I’ve hesitated to write this blog post for a while now. It’s been a crazy time of the year for me with schoolwork, but more importantly– I finally found out where I am going abroad next semester!
As some back story, when I applied for an exchange program, my options were the Netherlands, England, Finland, and Sweden. All of the schools I applied to had programs that sounded interesting to me and covered topics that include international studies/law and environmental studies/law, which are my particular areas of interest and the main focus of my studies in the United States.
To be honest, I hadn’t really considered the possibility of not getting my first few choices. In my mind, I couldn’t wrap my head around the potential of the situation turning out any other way.
The program I got accepted to was the one in Finland. The second-to-last school on my list, one that I had barely considered.
When I initially found out, I found myself at a loss of words and overwhelmed with emotions. I was shaking as I opened the email from ISEP, the exchange program I am going through. My fingers crossed, my heart dropped to my stomach as the webpage loaded and revealed the information I’ve been dying to know but did not expect to receive so soon. I didn’t know how to react to this news. On one hand, I was accepted to a program and knew where I was going abroad! Travel is quickly approaching! I get to go to Europe again! These thoughts and the excitement they generated was tempered by the disappointment in not getting my first choice and the uneasy recognition that I knew nothing about the place where I will attend school for 5 months.
I hadn’t really thought about going to Finland before or the possibility that I could be placed there. It was one of those places in the world where I’ve never felt a strong desire to travel to, and there I was– realizing that I would be going to Finland and battling my frustration at not getting my first choice.
The disappointment went away though. Finland was on my list for a reason, and the more I learn about the country and the school I am going to, the more excited I become about going there. It’s exciting now. Not knowing much about the place I am going may be scary, but it also leaves open so many possibilities and opportunities to learn. I will be forced out of my comfort zone– out of the comfort of a temperate climate that is not much different from the climate at home. I will be halfway around the world from home, further north than I have ever been, farther away from home than I have ever traveled. I’ll fly alone for 22 hours to get there, my first solo transatlantic flight.
It feels significant, that this trip abroad is all of those things and it is largely unexpected.
In high school, my trip to France was largely supported and planned by my parents. I was dependent upon them at the time, and while I am still dependent upon their support, most of the paperwork and preparation for the trip, as well as my situation abroad, will be independent. It makes sense for that to be the case. University is a completely different experience, and this will be completely different from my experience in France.
I think this is for the best. I can’t rely completely on my experiences before to set up expectations about what Finland will be like, especially since I know so little about it.
My trip is quickly approaching. Everything is becoming real and solidified as I complete paperwork, choosing classes and filling out applications for an apartment, for a residence permit… buying plane tickets.
I don’t know what I will think of Finland once I get there, but until then, I am learning all I can and slowly developing a crush on this country that is a complete mystery to me. The language, the people, the culture, the climate– all of these are things that I will experience with an open heart and an open mind.
And I can’t wait!