Looking back on four weeks in Finland, I can confidently say that studying abroad was one of the best decisions of not only my college career, but my life. I explored places I never expected to see, I took classes that just aren’t offered anywhere else, I met new friends from both SDSU and around the world, and I had the time of my life. So, why were there so many tears the last week?
After four days of non-stop travel in Madrid, El Escorial and Toledo, I have finally started to settle down in Granada; a small but busy city with a relaxed lifestyle. The phrase, “no pasa nada” roughly translating to “don’t worry about it,” is a common phrase here, and I can’t help but compare it to what I believe the island lifestyle is like; I almost feel like Granada has a big city vibe with a much more relaxed tone.
The island of São Miguel is called the green island because it is the greenest of the seven islands that make up the volcanic archipelago of the Azores. Within the forest of green you will find volcanos, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, hiking trails, canyons, pineapple and tea plantations — not to mention the city of Ponta Delgada and all the small towns around the island.
When I decided to take a journey across the world five months ago, the first thing I was warned about was homesickness. “The first week will be the hardest,” they said. “You’ll miss every little thing about home, especially the things you wouldn’t expect.” Professors, fellow students, family and friends reiterated this more times than I can count. They made the first week sound absolutely treacherous.
After having a full night’s rest, I knew that I would be able to take more advantage of today, as opposed to yesterday’s insomnia-driven (yet still fun) day. I started the day with a morning jog to Barceloneta, a popular beach in the southern direction that took about thirty minutes to reach. Normally any run would tire me out well before 20 minutes and yet I couldn’t help but keep pressing on so I could see more of the city.
Week 3 classes kicked off on Monday here in Finland. This week brings refugee resettlement and integration, a very interesting, but very emotionally heavy course. Within a couple days, I learned so much about the refugee crisis throughout Europe and how Finland handles the influx of refugees into this country. In sum, Finland focuses on seeing refugees as humans deserving of new chances and setting them up for future success.