How To Survive Study Abroad (Even if you’re really introverted)
1) First, plan for Murphy’s Law
The idea that “everything that can go wrong will go wrong” is a valid one. In fact, I hadn’t received this advice before I left, I would not have survived the first few days. The airline lost my luggage and it took them a few days to find it. Luckily, I has packed a travel kit with clothes, pajamas, and hygene essentials in my carry on. It also had a couple pairs of thermal underwear, which was extremely useful because the next day I had orientation and it was -20°C (-30°F).
|A warm day this winter in Oulu, Finland|
2) Then, know that planning won’t eliminate all problems
Before I left, I felt like I was prepared for everything. I had researched the average temperatures in Oulu, Google Translated a few Finnish phrases, and talked with a returning exchange student. Unfortunately, there were a few things I was still unprepared for. For one, Finnish is nothing like English. This caused even simple tasks to become extremely difficult, such as finding food. Which brings me to my next point.
|One of Santa's reindeer at the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland|
3) But, everything will work out (eventually)
Thankfully, the University of Oulu gives exchange students Kummi students who assist them with the transition. Due to the help of my Kummi, I didn’t starve my first few days. She took me to a grocery store near the airport after she picked me up. I lived off of sandwiches and Honey Cheerios until I was acclimated enough to the cold to find the grocery store near my house, but I didn’t starve.
|Snow Castle in Kemi, Finland|
|The restaurant at the Snow Castle in Kemi, Finland|
4) Lastly, have fun!
Despite losing my luggage, having to brave negative temperatures, and the lack of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, I can honestly say that I’m having the best time. I’ve met people and made friends from all over the world. I’ve learned more about myself and grown immensely. I’ve seen a castle made of snow, slid down two ice slides, seen live reindeer, met (the real) Santa, and officially entered the Arctic Circle. I’ve also witnessed a few restaurants made of ice, walked on a frozen sea, and taken selfies with snowmen that are larger than me (which isn’t hard since I’m only 5’2). So, even though I haven’t had a decent pepperoni pizza or biscuits (not cookies) and 32°F feels warms now, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
|At the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland|
University of Oulu