Monday, September 19, 2011

Pieksämäki, Fall, and the End of Physics

Well here I am, same place I have been for the past six weeks, enjoying the beautiful fall colors of central Finland. It has all gone so fast, and I am already done with the first jakso (term, period, semesterlike thing) in High School here. However, I will talk about events in a chronological order starting at Rotary's District 1430 Camp. It was a great weekend full of finnish activities and exchange students, a perfect combanation for crazy. It was so nice to meet up with some of our camp friends and some friends yet to be made for a weekend after our first month in Finland. There isn't much to tell, but we all had a great time with our three and a half hour hike, and our complete lack of sleeping the whole weekend. The best part about the trip, although I say this in a joking manner, was the train ride. I think that there is some sort of genetic link to things you like because for some reason I, like my crazy mother, love riding trains. It is awesome and I think if I had the money, I would skip out on my next months of exchange to just ride the train around Finland.
After that not much has happened that is extremely noteworthy. I am continuing to learn important finnish words such as yksisarvinen (unicorn), and trying to take pictures of this lovely place before all the leaves are gone. I love fall and for some reason it seems like it comes earlier here in Finland. To me it seems like right now should be a beautiful October day, except for the fact that it is the middle of September.
Another important thing that I began to talk about in the beginning of my post is the end of the first jakso. This means that I am officially done with my first classes inculding physics, which is hopefully something I am done with forever. Never take a class you didn't like in english in a foreign language. The thing is, being here I have almost no desire to take classes that I loved in America. I dropped my math class, I dreaded physics, and I'm not taking any more Spanish until the spring. I'm really excited for next tuesday when I begin my music, art, English and RUSSIAN classes. Emphasis on Russian was shown through my use of capital letters. I can't wait to start again though it is sort of a downer that the friends I have made in my current classes might not follow me into my next ones. Well I better get started on making some new ones then.
Today was a little bit different because after the four to six weeks of classes here there is an exam week. Exam week starts today and ends next Monday, and because I talked all of my teachers out of making me take them with the exception of Spanish, I have nothing to do. However, this week the newbie exchangers from Spain arrived and so I am attending Finnish lessons in Spanish all week. It really shows me how far I have come, because I am able to help teach some using the little Spanish I know combined with the even less Finnish I know. Can't wait for the rest of the week and the rest of the year, however I hope it doesn't go too fast seeing as so much of it is already over, and I don't want to go back to my real life so soon.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

So My Mom Started to Complain...

I'd pretend I was just really motivated to update my blog, I just got really busy with all the finnish learning and parties I'm going to, but that would not be the truth. The thing is I have always been far to lazy to keep a journal. Then I get really bothered by the fact that I have journal posts from two years ago and I want to start fresh, so I in turn rip out those pages. However I don't plan on ripping out the pages of my blog, I just am not the best at taking the time to update it very often.The reason I am doing this post is because my sister facebook messaged me that my mom is complaining that I don't update my blog enough, so out of the goodness of my heart, I'm doing it for her.
I haven't posted in about two weeks which leaves a lot of time and suprisingly very little information to cover. School has now been going on for over two weeks here, so it is hard to imagine that it hasn't even started back in Minnesota. I think I'm mainly going to talk about the differences between the school systems seeing as I have been living in school the past two weeks.
Everyone has heard about Finland's education system being the best in the world, and if you haven't before, you just did. So I had no idea what to expect before I came to school here. I figured it would be impossibly difficult, and everyone would be unbelievably smart. However, there are quite many similarities which I will try to remember and point out.
The most noticable difference here is the personal responsibilty. I think much of America's problem is the fact that teachers underestimate the abilities of the students and don't push them. Here there is no school bell assuring that you will be on time. The teachers don't collect your homework, they expect that you have done it and that you will be prepared for the class. The schedule is different every day so you have to be aware of your schedule or you will miss a class or show up when there isn't a class. If you don't have class, you can leave the school whenever. H&M happens to be about three blocks away and what in America would be a study hall becomes an empty hour which you can fill with what you choose (shopping).
Right now I am taking geography, English, Spanish and physics. As difficult as they are to do with a language barrier, they do not seem overly difficult. However, there is not as much class time to work on homework as there would be at home, and luckily I only have four classes in six class hours or I would probably be over streched. Here classes are 70 minutes which seems impossibly long, specifically in physics. However the breaks between classes are 15 minutes long which gives you a perfect time to relax with a cigarette. Now that was a joke seeing as I have no intention to begin the expensive and nasty habit of smoking, but there really is a place fifty meters from my school that is marked of as a smoking area. At any given break there will probably be at least a dozen people standing there. It really shocks me as something you would never see in America.
Finnish school can also tend to be a bit of a fashion show. I didn't bring many clothes, but my typical jeans and a tee-shirt wardrobe does not fit in very well here, which brings me to a segment I like to call,
How to Dress Like a Finn!
  1. Wear leggings as pants. It doesn't matter if everyone sees your underwear. It doesn't matter what size you are, leggings are pants.
  2. Wear a sweater. Maybe a cardigan, maybe a shrug, maybe a sweater dress.
  3. Wear a scarf. However, be careful not to wrap it around your neck and let it hang down. No, no it must be carefully  looped around your neck, as if a wreath.
  4. Last but not least, have a ridiculously sized bag or purse, to carry all your books and H&M between class purchases. Not to forget of course the vital Marimekko pencil case that is a vital acessory for any serious studier.
Another difference is that everyone bikes to school. I think I have gotten a ride to school three times so far this year. Not everyone has a bicycle though, some have adorable little scooter/ vespa things. They are awesome. Bike riding is efficient and environmentally friendly, but it totally sucks if it is raining. I live 3km (2 miles for all my Jenkki readers) and that is a perfectly long bike ride if it is pouring rain. The food in school here is free, which also means that it is healthy. Telling a Finn that you eat pizza for lunch in America is the surest way to make their jaw drop. The last and most expensive difference is that you have to buy your own textbooks. Which could cost up to 800 dollars a year if you bought everything new. However, most kids share or buy used which saves a lot of money. Luckily Rotary pays for mine.
A non school realted thing that has happened recently is that I went to my first Rotary meeting here. I gave a presentation in Finglish, and my host dad translated it. It was interesting, but I think that it will be much better when I can speak Finnish. Well there is much more I could say about the school, but I'm afraid that my exchange would be over by the time I finished. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below, in an email, or Facebook message.