Leaving Finland

Lake Jyvasjarvi

I have never lived anywhere for 5 months other than Jyvaskyla, Finland. As my Fulbright journey concludes, there is so much to still digest. It will take months, if not years, to truly assimilate all the learning.

Before I left Southern California, I wrote about the what I would miss the most from home and what I  looked forward to experiencing in Finland. It is safe to say I met my goals.

Top 7 Goals

1. Discussing Education

Helsinki Workshop

Through professional development programs, Fulbright Finland connected teachers with scholars and researchers, for the purpose of putting inquisitive minds together. The Making Democracies Resilient to Modern Threats seminar provided participants with fascinating research and presentations.

2. Nordic Model

Bus station in Espoo

What does an efficient and earnest country look like?  It looks like Finland. Yes, people pay higher taxes, but get so much in return. I for one appreciated the well-maintained roads, clean and timely public transportation, and the work-life balance.

3. Nature

Enjoying Lake Jyvasjarvi with fellow Fulbrighter Kerry Piggot

Jyvaskyla was a winter wonderland, and while I will not miss the short days, I will never forget the pristine snow and frozen lakes during my winter there.

4. School System

A glimpse of what is possible when a country invests in its schools at an appropriate level.

5. Break Time

Not just at school, but the coffee break is real. Why are we such workaholics? And the teachers' lounges were truly a place to gather, relax, and chat.

6. Sauna

Of course.

7. Aurora Borealis

This is a video I shared with my students about my encounter with the Auroras:

But now I must admit I left a piece of my heart in Finland.

These are the top 7 things I will miss about Suomi:

1. The airport

Helsinki airport

Having visited the airport over a dozen times during my stay, I came to appreciate the design and layout.  Little touches like the sounds of nature playing in the restroom were endearing. I loved being able to scan my boarding pass and not having to talk to a human while completing the boarding process.

2. R Kioski

Need a metro card? They've got 'em. Bus passes? Check. Pulla rolls and ciders? Everyday. R-Kioski was my faithful friend everywhere I traveled in Finland and I will miss this great shop.

3. Cheap WiFi

When I first arrived in Finland, a 30 day unlimited WiFi package was 20 euros. I was able to use my US cell phone as a WiFi device and connect my laptop to it as well. The price did go up however, to about 23 euros in May. It was so convenient to have internet access everywhere, even though it was available in many public places for free.

4. The trams in Helsinki

They are timely, pretty, and easy to use. And they take you just about everywhere.

5. Savulohikeitto

This delicious smoked salmon soup was my favorite dish in Finland. Mind you, a bowl of soup was 8.5 euros, or almost $10. Expensive but so worth it.

6. The hooks for your jacket

Hooks on trains, hooks in schools, hooks or coat racks are everywhere. And in winter, they are heavily used. I came to appreciate not having to hang my jacket on the back of my chair. 

7. The people

Hanna and Juha-Matti
I hope throughout my blog that my deep appreciation for the Finnish people has been conveyed. While not effusive and overly involved, great care was being provided by the Fulbright network of  Finnish advisors and colleagues. Countless times I was helped by strangers when lost or needing guidance. The humility of the Finnish people was prevalent and heartwarming. While I wish I could have stayed longer, there is much work to be done back home in Los Angeles.

There is no place like home, but Finland is comes pretty darn close.


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