2023-24, Isaac outbound to Finland Nov. 30, 2023

Nov 30, 2023

Welcome back to my journal. I just passed the first 3 months of my exchange, and I can tell you it has been a roller coaster so far. School has been a bit difficult because of the draft changes and since I change classes every period. I get to meet a lot of new people, though, which is nice. I have made so many connections and new relationships, and because of this, I now know so many people from around the world. Some cool things that have happened so far are my birthday, the Lapland tour, a Christian festival that I went to, and a family switch. I turned eighteen this year, and it was a different birthday than what I’m used to. I spent most of my day at school, but after school was really fun. I got to go mini-golfing with a couple of friends, and it was American-themed, which was hilarious. Rotary might have a joint birthday party for all the exchange students who had their birthday within the first half of the year, which will be super fun. Also for my birthday, my parents back home convinced me to go to a Christian festival, which was one of the best ideas and experiences so far. Here in Finland, there aren’t a lot of religious groups, so the groups that do exist try to target the youth to bring more people and liven up the atmosphere. The festival lasted three days in Turku, and the city of Turku is truly beautiful. The architecture is very unique; the city of Turku is the old capital of Finland, so it is a pretty big and diverse area. The architecture also resembles a lot of medieval castles and buildings, with lots of towers and bricks. Although there are still modern buildings and shopping centers, when you look in between, you can see what was there before. Anyway, before I get too sidetracked, the festival had more than 8 artists, all different genres of music ranging from hip-hop to R&B to rock. It was an experience I will remember, even if I didn’t understand some of the words. After the festival, I went back home, and I had to pack fast because I left the next day for Muonio in Lapland with all the other exchange students in Finland. Lapland was so cold that it had reached around -20 °C at times, and the amount of snow was truly outrageous. There were times when the snow would reach my knees. Mind you, I am about 6’3, so the snow at my knees is a whole lot of snow. We had done a multitude of activities, but my favorites had to be the husky rides, sauna, seeing the northern lights, and finally skiing. I had tried to snowboard at first because I thought it would be easier and cooler to say I had been snowboarding. Boy, was I wrong? I couldn’t even stand up on the board without falling on my face a minute later. The moment I switched to skis, I picked it up so fast. Within ten minutes, I was going down the slopes by myself. It was such a fun time in Lapland, and when I go back with my family, it will be even more fun because I will know what to expect. Soon I will switch families, and my new family is so cool and nice. My host parents both work in the food business, which is cool because it is something we both have in common, our love for food, so we spend a lot of time talking about food and different things we have tried. They also like to travel, just like me, which is something that has brought us very close to each other. They are going to take me to Estonia, Italy, and Lapland. I am obviously most excited to see Italy, which will be such an experience. I have never been anywhere else in Europe, so to see Rome and hopefully some other cities it will be very cool to experience another perspective. We will be going during Christmas time, so a break from the freezing temperatures will be good for me. Then in Estonia, we will go boating and see the city of Talin, which I have heard to be very beautiful and historical, which is exciting. In Lapland, we are going to the biggest ski resort in Finland, and I am going to attempt to ski again. I will try some harder slopes this time around and see if I can pick up some speed and try not to fall as often. Fingers crossed, I don’t get hurt too badly. In this host family, there is also another exchange student; lucky for me, they are from Rotary and the United States, so we are close. I also have a host brother who is a couple of years younger, but he is also really cool and truly like a brother to me now. I have had such a good relationship with them even before moving in with them, and I hope that this relationship grows and becomes stronger than ever. To move on, I can start to talk about what is happening in my school. So the school year here for third- or final-year students ends in the spring when they take their finals. Now, a lot of the third- or final-year students have been spending a lot of time studying and preparing for this exam. I am helping a lot of them prepare for their English portion because, surprisingly, English comes easily to me. I can help a bit with the Spanish portion because of my Brazilian background and the couple of years of Spanish that I took. But helping them prepare has been fun, and it has been cool connecting with more people my age. It will be sad when they have to leave in a couple of months for their exams and graduation. But not everyone leaves, and some students will stay for a fourth year, which will be fun. Anyway, in Finland, the change in weather has also meant a change in the daylight timetables. For example, at the moment, the sun will rise around nine in the morning and go down at three in the afternoon. which, compared to Florida, is absurd. There are less than ten hours of sunlight, and each day it gets shorter and shorter. In some parts of Lapland, there are less than five hours of sunlight, and I couldn’t even imagine what that would be like. I can’t wait until spring and summer when it is the exact opposite. When there are less than five hours of darkness and the sun barely ever goes down, Well, that has been my life so far, and I know my journal has been all over the place. I write my journal like my exchange, never in a straight line but always all over the place. Thank you for reading and all the support from friends, family, and people back home.

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