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Thanks for visiting!

15 Oct

Hey visitor, thanks for stopping by! I rarely check this site and have (sadly) stopped writing for it since I left Finland. However, I’ve left it up as I hope it continues to be a useful resource for those wishing to travel to and/or study in Finland. Five years on and the time spent there remains one of the best years of my life! I’m still in touch with many people I met there, many of whom I consider my best, and lifelong, friends.

Hyvää päivää!


What do an ice castle, a medieval cathedral and Poland all have in common?

6 Apr

Answer: I’ve visited them all!

Okay okay that was lame.

But wowser – has it really been three weeks since my last post? Time flies! In that time I’ve visited Kemi, Turku and Poland, as well as participated in an easter egg hunt, organised a cultural dance and (of course) done a lot of studying!

So let me get started on a host of new posts to fill you guys in! I’m hoping that everyone’s well and I’ll be catching up on blogs for the next few days =)

A Great Big Thank You and Space For Feedback!

17 Jan

Thanks to all of my followers and those who view my pages – it’s so kind of you all! It’s nice to know that the things I’m learning and experiencing are being passed on to others. I hope that you enjoy the blog and I’d like to take the opportunity to ask if anyone has any suggestions for future posts, things they want to see more of or know more about? Anything at all!

I also wanted to let you know that I’ve updated my ‘How Will I Survive in Finland?‘ page; I hope it’s a little more clear and useful to you all.

It’s a nice cool -20 degrees today, but wunderground says that it feels like -29 because of the wind, yikes!

Hope it’s a little warmer where you all are, thanks for reading!


From autumn to winter

30 Dec

This is the same place outside my apartment, first in September then in November, what a huge difference! I’m not sure which I like best, what do you think?



Karasjok, Karigasniemi and the Sami Culture

11 Dec

After we visited Kautokeino we took a jaunt through Karajsok to see another side of the Sami culture –  the working culture of the north. We dragged our giant suitcases through the snow and boarded the bus again, escaping the new minus 15 degree temperatures. We passed through the Norwegian mountains – and what I thought was a 11.30am sunrise turned out to be an 11.30am sunset! Pictures are here, it was a stunning morning =)

Once we reached Karasjok we stopped by the NRK Sami Radio station and got a tour from the quirkiest, funniest guy – not what I was expecting, and it really brightened up the trip for me. I was feeling a little tired and sick by this point. The tour really emphasised the importance of radio and media for the Sami culture – for improving communication through different communities and developing the Sami language. They’re really into improving the accessibility to radio and television services for the Sami community, especially children. Their kids’ tv set was the best part and I wouldn’t have stayed there and made glitter animals had I the chance.


After this we went to a completely contrasting place – to a tourist shop full of cheesy Norwegian flags and fridge magnets (okay, I bought a bumper sticker with a moose on it, but that was all!). I’ve really grown to dislike these kinds of shops and tend to just buy something little with the name of the place on it, proof that I’ve been there or something.

Then to contrast again we popped into the Sami parliament building on the way out of town! They were holding an important conference and there were lots of important people walking around. I knew very little about the Sami culture before I arrived in Finland and I really enjoyed seeing the working culture as well as the one which tourism presents – we met many intelligent, active Sami who were incredibly keen to chat to us. We were such a diverse group and I’m sure that they found us as fascinating as we found them!


We didn’t stay in Karasjok for the night but plowed on to Karagasniemi, back in Finland. It was like coming home to see the signs in Finnish again. We got a room in a ten bed cabin with the other girls and I managed to snag a room with one of my friends for a bit of chill time. However, we had just settled down to our essays when our teacher knocked on our door and said that we could go iceskating if we wanted – me and my friend had both recently obtained some iceskates and it was our new obsession. He offered to drive us to the local school to skate, an offer we couldn’t turn down, so we grabbed our skates and set off. Although not the point of the study trip this was probably my favourite part – we had the rink to ourselves and had such a blast. And I didn’t fall!

The next morning I was feeling even worse and nearly skipped the trip to the reindeer farm and the subsequent hike, but I’m glad I didn’t. Although the blood spattered snow from a recent reindeer slaughter made me feel a little queasy the fresh (FRESH) cold air made me feel better and the hike was beautiful. I should say ‘hike’, because the snow was so far up our legs that we managed only twenty minutes or so.

We hiked to see the beautiful Sulaoja fountain that never freezes and it a sacred place for the Sami. Many go there to be baptised and our teacher invited us to drink the water. Usually I have a policy to drink only bottle water when travelling (because I’m a germaphone) but I felt invigorated by the walk and the daredevil in me was awakened by it. It was pretty good water!


Then to Inari we went, the last stop of the trip!


In Leaps and Bounds

5 Nov

I have written little about my experience with the Finnish language, which is a shame because I’ve enjoyed it for the most part. Everybody says that Finnish is hard – I say that it is just different. Every language is hard when you first begin to speak it.

I have days when I think that I can’t speak it at all and that my vocabulary is so small (which it is, and I can never find the word that I need), but on others I am happy with my level of Finnish and feel as though I could speak Finnish to anybody (probably not true, actually).

But anyway, today I impressed myself today by automatically and effortlessly asking at the shop: ‘Onko tämä viisikymmentä senttiä?’ – Is this 50 cents? I was baffled that such a cute little Minnie Mouse purse could be so cheap and wanted to double check. It was, and I bought it =) Perfect for carrying my makeup to Helsinki and Tallin this weekend.

I also met with my Tandem partner again today – we meet every week or so and chat in a mixture of Finnish and English. It usually takes me an hour or so to prepare what I’ll say, but increasingly I’m using phrases and words that I know, rather than just reading from the script which I have written. Today I was talking about a mix up with classes and I even made a funny story in Finnish. I have also noticed a definite improvement in my listening skills; when I first started I understood perhaps one words in five sentences, now I am beginning to understand five words in one sentence. Next comes the part where I can understand the full meaning of the sentence ^^.

So, if you plan on moving to Finland and people ask: ‘Why do you want to go there? Isn’t Finnish really hard? How will you communicate?’ Just tell them that yes, it’s difficult to learn a new language, but once you get the hang of it it feels much, much easier.

It’s November Already?

4 Nov

Just short of November, on October 30th, I reached a milestone, hit a goal post that I had been aiming for since before my arrival in Oulu. The snow was still around, but only just and beginning to melt, and I figured I would head to the gym at 6.30am and see whether it would be around when I was out again. Through sleet and bone-chilling winds I half-walked, half-slipped to the gym, wondering why on earth I was out and what I was trying to prove.

At 8.30am, after a slightly lazy and unproductive workout, but workout none-the-less, it had started to snow properly and I detoured back to the city centre, walking through a snow-filled park on the river’s edge, lifting my face to the fat snowflakes that had started to fall. The only other person that I encountered was a man walking his dog, the dog’s barking echoing across the empty park and the near frozen water.

Snow fills me with a kind of elation that nothing else does. I will walk for hours if given half the chance, going nowhere in particular, just smiling and plodding on. Even if it’s freezing I don’t care; I will be cold if I can be happy.

I wandered along the front by the old tar houses and through the market square. It was slippery where the ice had begun to melt and the slush had frozen. The snow that was falling was struggling to settle because the ground was still wet. There’s a coffee shop across from the bus stop, ‘Strada Coffee’ which I always eye up and have wished to sit in for a long time. It has a long front window so that one can look out at the passing cars and people, and it looks warm and mellow inside. I decided to go in and order a cup of coffee and catch up on my diary writing, which I’d been meaning to do for a while.

I went in, removed my many layers, and ordered a cup of coffee in Finnish, without pause and without hesitation  taking it to the window to get settled. It might not sound like a lot, but it’s a big deal to me to have achieved this goal; to feel comfortable enough to use Finnish, in the city centre and with native Finns, and enjoy a cup of coffee on my own.

When I first arrived in Oulu I remember being afraid of everything. It’s my first time in a country that doesn’t speak English, and I was terrified of making mistakes or being misunderstood. It took me weeks to go to the city centre of my own, and I didn’t dare to stop and get coffee or food, I was content to do my shopping and run back home like a spooked cat. I’m a nervous person by nature and it takes baby-steps for my to progress. All my baby-steps have paid off and I was able to go and enjoy my own company (and good coffee) in this different, sometimes overwhelming place. It has done wonders for my confidence though.

In the last week I joined a dance class and went and danced with strangers, another form of proof to myself that I can be who I want to be, if I just stop being so afraid and just go ahead and jump on in.

58: Mr Toripollisi

28 Oct

Poor guy looks cold in the snow!

58: Oulun Yliopisto

28 Oct

I haven’t posted many pictures of the campus, and none of the interior, so I’m using that as an excuse to put my essays aside for a little while.

Oulu University website tells me that it was founded in 1958 and currently has around 15, 500 students. There are 400 incoming exchange students and 350 outgoing, which is a lot! during orientation they said that this year was the most international students that they’d ever had.



These are dotted all about the campus – you can leave your coat, free of charge, for the day. It’s a great idea, but I admit I haven’t been brave enough to do it yet, in case my coat gets accidentally  picked up by someone else! (this happened to a friend of mine last week, he got it back eventually though!)


This is the are next to the main restaurant, it’s a handy place to meet people. The grey screen is a touch screen device which shows you what’s going on in the city in the week.


Most of the signs have Finnish and English ^^


Chess, anyone?


This place does the best coffee (in my opinion) but don’t go there at lunch, it’s manic!


Coat racks and day lockers.


Pegasus library


Cute, aren’t they? I’d love one for my bedroom.

Pegasus library has three floors, computers rooms, study desks, silent study areas, a reading room and…


… this little gem. All the free newspapers and magazines you could want to read. Brilliant!

As campuses go, this one is pretty nice. And it’s all connected, so once you’re inside you don’t need to go back out to get to another class =)

Hope everyone has had/is having a nice weekend!



56: Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow…

26 Oct

So I haven’t got much to say about this week except that, as week’s go, it was bad. Perhaps my worst since I’ve been here in Oulu.

However, after a couple of days of watching Gilmore Girls, eating chocolate and generally being very soft on myself I was cheered up by the snow! It’s like it came just for me (at least that’s what I’m telling myself!)






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