Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Beating the Wintertime Blues

Finland can be a tough country in the wintertime.  It gets extremely cold.  Below zero is the norm, and temps can reach to a frigid low of -25C where I live and as low as -40C in Lapland.

Days are short and nights are long and dark.  Here in southern Finland (Helsinki area), we get about 5ish hours a day of daylight, but in Lapland in northern Finland, the sun never rises!  On top of that, even when it is daylight, most of the time the sun doesn't shine.

Of course, one beautiful thing about wintry Finland is the snow.  It makes the night seem a little brighter.  Plus, I'd rather see clean white snow on the ground than yucky mud because it rains a lot. 

Being from a state in the US where we get more sunlight, warmer temps, and almost no snow, winter is specially rough on me.  I've even spoken to some native Finns who struggle during the winter.  And they've lived here their whole lives!

After spending the previous winter in Finland and am now in the middle of another, I've developed a few rule of thumb for handling the winter weather and the blues that sometimes come with it.

Friday, January 3, 2014

First trip to Amsterdam & Germany

I am a little--no a lot!--behind with my postings.  Needless to say, graduate school has been stressful and literally all time consuming.

Back in October, my fiance and I did a little traveling to Amsterdam and Germany.  Below, I share a few photos and comments with you about my travels.

First trip to Amsterdam

This is me standing in front of a canal in beautiful Amsterdam.  Notice the many bicycles behind me.  Bicycle were a very

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Girl with No Car

matkakortti & card reader
One of the things I love about Finland is public transportation.  Buses, trains, trams, and the metro are something that don't exist where I lived in the States.  Traveling this way has it's upside and downside.  On the upside, I don't have to drive. I can read, listen to my Ipod, or just close my eyes and rest for a while. I can effortlessly sit without worrying about other drivers or finding a parking spot.  Plus, I don't have to buy gas! On the downside, taking different modes of transportation can take longer.  I'm not on my schedule, I'm on theirs.  Even though there's a schedule, trains can run late. (I had a train almost 2 hours late one time! This extreme is rare though.) Don't get me wrong, using transportation costs money too.  Luckily, I have a travel card (matkakortti) that lets me buy days and switch modes of transport while only paying 1 base price per day, and I get 50% discount because I'm a student.

So if you are sitting there wondering what it's like to take public transportation every day, let me take you through my typical day.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer Cottage Life

For many Finns, spending summers at a summer cottage is a way of life.  It's a way to get back to nature, a simpler life, and a way to take advantage of the beautiful weather and loads of sunlight.  Cottage can range from very primitive (no electricity, no running water, etc.) to very accommodating (3 levels with all the comforts of home).  Many cottages have a main cabin, tupa, and several smaller supporting cabins nearby.  These smaller cabins may contain storage, guest rooms, the sauna, outdoor bathrooms, etc.  The set up has the appearance of a small village.


This past weekend, I was able to experience summer cottage life in Finland for the first time.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Olavinlinna Savonlinnassa | The Olav Castle in Savonlinna

This past weekend, luckily, I was able to travel to east Finland to see a  very old castle.  The castle was located in Savonlinna, and was built way back in 1475.



Castle entrance
A lot older than my home country!  It was constructed by the Swedes (The land now known as Finland belonged to the Swedish kingdom then.) in attempt to protect the crowns expanding eastern border.

Monday, May 27, 2013

What will I miss in Finland?

I have exactly 1 week left in Finland before my feet again touch US soil.  I'm glad to be visiting home, but I'm sad to be missing the most beautiful season in Finland, summer.  I have really enjoyed Finland.  It's good I'm coming back in August.

As part of my internship, I started a international student blog SAMK Stories.  The first post for the blog, I wrote myself, "Top 10 Things I Will Miss About Finland."  Not very original but still enjoyable.  I'll post the last 5 here, but if you want to read the rest check out the original article.

#10 - How well everything works

Systems and services in Finland run, in my opinion, very efficiently--unlike my Erasmus experience in Spain, where everything was always mañana ('tomorrow'). I was surprised to find that I often received mail the very next day after it was sent. That does not happen in the US. Businesses and grocery stores keep convenient hours. However, I do miss the 24 hours stores in my country. I have yet to find any stores open 24 hours here.

#9 - Summertime sun

Well, it isn't quite summertime yet, but days are already very long. The sun rises around 4 am and sets late into the night, almost 11 pm. So much sunlight makes me feel energized, happy, and very productive. On the downside, I do not sleep as well at night. Who wants to go to sleep when there is still sun outside?!

#8 - Finnish food

Finnish food is not very different from the food I eat in my country, but there are some unique dishes that I will miss: pulla, rye bread, and Karelian pastries. I think Finns create a dessert or bread for almost every holiday!

#7 - My internship at SAMK

I have really enjoyed my time here at SAMK. It has been nice working instead of studying all the time. Spending time with my Finnish co-workers has taught me a lot about the culture and language that you can only learn from the 'inside.'

#6 - No small talk

It is very refreshing for me that Finns actually enjoy silence. Not talking on the train or bus is completely normal and comfortable to them. In the US, people tend to think silence is uncomfortable. We feel a pressure to talk constantly, even if the conversation is completely meaningless.

...

To find out what I will miss most about Finland, read the rest of the article here.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hyvää Äitienpäivää | Happy Mother's Day

Like many countries around the world, today Finland celebrates Mother's Day.  Not unlike the U.S., there is no set tradition or special festivities on this special day.  Each family celebrates in its own way.  However, I did discover that there is a flower that children traditionally give to their mothers: valkovuokko.


Valkovuokko can be found in many places growing along side the nature trails and throughout the forest.  Of course, anyone can pick them.  Today, my boyfriend and I gathered a "bouquet" of valkovuokko for his mom from the forest behind our apartment.



Hyvää Äitienpäivää! Happy Mother´s Day!