torstai 13. syyskuuta 2012

7 months, 7000km, 32 different places, 50 schools, 121 presentations and a lot of nature

I am Miriam from Germany and now I have been in Finland for nearly 7 months working as a volunteer for YFU Finland.When I applied for the EVS (European Volunteer Service) at YFU Finland I had no idea about the country or what to expect from the life here. So I arrived to Finland totally clueless in the end of January and was welcomed very “warmly” by temperatures of -20 C or even less.

As a side effect of my work for YFU which included traveling to schools in remote areas of Finland to inform about the possibility to become and exchange student or a host family, I have been traveling to a lot of small places, really small places and also some not that small places, places not even Finnish people know. I’ve seen many different schools, teachers and students, have held presentations for only 2 people or for around 150, have tasted any kind of good or not that good school food, found interested and disinterested people, have been in many different host families, have been using every kind of transportation, meet friendly and unfriendly bus drivers and more than everything else I have seen a lot of the Finnish nature which wasn’t only beautiful but also sometimes quite monotonous. So it happened to me quite often that I drove in a bus for hours and all I could see were trees and even more trees and sometimes even a lake or a rock.
In addition to the school presentations, I also have been with the exchange students to the Lapland trip, I have been to the Pre-Preparation Orientation for the future exchange students and I have been to the On-Arrival training of the current exchange student which was always really fun.

Throughout the past 7 months I have not only learned a lot about the whole process behind an exchange year or how to get from one place to another without knowing where either of them is, I also learned quite a lot about Finland and the Finns:
There are a lot of Finns who seem to be very silent, especially when they are supposed to speak English, but as soon as they have been drinking some alcohol, they start being extremely talkative and out of a sudden they are even able to speak English or any other foreign language.
A question Finns often ask foreigners is: “Why did you come to Finland?” They really don’t seem to understand why people decide to visit Finland when they could go to so many other interesting countries.
One more interesting thing is that the Finns change together with the weather: as long as the weather is cold and ugly, Finns don’t see or hear anything when they are on their way somewhere, but as soon as there is some sun and it starts being warm they come to the city smiling and happy. And when the temperature then gets over 20 degrees they complain that it is already to hot.
About eating habits in Finland is to say that it is quite common to have 5 meals per day and excessive coffee drinking also nothing unusual.
Another weird habit Finns have is the sauna. I don’t want to complain about sauna, on the opposite! I really learned to love sauna. But still I don’t understand the whole mystery what exactly sauna means to the Finns and I guess I will never understand it completely.
But I made a lot of new and great experiences and I’m really happy that I have had the chance to be here. I will never forget all the people I meet and the things I experienced.
If I had to describe Finland with a few words I would say: wallpaper country, ice-cold and warm (and not only in terms of weather), beautiful, monotonous and varied and all in all simply crazy!