When I was planning my opportunity to studying abroad I never dreamed that I would end up in Finland. Finland, as I have discovered, is a beautiful place with long summers and short winters, enough saunas for every 2.5 people, and more reindeer than people in the northern Lapland area. If I had to describe this place, I would say it reminds me of my home in Canada with narrow trees , thousands of lakes, friendly people, same Northern sky, and similar climate.
|Rantakatu, Oulu, Finland|
|I watched a game of the local hockey team the Oulu Kärpät.|
My experience studying abroad has been outstanding and filled with so many fabulous opportunities to learn about a different culture. The city I’m living in is called Oulu. It is the 5th largest city in Finland and has about 250,000 people in the metropolitan area. The city itself is located about an 8 hour drive north from Helsinki and is only a 1.5 hour drive from the Swedish border. Each year the city hosts an event called the Air Guitar World Championships and yes, it looks just as fun as it sounds. The event draws competitors from Canada, USA, UK, Russia, Finland, Japan, France, Germany, and Taiwan. I chose to attend and enjoyed watching it because of the ideology of promoting world peace if everyone were to hold an air guitar. ‘According to the ideology of the Air Guitar, wars would end, climate change stop and all bad things disappear, if all the people in the world played the Air Guitar.’
| Air Guitar World Champion Matt "Aristotle" Burns from USA|
|Syöte National Park, Finland|
The University I attend is called Oulun Yliopisto, or Oulu University. It is one large interconnected building which makes it easy to go get lunch or to another class without having to go home. Now, going home for me hasn’t been an inconvenience since I live right across the university, but I do enjoy getting lunch on campus since it is only 2.60e for a buffet style meal. I am enjoying university life because the programme or major I am studying here is Scandinavian Studies. These classes have been particularly interesting because of the topic. I have learned much about Scandinavian history such as the influence of vikings and trade in Finland.
|The International Food Festival that included trying delicious food and dancing!|
|Ramberg Beach, Norway|
Most of my classes at the university only require one end of the semester essay or exam. This gives me a lot of free time and you are probably thinking ‘What do you do in Oulu when you’re not in class or travelling?’ Well, there are always events sponsored by various organizations associated with the University like ESN (Erasmus Student Network), and NISO (Network of International Students Oulu). I have been entertaining myself by playing volleyball on Saturdays and Ultimate Frisbee on Mondays. I have made many friends, both Finnish and exchange students, by just showing up to sponsored events like an International Food Festival where I got to try food brought by people from various countries!
|Canadians at Lofotr Museum in Norway!|
|Beautiful view of the Neva River in Saint Petersburg|
In the two months I have been here, I have traveled throughout Finland and taken trips to Norway, Sweden, Estonia, and Russia. The best trip I took was the recent excursion to Saint Petersburg on a visa-free cruise from Helsinki. The city had so many historical buildings, cathedrals, monuments, and parks that I could not visit all of them in the three days I was there. On the first day we took a bus tour throughout the city and our tour guide had us stop at various monuments such as the Admiralty building, the Rostral Columns, and the Monument to Peter I which had the right size head but a body too large for the head! The next day I went to the Hermitage Museum and on a Cathedrals tour. All the buildings were decorated with gold leaf designs and really emphasized the importance of historical figures. On the third day, I went on a walking tour of the city with a couple of friends and a local person who showed us the metro stations. The metro is one of the deepest train systems in the world as it is 86 metres deep due to the geography of Saint Petersburg. It has some of the most beautifully designed stations and I only had to spend 35 rubles to get into the metro (equivalent to about $0.50). The food in Saint Petersburg was really cheap as well (but very delicious) as I bought soup, rice, chicken, a drink, and dessert for less than $3.
|My friend and I having fun in Helsinki.|
|View from a hill in Old Town, Tallinn, Esto|
University of Oulu