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University life in the UK is Unbelievable

Life is pretty crazy, isn’t it? All of a sudden you wake up in a new country, still half asleep staring at the roof, and try figure out how you made it there. The sun is shining between the curtains, someone yells at the corridor, and the alarm clock is not-so-quietly reminding the lecture starts in fifteen so snoozing is not longer an option. Even now after two months, waking up here in the UK feels weird.

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  So happy the lecture finished in time to see this.

University of Hertfordshire. When uni started in Finland two years ago, I made sure everyone knew that this is where I would end up in for my double degree year. And here I am, and it is not what I had expected.

The first two months have been amazing. Crazy. Full of adventures. Filled with countless spontaneous trips and social gatherings, and lectures and group meetings and LRC evenings. Have luckily not needed to pull an allnighter there, been close though with the deadlines approaching…

I’ve met people from so many countries I’ve lost count, made friends with truly spectacular individuals and laughed until I had tears in my eyes. Have even managed to return the first assignments in time, join sports clubs, and sort out a part-time job for the rest of the year. It’s been exhausting of course, this life of mine, yet I wouldn’t change a minute of it.

Going abroad teaches you not only about the world and other countries and cultures, but of yourself.

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St Albans – this is where I will graduate next year

You are actually much stronger, much wiser, much more equipped to deal with changes and conflict than you knew. There is this strange energy you have the first weeks of being abroad. You make friends without realizing, get to know the weird habits of your new flatmates, get all settled in to the tiny room you now call home. You learn to read the situation and know what topics are okay to talk about with whom, start to know your way around the campus and the city, and maybe learn the art of small talk the locals seem so fond of. Yet there is not really something as me-time, because let’s face it there is no time to waste staying home alone, what if you miss out! The weeks pass by and then one day it’s Friday night, you’ve been home all day doing nothing, and for the first time you actually can just take a deep breath and stop to think.

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A day trip to Cambridge

I smile when I think of the things that have happened, the kindness of strangers that have now become dear friends. The time  I was really ill – freshers flu is a real deal – and came home and my amazing flatmate had bought medicine and left it outside my door. Or the night it was freezing outside as we waited for the bus home and someone gave me their jacket even though they probably needed it more. The spontaneous travels, the laughter-filled wine Fridays, the “I’m coming over right now, let’s talk” phone calls from a dear friend. Teaching people to cook, and running around the campus trying to figure out where the pizzas are being delivered to . We study on campus, we live on campus. It’s all here – and it takes less than two minutes to walk both to the shop and to the lectures from home! It is overwhelming and stressful and tiring at times, yet I feel I would have missed out on so much had I stayed somewhere else. 

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An epic road trip to Glasgow – the street art there was just stunning!

Overall, I cannot say I miss Finland. I miss certain aspects of it, like family and my close friends that are now scattered around the world doing their exchange. And the academic world here is quite different from what I’m used to so there is real pressure to do well for the final year… But with the support Herts has to offer, and thanks to my lovely local and international friends, I think the next few months will be just as great as the last two.

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A weekend trip to Edinburgh. This trip proved that spontaneous decisions made over a game of pool and table tennis can lead to truly amazing holidays & new friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Student Life in Helsinki – “Hell yes”

As I don’t -yet- have the funds to travel as often I’d like, I figured making the most of living in Helsinki is the second best thing. Or to be honest at times life here is even better than abroad, because I’ve got good friends around.

Food and art festivals, flea market shopping, hanging out in the park. Girls’ nights out and dinner parties and movie dates, not to mention the countless student events.

It’s great to feel like I’ve finally found the place where I belong

A great aspect of the uni/polytechnic student life in Finland are the overalls! You put on those over-sized, patch-filled bright creations and you are free to do whatever. Mostly it´s something alcohol-related, bar hopping or picnics – but in wintertime why not join a couple of thousand other students and go sliding down a hill or have a snow fight and sip hot chocolate with a hint of mint liquor…

The best thing is that you are one of the group, you get to share some amazing times with fellow students and easily make lots of new friends. It’s even better than I had imagined.

"Metropolia - a great place to study and make friends"

“Metropolia – a great place to study and make friends”

I made risotto ❤

Being a student and living with a low budget doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t get to enjoy some amazing food. There are the Pop-up Restaurant Days, student discount meals, not to forget teaming up with mates and making a three course dinner together. I’ll be happy to eat bread and pesto for breakfast every day if that means getting to go out to a restaurant or cooking together with friends every now and then…

And last but not least, it’s fun to spice up the busy assignment-filled life of mine with some spontaneous “Let’s try”-ideas. And this can be anything. Yesterday we chose hair modelling with KC professionals – I can definitely recommend that!

"Afternoon coffee on the roof"

“Afternoon coffee on the roof”

All in all, life of a business student really isn’t that bad. Surely there is the stress over assignments, plenty to learn I admit, but in a supportive, encouraging and most of all fun environment it’s actually quite easy to get out of bed every morning.

And also,

Helsinki is a pretty awesome city I must admit!

Helsinki <3

Helsinki ❤


PS. Do check out ViktorVelinov Photography for some cool photos and updates from a fellow Metropolia student 🙂

A second family? – living in a host-family for a year

I remember standing in Auckland airport, waiting to board my third and final flight to New Plymouth. 2009, the exchange year was about to begin. I was happy, but really nervous because I didn’t know who would there to pick me up from the airport, with whom was I going to stay the year to follow.

I was the last Finn to get a host family from New Zealand that year, had almost given up on hope that I could travel with the other AFS students. A couple of nights before the visa application was due, I got a phone call from an elderly man late at night. He sounded kind, really lovely but with an accent so odd I missed half the stuff he said. The main point was that he was to be my host-dad. I did now sleep that night, couldn’t even hold still. It still brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.

Arriving to New Plymouth for the first time, 09

As I got the host family so late, there was no time to get in touch with them, to get a photo or anything. I got off the plane in New Plymouth and just stood there, hoping that someone would come.

That minute or two felt like ages. Finally one AFS volunteer waved at me, and with him was the man that had called me. Graeme, the man who has now over the years become something more of a second dad/granddad than a mere host for a year, and his granddaughter were there to pick me up. I couldn’t figure out half the stuff they were babbling on about, that kiwi accent was a bit of a challenge at first.

Front garden, 2009

I was told I’d be staying with him and his wife in Bell Block, a few kilometers away from New Plymouth (New Zealand), in a small house 5 min walk from the beach. Graeme was semi-retired and the wife was still working. The kids had moved out, but their son and the granddaughter were flatting across the road, and the youngest son would be home for the weekends. I would have to catch the school bus and the area was generally safe but I shouldn’t walk alone at night. Roger.

I met his wife, and the rest of the family that day. Heard the house rules, got familiar with the surroundings, made my room feel like home. Slept for ages to recover from the jet lag. I cannot really remember much from the first week or two… Everything was so new. And weird, like the light switches were the other way around, the meal times were different and not to mention driving on the left side. And oh dear the Internet was insanely slow and having a landline telephone was just plain strange (I didn’t know of anyone who’d have that back home).. It was all also amazingly exotic and wonderful and everyone seemed really nice and whoah the nature was gorgeous – I totally understand why some compare the start of the exchange as something resembling a honeymoon!

School started, I made some local friends my age and got used to catching the school bus daily. Slowly started to figure out the accent as well, though the text language, an essential part of the youth culture, with (m8, up2, brb etc) was still somewhat of a mystery. And I bet everyone thought I was an idiot for I didn’t get half the jokes the locals, especially my host-brother living across the road, were telling me…

Graeme took me to different AFS events, sightseeing, to meet the friends and extended family. We had lovely family dinners and I got to taste the Sunday roast lamb and the famous BBQ´s and passion fruit cheesecake. Yumm. The family had two dogs, for someone with previously only hamsters as pets that was quite cool! We also tried out lawn bowling and other strange kiwi activities and overall the everyday life became quite nice. Not amazing like what you would expect from the EF leaflets you see but nice and basic life, going to school on Monday felt just as bad as it did back home… Also, having the beach nearby was perfect, that’s the place I described at a previous post. Of course you get lonely, and start to miss home and everything familiar at times, but for me having the sea nearby helped tremendously for some reason. It’s the one place that seriously kept me sane when things weren’t going too well.

One might think it´s weird staying in a host-family with just an elderly couple, the kids having left home already. I disagree. I never got close to my host-mum unfortunately, but the siblings were wonderful even though they were a bit older than me and with Graeme we just built this strange connection with from the early stages. I never actually considered changing the family. He took me and one of his granddaughters on amazing road trips during school holidays, told me countless navy stories and made me feel like I was a part of the family. He wanted to meet all of my friends, set curfews and told me if I was to start dating, which I did, that he’d need to meet the guy asap. Basic dad-stuff aye – and I think despite being such a lovely person he really managed to scare my boyfriend when they met.

Roadtrip to Cape Reinga, 2009

Roadtrip to Cape Reinga, 2009

All in all, living in a host-family is such a major part of the exchange that I really appreciate the hard work all the AFS-volunteers go through when selecting the students and families. It’s not always a match made in heaven and strong personalities collide, at times one needs to change the families, but I’m happy of my placement. I couldn’t ask for a better experience. I learned so much that year, I grew as a person and am now much stronger thanks to all that. The great times were better than what I can describe, the bad times mixing in every now and then to make you appreciate the good little moments in life. Just the same as back home.

Now, 6 years later, I still feel happy when I think of my exchange year. So much has happened since, but that year was definitely the experience of a lifetime. I ended up going back to NZ to live there for another year and a half with my boyfriend of the time, but I kept in touch with the host-family and especially Graeme. He’s even friends with my parents, and is coming here on a holiday next summer with his wife. Can’t wait to get the chance to show him my country, all the wonders of the good-old Finland, to say thank you for everything he’s done for me. And maybe even let him scare the new boyfriend of mine… It´ll be fun.

The Best Host-Dad Ever. Another road trip, this time in 2014.