Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Nyomi in Oulu, Finland!

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

Nyomi Hemphill
University of Oulu

Monday, March 14, 2016

Haley in Plymouth!

I’m Here!
Even before coming to UNCG, I had known for years that I wanted to study abroad. I was so excited when I joined the LIHC and found out that I had the opportunity to study abroad! Throughout the entire process of applying and preparing to go, my excitement grew, along with the terrified feeling of the unknown… But after my first day or two of being here at Plymouth University, a lot of that fear subsided and now I’m just happy to be here!

Plymouth Lighthouse

Life in England
Living in England is definitely a lot different from the U.S. Just about everything is within walking distance, so my legs have definitely been getting a workout! British food for the most part is actually kind of bland, but I have discovered a love for fish and chips. The people are very nice and don’t stereotype Americans as much as I had expected them to, although I do still get asked all of the time on what my opinion of Donald Trump and guns are. Pool is a huge past-time here, and because of my new friends I probably go play pool at least 3 or 4 times a week! 

First fish and chips dinner

Plymouth is nicknamed “Britain’s Ocean City”, being located right on the Southwest coast of England in the county of Devon. It is home to Sutton Harbor, which is big for the navy, merchants, and fishing. It’s also a smaller city compared to others, so like I mentioned earlier most things are within walking distance, including the university, Drake Circus mall, city Centre, Sutton Harbor, the lighthouse, and most of the restaurants and bars. Plymouth is also where the Mayflower and the pilgrims set sail for New England, which now makes sense to me why they named the settlement Plymouth in Massachusetts! 

The exact spot the Mayflower sailed from

Sutton Harbor
Travelling Around
So far, most of my travelling has been within Plymouth. I’ve been to the harbor, the aquarium, the famous Plymouth Gin Distillery, and many parts of the city. On Valentine’s Day I did travel to the Eden Project in St. Austell, which was absolutely gorgeous! I’m hoping to plan more mini-trips like that within the United Kingdom. I did book my plans for spring break, which will be spent in Amsterdam, Berlin, and Paris. And later in May when classes wind down I’m looking into travelling to Italy, Vienna, Budapest, and maybe even Portugal and Spain. 

The biomes of the Eden Project in St. Austell

Inside the Mediterranean Biome

The skyview within the Rainforest Biome

Growing as a Person
I feel that this experience has already been changing me as a person. I kind of feel more grown-up than I did before, having to be more responsible for myself and especially be more responsible with money. I’ve also made so many new memories with my new friends that I will always cherish, as cheesy as that sounds! I know that the person who returns to the U.S. in June will not be the same person that arrived here in England back in January. 

Haley Penk
Plymouth University
Plymouth, United Kingdom