“WhyFinland?” “Oh, because I’ve never been there before…” It was as simple as that. Going to Finland wasn’t something I had planned. But it was something new. Something different. Something that might take my plain, boring, ordinary life and turn it into something more extraordinary. I knew nothing about the country except that Finnish children chew Xylitol gum before they go to bed which, I later came to find, wasn’t even true. I didn’t even know how to pronounce the name of the school I was to go to as an exchange student. It was just a chance I ventured to take. After all, people always say you never know until you try. With this in mind, I decided to try Finland.
Growing up in the states, I absent-mindedly assumed that the western culture was equivalent to the American culture. Coming to a European country burst this bubble and allowed me to expand my view of the world. Although Finns look like Americans and speak very fluent English, I found out that Finland is nothing like the US. Even their personalities differed as Finns are quiet and shy. A typical joke is that if Finns see someone smile at them on the street, they assume the person is drunk, insane or American! However, my experiences in Finland are not limited to learning just more about the country. In my university there are as many as 400 international students, more widely known as Erasmus students because they are mostly European students participating through the Erasmus programme. They create a lovely, active, international atmosphere which I love and it really allowed me to cultivate a taste for crazy Spanish parties, home-cooked French cuisines and burning Estonian liquor. Never ending parties, friends from all over the world and trips to neighboring countries like Russia and Sweden, Erasmus life in Finland is never dull.
Moreover, life in Finland has allowed me to have valuable experiences which would never have been available elsewhere. One of them, believe it or not, was taking classes. I am a sport major at Ewha and Finland was perfect for me because it boasts a passionate love for sports and beautiful natural environment to enjoy it in. I’ve been freely orienteering around the beautiful Finnish forests and learning how to play Finland’s most popular sports: ice-hockey, floor ball and Finnish baseball. I also took classes that allowed me to enjoy winter sports as much as I could possibly want: skating on frozen ponds, cross country skiing on endless fields of snow and even hiking with curious looking snow shoes on. And let’s not forget the irresistible Finnish sauna. I could write endlessly about the wonders and magnificence of the sauna. The traditional Finnish sauna custom is to sweat as much as you can in the steaming sauna and then quickly run out and dip yourself into the carefully cut hole in the frozen lake. The water is so cold that it’s hard to stay in even for a few seconds. You find yourself gasping for air. Even so, the feeling afterwards is incredible. It’s amazing how completely cleansed and perfect you can feel after that one crazy jump into the ice. With the beautiful scenery adding more to it, the experience is indescribable. Addictive. Unforgettable.
A semester has passed and I am now in the final months of my exchange year. Already, the thought of leaving Finland breaks my heart. However, even when all the good finally comes to an end, I know I will leave Finland with priceless memories that make my life a bit less ordinary.