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.

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.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

So it's been almost a month since I've made a new post. I'm way overdue. So much has happened since then, and I've done so much, but I'll try to cover most of it.

During the beginning of the month, I was still getting used to my surroundings. It takes a while to acclimate to everything, all the people around you speaking Finnish, occasionally trying to eavesdrop on a conversation just to see if you can understand a word here or there, the social culture, and even the weather. I figure it rains about 5 days a week, but it never lasts. I can go to town and get coffee when the sky is clear and it's a sunny day, then 20 minutes later you walk outside and it's raining. I've learned to never go anywhere without my umbrella.

I went to district camp. That was fun, a nice weekend break to talk to all the other exchange students. It was basically just a weekend to bond. We went on a hike, and I got some spectacular photos, but this whole page won't be bothered to translate to English, so I'll play around after I'm done typing this and try to attach some photos. That weekend was the first time I saw the Northern Lights (revontulet in Finnish). It was awe striking. Everybody was having a dance party, and the cabin got pretty warm, so I decided to go outside and cool off by taking a walk. I got to this huge field, and sat down. Surrounded by the crisp fall air, and the sounds of the trees, I sat and watched the sky. I noticed something off about the sky, but couldn't quite put my finger on it. Then as I was sitting there, I realized that what I thought were just some clouds in the sky were actually the northern lights slowly moving. Still not believing what I was seeing, I sat there longer, until they got really bright and were moving across the sky like ripples in water. By no means where they bright, but they were amazing. Hopefully when I go to Lapland I'll be able to see them again, but brighter.

School is school. Still. I go to class, do the homework, and study, just like everyone else (except for some things, because of the whole language barrier thing). This past week has been test week. Marking the end of my first round of Finnish classes. I still have one more test to take tomorrow, but then I have the rest of the week off. I wish. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I'll be presenting the USA to some younger level English students.

I went to a festival in a nearby town, and I've visited the Russian border. My friend, from my same town back in the US is also here in Finland, and he came to visit for four days or so. He went to school with me, and I basically just showed him around town and we were able to catch up on everything since coming to Finland. It was fun.

The other night I went out bowling and to get some food with a big group of friends.

My host family is great. They are so kind and welcoming. Always offering to do things with me, making sure I'm comfortable and don't need anything. I couldn't have asked for a better first host family. The house is nice, it's in a neighborhood, not what I'm used to, but it's nice. It's only a short walk to the bus stop, and I don't mind that because the scenery is amazing. My view about that will probably change when winter gets here though.

That's all for now, hopefully it won't take me a month to update again.

Church in Kotka

At the Russian border with my friend

Fall is here, the leaves are everywhere

The bus stop in Kotka

A picture from the hike while at district camp