December 12, 2011

Exchange Student in Lappeenranta, Finland Pt.3 – First Days in ‘Suomi’

It seemed like only yesterday that I was boarding the train in Helsinki to catch a train to Lappeenranta, my home for the next 6 months. I felt so liberated and ecstatic. It was the first time I’d have my own apartment and roommate, a French girl, that I was so excited to meet. Once I’d arrived, I met my Finnish tuto--Jussi--assigned to me by the university, who greeted me and helped me with the logistics of getting a bank account, taking me to my apartment and showing me where to buy groceries. Within a few days I was set, I unpacked my things, got to know the bus schedule and soon I was only a few days from meeting the rest of the international students in town. Actually, I planned to bring so many warm clothes I couldn’t fit them in my bag and given the fact that within my first 2 weeks in Finland I would be turning 21 years old (a biggie in the US!), my mom decided to fly out, bring me an extra bag full of jackets and long-johns and help me ring in my birthday!! In those first days we had international student orientation where we got a tour of the university and got to introduce ourselves and tell everyone which country we were from. This is the first time I met Christian, he was sitting with the other Dutch guys and had the most intense blue eyes I'd ever seen...I was intrigued...'hmmmm who is this handsome fellow?' Following orientation, all of the international students were invited to the university's cottage right on Lake Saimaa. We were exposed to all things Finnish-Karelian pastries, bathing in a Finnish sauna and subsequently rolling around in the snow and some even jumped into the icy cold lake--sauna, snow, lake, repeat! 

I was able to give my mom a brief intro to Lappeenranta before we caught a train down south to explore the back streets of Helsinki. We topped off my birthday celebration with a delicious dinner in Helsinki and my mom retreated to the hotel to satisfy her jetlag. My Finnish friend in Helsinki knew it was a pretty important milestone (the big 21!) so we hit the town and I found myself inching back to my mom’s hotel room at 8AM…sorry mom, had to celebrate my 21st birthday in style!! Little did I know that once I said my goodbyes to mom in Helsinki, I had to hop on the train back to Lappeenranta and  my newfound international friends were planning on celebrating my birthday with me once I got home to Lappeenranta.

Harbor in Lappeenranta, right on Lake Saimaa
International student orientation at a lakeside Finnish cottage
Center of Lappeenranta
Hockey ofcourse :)
Mom arrives!
21st birthday, baby!
View of a Winter Wonterland from my balcony