My name is Sam Yancho, and this is my blog about my school year abroad in Finland in the 2011-2012 school year. I will try to update the blog as much as possible with new information and stories about what I'm doing as everything unfolds.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I'm Alive!

Well I have to say, I've completely forgotten about this blog, and basically neglected to even post about the end of my year in Finland. In short, it was great. I had finally made friends and felt as though I belonged there. But all good things must come to an end.

On the fourth of July (I know, happy birthday, America. My gift to you is me.) I got on a plane and flew home to see my family and friends after nearly a year of separation. The return phase was much more difficult than I had anticipated, my mind often wandered back to my time in Finland, my friends, etc. So I was pretty down about all that for quite a while. I even often wondered if I had peaked, like the people from high school who never realized high school would end eventually. I had just finished one of the most exciting things I'll probably ever do, and now I was just another kid who has a European sense of style, knows some Finnish, and starts a majority of his sentences with, "When I lived in Finland..." I was going to attend Michigan State University in the fall, but leaving for uni won't make you stand out, you're just another kid in a school of 50,000. I was wrong. Once I got to MSU, I joined the rugby team, quickly making some of the best friends a guy could ask for, and eventually found my place in it all. Sure I was just another kid trying to navigate campus and get to class on time, but I thought of it as another adventure. My time in Finland led me to Michigan State to study international relations, and now my time at MSU will lead me who knows where, the world really is your oyster, you just have to get your head out of the box once and a while to realize everything available to you.

So I've been in East Lansing for two years now, returning home to Traverse City each summer to work at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. But I'm happy with it all, and thats what matters.

My time at state has given me another adventure, somehow I managed to secure an internship in Dusseldorf, Germany, working in a field I'm hoping to go into. The pay isn't great (there isn't any), but hey beggars can't be choosers, and plus, it should look good on paper (next time I go to a career fair, maybe the person looking at my resume won't just tell me to switch majors while I still can). And so at some point in time in the coming months, I'll be leaving for Germany for about ten weeks, then (pending funding from my two jobs) traveling around Europe a bit before heading home.

I'm still not too sure whether or not I'll continue to update this, but there you have it. Two years after my return from one adventure, my wanderlust has led me to take up another. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Long Needed Update

Well, I guess it's that time of year again, time for me to update whoever is still reading this (which is a surprisingly large amount more than I ever thought) about what I've been doing here in Finland.

This time it's been three months since my last update. So I've got a lot to cover.

It's really getting to that time of the year that every exchange student dreads. The days when we realize that this in not to last. The best things in life never do last long, and nothing we can do will change it, so accept it and enjoy what we were blessed enough to experience at all. So my main goal for these next two months is to live in the moment and not worry about what I'll be missing later, because after I leave I would only be able to look back and see how I spent the most important time worried about what memories I will have to look back on.

Now, time to try and remember some of the things that I've done over the last few months.

I went to Stockholm by a cruise ship for a day.

Danced in the Wanhat where you practice classic European ballroom dances and then present them to the school and parents.

Went to Lapland for a second time, touring a reindeer farm, went cross country skiing up a tunturi (mountain in Lapland), went in the hole in the ice before sauna, went downhill skiing, saw the Northern Lights twice, and toured an ice castle.

I went to St. Petersburg for a weekend, and

I went to some pretty big museums.

So that's basically a quick run over of the big things I've done in the last three months. I've also moved to my third host-family, given my goodbye speech, I went to Helsinki twice, once was to see a musical performance of Broadway classics. I took the Finnish National Fluency Test, at the beginner level, which by the way requires advanced knowledge of the Finnish Language.

This weekend I go to Kuopio for a Rotary conference with the rest of my district's exchange students, and those are always a good time for everyone. 

The things I've done this year have far surpassed my greatest expectations. I reached a point two months ago where I realized that if tomorrow I were sent home for some unknown reason, I would be 100% content with the way I lived this year and the only regret I would have is that my time here is so limited.

I didn't believe it to be possible to become so attached in such a short period of time. Of course I am excited to go home and share my stories and travels with my family, but I'm afraid to leave because I know that as soon as I step foot on that plane, there is a chance I might never come back, and I can't have that. But, as I wrap up living through one of my life dreams, it's time to explore and set my eyes on another, because what are your dreams worth if you never set out to make them a reality. 

It's a bit late, so I'm going to forego editing and make a hasty decision to just post this as is. Hopefully my English hasn't become so terrible that I can no longer express myself in a grammatically correct way. But, it probably has, and I could care less.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

No niin, sanoin että yrittäisin kirjoittaa suomeksi koska ilmeisesti minulla on monta suomalainen lukijaa. Tämä viikko on koeviikko no niin minulla ei ole koulua. Ja se on oikein mukava että voin nukku myöhään, mutta huomenna menen Haminaan koska minun täytyy vuokrata pukua vanhojen tansseja varten. Helmikuussa menen risteilylle Tukholmaan kavereiden kanssa. Sitten perjantaina toivon mennä Helsinkiin kavereiden kanssa, en minä tiedä miksi. Mutta haluan mennä koska en ole koskaan ollut Helsingissä. :)

Anteeksi että tämä on vähän lyhyt, mutta olen vasynyt ja haluan mene nukkumaan.

For you English speakers reading this, I'll translate it, it'll sound a little simple, but that's how my Finnish is right now. As for all the mistakes I may have made in the Finnish section, which I'm almost certain there are a few, I'll just have to live with them, because I'm too tired to go through and check everything right now.  (mä toivon että ymmärrät :) ).

So, I said that I would try to write in Finnish because apparently I have many Finnish readers. This week is exam week, so I don't have school. And it's really nice that I can sleep late, but tomorrow I'm going to Hamina because I need to rent a suit for the Vanhojen dance. In February I'm going to Stockholm on a cruise with friends. Then, on Friday I'm going to Helsinki with my friends, I don't know why. But I want to go because I've never been in Helsinki. :)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Well already over another month since I've posted. I'm honestly sorry to say I had completely forgotten about my blog for about a three week period of time. But, the good news is that over those three weeks I have had about 300 more visitors, which means at least someone is reading what I have to say, so that should keep me determined to continue writing on here.

Christmas time came and went. Sadly it didn't feel much like Christmas, until Christmas had already passed. There was very little snow, but listening to Finnish Christmas carols, and drinking warm cups of glöggi with gingerbread cookies. My host family gave me lots of chocolate, socks, shirts, and a hat. It was more than what I needed, or could have asked for, I'm really thankful.

I was able to Skype my Family on Christmas day (the 25th in the US, Christmas day in Finland is December the 24th) which was really nice. Surprisingly I wasn't homesick at all. Yeah, I missed my brothers and my parents and the rest of my family, but I wasn't down on myself because I wasn't back in the US with them. I understood that next year I'll be able to celebrate Christmas with everybody, and it will mean so much more because I now know how lucky I am to be able to celebrate with my entire family. Next year I will be able to be with everybody and share my experiences with them.

Christmas break was nice, I didn't really do much, but it gave me time to relax from school and from my Finnish studies. I slept a lot, to say the least.

New years came and went as well. It was amazing to walk through town on New Years Eve and the air would be thick with the smoke from the fireworks people were shooting off (In Finland New Years Eve is the only night you are allowed to shoot off fireworks, I could be mistaken, but I know it's one of the only nights, if not the only). It sounded like a war zone, hearing the explosions from every direction.

After New Years, it was back to school and Finnish lessons. My new courses gave me a lot of free time. On Monday through Wednesday I didn't have to be to school until 10. I joined a local gym and so now I go to the gym almost every day of the week, as long as my schedule permits.

I study Finnish a lot still. On Mondays I have around 5 hours of lessons, then on Wednesdays I have another 3. Plus around an hour or so of home studying three more nights out of the week. So it study a lot, but it's hard to shake the feeling that I should know much more than I do, or that my Finnish should be better than it is. It's definitely a difficult language, to say the least. But I love it. It's one of the most difficult things I've ever set my mind to, and I'm determined to do my best to learn it. Even if I will always make mistakes.

On the 9th of January, I moved to my next host family. I live now with my host counselor and his wife, they're a great host family. I have my own room, and my home is close to one of the town's two city centers, and so it is really easy for me to get around. We sit and talk about everything, from world politics to Finnish history.

That's all I can really think of right now. And so since it's getting late I might end this post. I'll post again sooner though. Maybe even try a post in Finnish then English so I can get some more practice in. I'll post pictures in my next post as well. That's all for now.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ok. So it's been a little over a month since my last post, and that shouldn't happen, but so much has happened in the past month that this post should (hopefully) make up for all of it.

So most of the month was just as I could expect it to go. Nothing extremely exciting, I kept adapting to my new surroundings. I spent much of my time studying Finnish. On Mondays, I have lessons from 2:30 to 7:30, then another three hours on Wednesdays. That's not including study time at home on top of it. So I've been working towards learning the language quite a bit, but it still often feels as though I open up one door in the language only to come into a hallway filled with hundreds of other doors. I'm always learning something new with Finnish. However, all is not in vain, I have been able to notice my improvements in the language by understanding more of what people say, and by being able to put together more complex sentences.

I finally was able to attend my first Rotary meeting in my host club. I gave my presentation on who I am, and where I'm from without any glitches, which was quite nice. Speaking of Rotary, I still have to fill out November's Monthly Report for my district back in the US. Oops. But now I have more contact within my Rotary club and I have a new counselor who is interested in me and always making sure I'm doing well. I'm still with my first host-family. I have been told that I will only have two and that I'll be switching sometime in January or February. I don't think that they have found a second family for me yet, but I don't mind. My first host-family is greater than I could have hoped for in the first place. I'm just worried about becoming an extra burden on them.

The weather here has really been gearing towards winter for a long time now. But there is no snow. It averages around 1 - 6 degrees Celsius, which is about 34 - 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Although I've seen the temperature drop to -9 degrees Celsius ( about 16 degrees Fahrenheit). It is also starting to get dark extremely early. The sun sets at around three in the afternoon. It's not like I'm able to see the sun in the first place though. I can't remember the last time I've been outside on a sunny day. It was probably almost a month ago. Because of the lack of sun exposure, I've started to take Vitamin D. Even though I should be feeling SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), I can honestly say, I've been happy for a while now.

At 6:15 in the morning on the 8th of December, I arrived in Kotka after an eighteen hour bus ride from Muonio, Lapland. I had left on the third of December on the same eighteen hour bus ride to Muonio. Seven of us Rotary exchange students got on in Kotka, and we continued to stop at cities all around Finland picking up other exchange students. We arrived in Muonio at our hotel at about 11in the morning. We had just enough time to eat breakfast before we had to leave to the ski resort. The first night skiing I did absolutely terribly, I looked like Jack Frost from falling so much. But, by the time the bus had to leave back to the hotel, I was doing really well. Then on the second day I skied even more and was able to go down the half-pipe and go off jumps. I really enjoyed being able to try something completely new. On the third day, in the morning, I went dog sledding and received a tour around the facility where they keep the dogs. Then, I went snowshoeing and went on a Reindeer sled ride. After lunch, we went to two different presentations about Lapland, one was about Reindeer and Finnish culture in Lapland, and another was a presentation about the plants and animals of Lapland.

That night, after dinner, we had a speech by some of the Rotarians and Rotex (past exchange students from Finland that have completed their exchange and volunteered to help supervise  incoming exchange students). Then, the oldies (Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, and Argentinians that arrived in January and have been in Finland for a longer time) presented gifts to the new exchange students. There are not enough to go around for everybody and only a select few receive one. They ranged from an important old hat that has been passed down for eight years between exchange generations, to some very inappropriate books. I received a gift that was supposed to be given to the newbie that has, and will, adapt most to Finnish culture, "for better or for worse is up to you to decide." It is a textbook called "A Concise History of Finland," it's about 320 pages of an extremely detailed history of Finland. I'm told I should read it all. And if I get bored enough, I just might.

As of now, I'm just waiting for school to start tomorrow, it's a new period for me, giving me new classes, so that should be pretty exciting.

Now here are a few photos from the trip to Lapland, or Lappi in Finnish.

I fell quite a bit while I was skiing that first night. 

A view from the slopes, across the river in the distance is Sweden

Dog Sledding

Holding one of the younger sled dogs

Reindeer sled ride

At the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi at Santa's Village, although I never got to see Santa, or Joulupukki in Finnish.
Meeting some Finns dressed up in traditional Sami clothing. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Time for another long overdue update!
It has been exactly one month since my last post. That is by no means a great thing, but it's a good sign. It shows that my mind is here in Finland with me, and I'm not always thinking about home. Speaking of home, people always ask me if I'm homesick, and I can honestly say that out of the entire 3 months I've been away from home, I have not been homesick yet. Granted, I do miss my brothers, my parents, my grandparents and all my cousins, but that does not mean I'm homesick. It's a known fact that if someone is away from the ones they love, they're bound to miss them. But I wouldn't give up the rest of this year for anything in the world. Except maybe another few years here.    :)

I've filled my days with school, studying, Finnish, friends, and explorations. Each day is a new adventure, even if I did the same thing the day before. If my days are repetitive, I count it as a good sign that I'm finally developing my own new routine and  adapting to life here. I definitely think of my life here as my "real" life and I think of my life back in the United States as an object of the past. An object of the past, but surely not forgotten, someday I'll have to pick it right back up where I left off. But that's not what I'm here to think about.

My main goal right now is to learn Finnish. Whenever I'm in a class that I don't understand, I'll be reading my Finnish-English dictionary. For example, tomorrow I'll be having six hours of much needed Finnish lessons. While my Finnish may not be the best of the exchange students, I'm putting forward the right amount of effort and have noticed a great improvement in my Finnish capabilities over the past month, and that makes it all worth it. I view learning Finnish as one of the most important barriers to overcome during this year (even though sometimes I feel as though it's going to be impossible).

This past month has been amazing, I went on a trip to the Canary Islands for a week, and many other great things. But the best thing of all is that I'm finally living what I would consider the everyday average life. Or at leas as normal as it could be for me. I know I've said that in the past, but I feel now it's actually true. Except for the whole, dust at 4:30 thing, that's going to take some getting used to.

I would say that things have changed fast over the past week so, in relation to the weather. It's been cold for a while now (Around 3-9 degrees Celsius, sometimes even going below 0), but the time at which it gets dark is getting earlier and earlier, about two weeks ago, it was just starting to get dark at around six in the afternoon, but now it is starting to get dark at 4:30. So that's going to take some getting used to. I've always used dusk as the time to head home for the night, but I'm told that in the worst part of the year, it will be dark when I go to school and when I leave, so I'm going to need to start getting used to doing things in the dark, or else I'll be home all the time.

Well I feel that I've done an adequate job in updating my blog. But this time I really hope I'll be able to keep it updated and not make this a once a month ordeal.

Moose hunting with one of my host brothers and my host father about 30 km East of my home.

The dunes at La Playa de Ingles on Gran Canaria, different than the dunes back home at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.

Some of the inland terrain on Gran Canaria, it was astounding.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kaksi kuukausi jo.

Today marks exactly two months since I've left the US so I figured today was a worthy day of a blog update. Over the past two months, I've changed more than I thought possible. Mostly in my mannerisms, and the ways I conduct myself.

When I first arrived in Finland, I was shocked at how little people talked, and how reserved Finns were. I was told that the people here didn't really have much small talk. I just said ok, but didn't really think much of it. Until the first weeks I was here. I would be sitting at lunch with friends, and nobody would say a single thing, and I couldn't get over how "awkward" I thought it all was. But, I just didn't realize that in Finnish culture, when people talk, they mean everything they say, and when they say something, it's for a reason. Now, when I say that, I don't mean that Finns just sit in silence all day until they absolutely need to say something to their friends or family, but they definitely don't always all the useless chatter that you would hear if you sat down in a restaurant in the US. It took me a while to accept this, and to be able to deal with sitting in a silence that my home culture would have considered awkward.

Now, after two months, I've reached the point where it's really no big deal anymore. Just the other day, I was walking through town with a friend. And all of a sudden she told me that I had finally, "become a true Finn." Not having any idea what she was talking about, she just told me that we had walked for over five blocks without saying a single word. I hadn't even noticed. But that made me think, and I realized that for the past few weeks, I would be eating lunch with my friends and we would be able to eat for periods of time and not talk. It's not that we were just sitting in an awkward silence, but none of us had anything important to say, so nobody said anything. And I'm completely fine with that. I've noticed that when I do talk, I tend to put more thought than in usual into what I'm going to say.

The little differences add up, and I'm finally starting to notice them.

Fall is here. Actually, it has been. It's been like this for about 3 weeks now, but the trees have changed colors, it's getting down to almost freezing temperatures at night, and it rains almost every day. I went for a walk today, and I could finally smell that tell-tale scent of fall.

A photo from about a week ago when the trees were just starting to change, and it was still mostly sunny.