ISEP student and psychology major Rayme M. spent a semester at the University of Eastern Finland in Joensuu. Sometimes your host country isn’t exactly what you expected, and that’s usually for the best. Here’s Rayme’s story.
When I decided to study abroad, Finland was not even on my radar. But after being persuaded by my ISEP coordinator to apply and later, accept my placement I quickly realized that it was the best decision of my life.
The culture is very different from ours in the U.S., and it was fascinating to learn and grow in an environment so different than my own. The people are quiet, but also extremely warm and welcoming once you get to know them. I had a wonderful Finnish family and friend and two of the greatest student tutors for internationals.The Finns are eager to share unique aspects of their culture and heritage and love to help you understand the history and traditions of Finland.
I joined a polar bear club (ice swimming), went on a husky safari, took a reindeer safari, snow-shoed, went ice fishing, and took part in many other activities that were unique to Scandinavia and Finland. Finland is the land of 5,000 lakes, and the beauty of the land is breathtaking. During the winter, there are three to four hours of sunlight a day, but with the moon and stars glistening on the snow, it still has a warm and wonderful light during the day and night. Then one morning you will wake up and the snow will be gone and a beautiful spring has started, with constant sunlight and a new found energy.
The places to travel are endless, and there are hundreds of new experiences to be had. I spent time in Turku — home of Finland’s oldest castle — and Helsinki. I went to a world ski jumping competition and visited the real Santa in the Arctic circle. I jumped on beds in the world famous Kemi snow castle and hiked to the highest point in Koli national park, and swam in the Arctic Ocean in Norway. My friends and I watched the aurora borealis dance across the sky in both Lapland and Joensuu with brilliant reds, purples, blues and greens.
Finland is history mixed with modern and it is one of the most interesting, beautiful and underrated places in the world. I would go back in a heartbeat and leaving was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
Ready to study abroad in Finland? Learn more on the ISEP website.
An earlier version of this post was originally shared on November 22, 2013.
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