I haven’t posted in a bit more than a week, but it feels like so much has happened! I had my first sauna since getting here. They take sauna seriously in Finland.
I finally registered for courses and came up with some vague kind of study plan, which seems to mean I only have about six lectures and one seminar a week (in my defence the lectures are very very long) and all of my exams seem to be out of the way by 2nd December! I think once the work kicks in there’ll be plenty of independent learning nonsense to help me fill up my time, but for now it’s pretty relaxed. Still, the idea of any kind of studying is a bit of a shock to my system after almost four months of summer, my brain is pretty much melted.
I turned up to my first lecture last Tuesday, and wouldn’t you know it, it was given by an Edinburgh lecturer. I’ve come all this way, and I still can’t escape! Actually it was quite good, at least it was the kind of lecture I’m used to, to ease me into the studying concept again. So far the lectures here are really interesting, I have one course on International Migration which looks depressing but in an important kind of way, and one on youth, so issues like risk-taking, eating disorders, substance abuse, that kind of thing. Oh and one on science & technology, which doesn’t quite do it for me but we’ll see how it goes. They have a very serious and dry lecture style here though, which means by the end of a three hour lecture you’re not always paying as much attention as you might be…
I feel almost guilty for being a native English speaker here though, there are so many Italian, French and Spanish people who’ve come over to learn English, and are finding the lectures really hard to keep up with. I guess they’ll learn quickly! It’s good for me though, as I get plenty of chance to practice my Italian. Particularly at parties, once I’ve had a few overpriced Finnish beers, and become magically fluent. Oh and Finnish lessons started this week! The class is massive, which isn’t great for language learning, and the language is ridiculous, obviously, but it’s quite good fun to give it a shot. And hearing forty confused foreigners trying to pronounce dipthongs and words that go on forever is quite entertaining. So far my favourite word is probably still nonsense, which is höpöhöpö, and is actually pretty useful I think.
There is still lots of partying going on of course, and I’m trying not to just stick with Erasmus people, and meet a few more locals. Last weekend my sister Alba came to visit and bring over a mountain of my stuff, and we ended up going out with two Finns I met outside my apartment block. They took us to what was basically a trucker bar in Vantaa, which is a little way north, and then to a kind of open-mike rap night. Think Finnish 8-Mile. It was hilarious, and they looked after us pretty well, even the hideously drunk guy who kept forgetting we were English and slurring something Finnish (and probably sleazy) in my sister’s ear. It was really good to meet some normal Finnish people, and once they’re drunk the stereotype of being cold and reserved doesn’t seem to apply any more.
While Alba was here we also went to a flea market round the corner, which is my new favourite place-I got a waterproof jacket, a dress, a scarf and a shirt for 10E! If you’d been in H&M here, you’d know that is a very exciting haul, everything new here is so much more expensive, even in the same shops we have. Ikea is the only place I’ve found that costs the same. We love Ikea.
What else? Oh yeah, we took a boat trip to Suomenlinna, which is a little group of Islands about ten minutes away by ferry, which was very beautiful, and we wandered round in the sunshine for a bit and watched a couple have some very tacky wedding photos taken. And I found a place that has a Reggae breakfast every sunday, where you eat Finnish food and listen to Jamaican music. A strange but enjoyable concept, I think I might prefer some ackee & saltfish to be honest though.
Last night I went along to the Fuksiaset (?) of the Sociology department, which is like a pub crawl/game thing for freshers, where you have to go around the city in groups being set challenges by older students (who are relishing getting their turn to humiliate new students), and then the winners get patches. If you’re a real Finnish student, you have overalls to sew the patches on, and then you wear your overalls to future studenty things. To begin with, I was just wondering why everyone was dressed as mechanics, but now I kind of get it. There’s a whole system of colours meaning different groups and departments, and different patches for different things. They’re basically hideous, but it’s nice to have a souvenir to take away I guess! Anyway it was very embarrassing and very silly, but I met some new people and our team came second, so I have my first patch! No overalls to sew it on though. Oh I forgot to mention the important thing about Fuksiaset-the drinking, of course. It’s students, and students in Finland, so there has to be drinking involved. This country will be the death of me….