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.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jo kaksikymmentäyksi paivät. Already twenty-one days.

It's been 21 days. And the main word that comes to mind when trying to sum everything up, is wow. All the big things, and little things, make up the differences between Kotka, and Traverse city. The biggest changes so far would be the people, the city, the environment, and obviously, the language.  But then, the little things add up as well, constantly reminding me that I'm actually here, living what I've dreamt about for years. The little things are usually, the road signs being in kilometers, the absence of small talk on public transport, and even they way I eat breakfast. It's all different, but for the better. I've started school, and am taking, Maths, History, Art, English, and Sports. My schedule is pretty nice, on three days, I get to school at 8, on one, I get there at nine, and on another, I arrive at 10. There's only one day where I don't get out at 2, and on some days, I have three hour breaks in the middle of the day. I got it easy on the number of classes, because I'm an exchange student, but it helps give me time to study Finnish, which is really needed. Tomorrow I have my first language lesson in my second language course, which should really help out a lot.
 I finally have my own mobile, and of course it's a Nokia, I didn't feel right buying anything else.
School is pretty good, but in the end, school is school no matter where you are. One thing about it that I really  enjoy is that the lunch is free and healthy for you. I really appreciate that, and the fact that I'm able to study in one of the best educational systems in the world.
The people. The people are some of the most kind, straight forward, and frank people I've ever met. Also, some of the most shy at first. That has to be the biggest things to get used to. The lack of unimportant conversations is almost shocking at first. But I appreciate it, no need to listen to people talk about the things they know you don't want to hear about it. The people are shy, and I was expecting that, but I wasn't prepared with what I found. The social norms are this, don't confront a stranger in public by saying Moi, or smiling or something like that, because people don't do that unless they're crazy, or drunk. Next, expect people to be shy when you first talk to them, but as the days go by, they'll get more comfortable around you and you'll talk more and more. Third, when somebody is talking to you, listen, and never interrupt, because it's not common for people to ramble on about pointless things, so when they say something, they usually mean it. Unless they're joking. Finally, don't be loud, if you have loud conversations on the bus, you'll often annoy someone somehow, so respect their silence. These are by no means concrete social norms, but they are what I've observed when comparing American society with that of Finland.
I've done a lot, I went to a Finnish amusement park, Tykkimäkki. I went to my summer cottage today, and went rowing, the nature was amazing. I sauna almost daily. And I've been on a ferry on the Baltic.
It's been the time of my life so far, and if the rest of my year is half as good as my first 21 days, I'll have the year of my life.
If you have any questions, email me at syancho@gmail.com

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The first week

Well, I'm here. And it has been the experience of a lifetime just in the first week.
I have done more things, and had such great experiences in the first week than I could have imagined possible. I've had an entire course in Finnish, visited numerous Finnish cities, had multiple authentic Finnish saunas, went to pick buckets of fresh berries until your hands turn blue, and made tons of friends at the language camp.
I'm finally at my host family's home, and it's great. On Tuesday I have my first day of school, and I couldn't be more excited. I feel like a giddy little schoolgirl I'm so excited. I would have to say that by far one of the best things was the trip to Tampere where I had mustamakkara along with other traditional Finnish foods. I was also able to go around the city and just look around and experience everything, like the daily market in the town square. It was amazing to see. This is where I post to let everybody know that I'm alive and well, and that I'm extremely happy at the moment. I'm really tired from this past week, and finally have a real bed, so this is where I sign off and finally get a good night's sleep. I'll post more soon.
Hyvää yötä!