Thirty days, five countries, ten planes, and nearly two hundred miles traveled by foot. These numbers sum up the amazing month I just experienced. I have now been home for a little over two days, and while it’s great to be home, a part of me will miss the Nordics. Helsinki was the place I called home for the month of June. I traveled every weekend, and at the end of each weekend I felt like I was going “home”. I learned and experienced so much during my time abroad and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to participate in such a wonderful program. Throughout my time abroad, I visited Estonia, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and of course, Finland. I was exposed to so many different cultures, languages, currencies, and landscapes. I developed new friendships as well, not only with Mays students, but also with people I met abroad. I visited islands, national theaters, churches, fortresses, and museums. I ate Swedish meatballs in Sweden, “muikku” and eel in Finland, dry-fish and “kleinur” in Iceland, and more. On top of all of these adventures, I also received six hours of college credit. I can’t think of any better way to earn college credit. In my final entry, I want to reflect a little on my final week in Helsinki, and say a few words about my transition back to America.
A lot of the last week was spent studying for my two remaining finals, International Business and Intro to Nordic Business Culture. So, although I spent a lot of time in coffee shops, I still managed to fit in a few last adventures. The class got to visit the Mannerheim Museum, I went to eat at a cool cave-themed buffet called “Caverna”, and we all got to hear a lecture from Tuuli Sotamaa, the most accomplished designer in Helsinki. Additionally, we visited a restaurant called Finnjavel and explored the Suomenlinna fortress. Our finals were on Wednesday and Thursday, and as soon as Thursday’s final was finished, we attended a wonderful farewell lunch. Here, the administration and professors said a few parting words and that was essentially the end of our trip. I spent the rest of my final day shopping for last minute souvenirs, packing, and walking the streets of Helsinki one last time. Our bus picked us up at 4:00am Friday morning, and we began our long journey home. It was truly an amazing trip.
As I mentioned earlier, I have been home for just over two days. The first “shock” I experienced was the weather in Houston. During our flight from Frankfurt to Houston, our pilot said, “The weather in Houston is great. It’s a comfortable 90 degrees”. I laughed to myself when I heard this. I basically started sweating instantly upon walking out of the airport. This will take some getting used too, especially after living in 55-65 degree weather for the past month. It was also odd to hear so much English again. I went to a steak restaurant Friday night (how much more American can you get), and obviously, everyone was speaking English. My brain was confused when it heard that much English all at once. I was used to hearing Finnish, Swedish, etc. When we walked up to the hostess to get a table, she said, “Hi” instead of “Moi”, and when we left, we heard “Thank you” instead of “Kiitos”. Finally, it was great to have large portion sizes and free refills again.
I can’t believe the program is already over, and that I’m writing my final blog entry back in America. I could not have anticipated all of the things that I got to experience during the past month. It was truly the trip of a lifetime. I would definitely encourage anyone thinking about participating in this program in the future to do it. My advice: travel on the weekends, seize every opportunity, and immerse yourself in, and appreciate all of the different cultures.