December 11, 2011

Exchange Student in Lappeenranta, Finland Pt.2: First days in a foreign place

Before I knew it, my Finnish visa was arranged and I was packed and ready to go. It was a beautiful 72 degrees and sunny on that January day that I left California and I knew Finland was in the thick of winter with intense snowfall and 4-6 hours of daylight. Being that I would spend my time in a small student town of 50,000 people near the Finnish-Russian border, I had no idea what to expect than what I had seen on Google: trees, lakes, Finnish cabins with saunas and plenty of SNOW! By this time I had already fell in love with Amsterdam on two previous trips, so I decided to make a few days pit-stop en route to Finland. After a few stressful months of working and studying leading up to my departure, it was a great opportunity to take a break and really ‘prepare’ myself for what was ahead.

Fortunately, I had known of some Finns in Helsinki who had been exchange students at my own university in California, who were willing to show me around the capital. First off, have you ever seen Finnish? The difficulty of learning this language is right up there with Mandarin Chinese…the length of some Finnish words and the number of vowels in a row will leave you scratching your head and wonder how people can communicate in such a way. Ready for your first Finnish lesson?

Hello = Hei
Beer = olut
Cheers! = Kippis
Thank you = Kiitos
City Center = Keskusta
Central rail station in Helsinki = Helsingin päärautatieasema

And one of the longest Finnish words ever* =  järjestelmällistämättömyydelläänsäkäänköhän
*ya I still don’t know what it means…

Helsinki has a very Russian feel to the city and sits in a class of its own compared to other European capitals. Finland itself is covered with ¾ of lakes and trees with cute Finnish cottages filling in the gaps. The people are extremely polite and quiet at first, then when the alcohol gets flowin’ the Finns really breakthrough their skin. I have yet to experience a place like Helsinki. It’s a place that few people have visited and I love knowing that I’ve gotten this glimpse into such a unique capital city.

Boarding the train from Helsinki to Lappeenranta
 Took a pic as I was pulling into Lappeenranta we go!!