisters, this family, and some of my friends. I am so used to having sisters around now and having this family that it will be weird to go back to my home in the U.S where I am an only child. 

Don't get me wrong, the past months have had its ups and downs but everything is so worth it and is helping me grow. This exchange is going pretty well even with the way below freezing weather. I will try my hardest to post more on my blog so people can read what I have been up too. I hope everyone had a great Christmas and a great start to their New Year!

- Cici

lauantai 26. syyskuuta 2015

Finnish Breakfast

If anyone was wondering what Finnish people eat for breakfast I would say my breakfast this morning is very typical. Most Fins eat break, butter, and cheese in the morning and on occasion will have the amazing karelian pie. Karelian pies have rye bread crust and are then filled with rice porridge. I have to admit I didn't like them when I first had them since they are super new to my pallet but have learned to absolutely love them and look forward to eating them in the morning. Oatmeal is also very common they call it porridge or oat porridge. I've never really liked oatmeal either but again have learned to enjoy it with jam and blueberries. Finland consumes the most coffee and the world and is known for being the biggest coffee drinkers. Even though there is only a single Starbucks in Finland which usually has a giant line, there are great coffee shops on every block. For the people that enjoy coffee like myself will have around two cups in the morning and then more throughout the day depending on how available it is. If you ask a Finn if they want coffee they will most likely take up the offer.