This is the beginning of the Routeburn track in the Fiordlands of the South Island. It was the first time I had gone ‘tramping’ (backpacking) outside of the States. This was one of the highlights of my study abroad experience, not only because of the sense of accomplishment, closeness with nature, or the fact that I forgot my sleeping bag (the nights were very cold), but the bonds of friendship I was able to foster throughout the excursion. I learned that nothing brings you closer to someone than having to carry a 20kg backpack through a damp NZ national park, and talking about how excited you are a fourth night of pasta.
I had very little knowledge of Finland before arriving there. All I knew is that it was cold, really cold.
The second I got there I was greeted by this beautiful, slender, blonde girl named Mari who spoke English more properly than me. She was my tutor and luckily, she was one of the very few Finnish students with a car to carry me and my two oversized suitcases to my new student apartment.
The next day, I realized how quickly I needed to obtain a bicycle since it is the only way to travel as a student at the University of Jyvaskyla. The whole city is covered in bike paths, including one which goes around the large lake in the middle of the city.
Only a few weeks in Finland, and I was introduced to one of Finland’s oldest, most recognizable traditions, the sauna.
I was in love. Finnish sauna is a warm steamy room where you relax, maybe drink a beer, and raise the temperature by throwing water on the coals. Sauna is more than just warming up, it is an activity at which you bath, and steam and repeat as much as you please. Finns go to sauna at least once a week and many have them in their own homes. The best way to sauna is by the lake where you can use the waters to cool off. Even in the student apartments there was a sauna open every night for women and men respectively. Typically they are divided by gender since Finnish sauna is in the nude.
There are a multitude of reasons to study abroad in Finland. One is the Finnish people. I have never felt so welcome in a foreign country. Most of the younger generation of Finns speak english well, and the older generation is more than their cultural stereotype. (Surprise, Surprise). While the Finnish people are depicted as insocial loners, in actuality they may primarily keep to themselves but in company, they are incredibly friendly and accomodatig, even to strangers.
Finland is also blessed with a beautiful and luscious landscape. There are over 10,000 lakes in Finland and the entire country is covered in fir trees. In the winter, there are many opportunities for snow sports, I even learned how to ice skate here! Finland is also great for hiking and water sports. It is a very active country with many ways to interact with the outdoors. In the upper part of Finland, there is Lapland. This is a winter wonderland and the home of the native Sami people of Finland.
Helsinki, the capital of Finland. is a beautiful harbor city with cathedrals, islands, and museums. I was lucky to visit there twice, and both times it was miraculously sunny! It is a very small capital city but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm. One of its best features is the market by the harbor where you can get goods from Lapland!
After spending four months in Finland, I learned that it is much more than a cold country. It is rich in agriculture, and full of beautiful towns and kind people. It has a unique history and culture which is often overlooked by more grandiose locations like London, St. Petersburg, and Paris. But no matter where I am, my time in Finland will always stay with me, and hopefully, someday, I can return there. Maybe then, I’ll even learn how to ski.
This image captures the moment that I walked onto a beach during my study abroad experience in Perth, Australia for the very first time. Some friends and I had taken a short road trip north from Perth to visit a national park and go camping. We found the perfect spot to set up camp behind some sand dunes at the end of a very twisted, old, and forgotten road. After climbing over the dunes for a bit we finally arrived at the beach. It was small, vacant, and beautiful. This image reminds me of the immense excitement and happiness I was feeling at that moment. I had several months of adventuring and exploring in store for me and I felt so content. Being back here in the US makes me feel a bit detached from my experiences in Australia. Having these pictures to look at helps me to remember all the good times and makes me feel very thankful that I was able to spend a semester abroad. Aussie Aussie Aussie!!!
“You can walk up and down the same road for an entire decade and always find something new in London” Advise given to me by a Londoner »
This picture details my first time that I was able to go into the City. On the first day that we were able to go into the city , which was about two days after arriving, my host University (University of Roehampton) took all international students out into the city for what called a “Photo Frenzy”. It was a way to help get to know our way around the city, which consisted of dividing into groups of people and attempting to figure out the Tube, Overground and Bus system. Our team got lost, and that was the best part! While we were getting lost we stumbled upon Westminster Abbey and Parliament! Which is where this picture was taken! It was absolutely amazing and stunning. I feel this picture perfectly covers the aspect of this city. After being in London for three months, there are still so much more to see. As I was informed several times by several individuals(ranging form professors, flatmates, parents of flatmates) who were born and lived in London, you could live in London all your life and still discover something new.
Burano, Italy. A small island town near Venice. I chose this picture because it is one of the most beautiful pictures I took of one of the most beautiful places I went in Italy, where I studied this past semester. The vibrance of the houses combined with the tranquility of the water is a good metaphor for Italy, where the people are very animated and colorful like the houses, but the society and the day is very leisurely and calm, like the water. To this day Burano remains one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my life and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to visit while I was abroad.
Never say never!
This is a picture of me and a few friends on the highest point on Tokunoshima Island Japan. The guy on the right is actually a Willamette alum, who I met by chance during my stay there. It was about an hour long hike to the top in which we had to be weary of the “habu” (poisonous snakes) that lived in the surrounding forest.
During my mid-semester break in Perth, Australia, a group of 14 students, including me, road tripped 14 hours up the coast, to hit Karijini National Park. It is one of the most beautiful places in the middle of the outback, with lots of gorges and hikes. This picture was taken at the top of Mt. Bruce which is the second tallest mountain in all of Australia. It took us two and a half hours of serious hiking to make it up there. It was quite a feet, but the journey and the view at the top made it all worth it. There was no other moment like that the entire trip for me. It reminded me that hard work, laughter, and good friends can get you anywhere in life. Whether it be a job, a personal accomplishment, to just a really tough hike, it was completely worth it.