new year in finland…

So Christmas and New Year happened, home and family and driving lessons, lots of travelling up and down the UK, and finally made it back to Finland last Sunday night. It felt strange to be back, to be honest I’d really enjoyed being back home and wasn’t relishing the idea of meeting 3 new flatmates and getting stuck into studying again after a month of holidays. I was back in Helsinki, but a lot of the people I met last semester weren’t…it all felt very quiet.

But not for long! I met the new girls-a Texan (she doesn’t say y’all, I was very disappointed. She does hate George W. though so that’s something), a replacement Croatian (who speaks brilliant Finnish, along with about 4 other languages, more of being the embarrassed and lingusitically negligent English person) and an Aussie I don’t see much of. They’re all really lovely, and finally our flat is clean! This makes me very happy. Where we live is still pretty ugly and concrete, but at least it’s not squalid. It’s strange being the one who almost knows what’s going on here, and to be giving other people transport/directions/general settling in advice.

Courses started again pretty much straight away, I guess quick and painless, although Finnish lessons have certainly stepped up a gear, and after a month without a whisker of inner or outer cases, not to mention partitive, the first lesson was a bit of a shock to the system. I’m going to try to put a bit more work into it this semester, so I can leave safe in the knowledge that I at least gave this crazy language my best shot, even if I’m not exactly fluent in 9 months.

I have quite a few interesting-looking courses this semester, and I also have to start getting stuck in to reading and research for my third year project (I finally found a supervisor over the xmas/new year break).) I’m doing it on immigration and integration across Finland and the UK, so I’ll hopefully manage to get at least the Finnish part of the research done before I leave at the end of May. That sounds like a long way off, but if this semester is anything to go by it will fly by. My courses are kind of related to the topic though, so that should help, and I have one on criminology, which is totally different but really interesting so far. Lots of reading though, about rising crime rates and prison populations, so not terribly cheery.

So yeah, some studying has happened. That, and I went to the opera for the first time! La Traviata, so not terribly Finnish, but they do cheap €10 tickets for students if you turn up on the day so I thought I’d risk it. Front row seats baby! It was all rather beautiful and highbrow, although I’m not sure I’d want to go every week I would like to see one again, and got to see inside the Finnish opera house which was cool.

I’d told myself I was going to go to cool places rather than just the same old ESN parties, but I went to one last week, just to see who was actually left in Helsinki who I’d met last semester. There were lots of nervous new faces, but also plenty of people I did recognise,which was nice. My new flatmates came out with me and some people I met last semester too, which was nice, and I got to meet a new finnish friend which is always good. It’s been nice to remember that I do know people here, and settle back in to things a bit.

Way back I found cheap ryanair tickets from Tampere to Riga, and thought €12 return was too good to pass up so went and booked even though noone else could make the same dates, which were this sat-mon, so off I went by myself! I had a few hours in Tampere before I flew, so got to see a bit of another Finnish city, and an exhibition about moomins, which was cute and weird. Riga is beautiful and old and quaint and cheap and very very cold. -20 cold. I did have a minute where I wondered how long it would take before my fingers had to be amputated, but luckily made it back to my hostel before that happened. I wandered around lots of snowy public monuments and gardens, looked at how incredibly frozen the river was, and then retreated to some galleries and museums, partly to escape the cold, and enjoyed being able to shop and eat out without being constantly shocked by crazy prices. In fact, I wished I’d forked out for hold baggage so I could stock up on stuff while it was so cheap. It was all quite russian, except that the people spoke perfect english, and I could actually read some of the signs. And I can now say I’ve suvived -20!

Then two days later I headed back to the airport, where ryanair made us so late I thought I might end up missing last train and spending my monday night in the train station waiting for the first train. Thank christ we finally made it to tampere station and I huddled with lots of cold finns on the platform for the last one instead. I finally made it back to my flat and in bed in time for a few hours sleep, before up again and back to being complained at by my new finnish teacher (none of us had done enough work, again).

Now this weekend it’s my turn to have visitors here, so I’ve been looking up stuff to do, since some of the islandy/naturey stuff I took people to in Sept/Oct has lost its charm now it’s -15 most days. I’m thinking more galleries and cafes than ferries and walks around the park.

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