Oh, the Places You Will Go

If you would have told me five years ago that I would be studying abroad in Jyväskylä I would have replied with, “Jyvasky … what”. Through the hard work and loving support of my family, friends and San Diego State, I have embarked on quite a unique study abroad journey. For four weeks I will be in Finland studying various subjects under one of the best education systems of the world. As a commuter that has never dormed, a person with dietary restrictions due to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and knowing little to no Finnish, this ought to be an eventful journey. For now, I will share what Finland has offered in my first two weeks here.

Jyväskylä is located in the western part of the Finnish Lakeland. This lake, Jyväsjärvi, is located near the city center.

The summer students were taken on a hike where we got a glimpse of the immense forests and greenery Finland has to offer. I find the different shades of green particularly intriguing.

Valuing place-based education, it is common for schools, such as this university building, to be surrounded by natural flora. The Finnish have deeply implanted sustainability and ecosystem awareness in their education and culture.

While traces of human beings might be inevitable, nature seems to lead the way in Finland. This path has been marked by both humans and nature, representing the unique and rooted bond the Finnish have created with their surroundings.

Jyväskylä is a modern looking city, mostly designed by celebrated architect and designer Alvar Aalto, but traditional vibrant mustard and red houses can still be found woven throughout the city.

The University of Jyväskylä is divided into three campuses. This one, the farthest campus from the city, is a perfect example of how Finns choose to co-exist with nature and not overrule it, even with their buildings.

During my Intro to Dance Therapy course, we were sent to explore a nearby lake and forest. Finnish education values experiential education and will strive to get students outside in nature when possible.

In the city center there is a beautiful Lutheran church where community members attend mass on Sunday mornings.

After mass you can explore the city center, encountering new discoveries each time. In this instance I encountered a live concert consisting of military and community members.

Finnish culture is stereotyped as quiet and reserved. As you can see, their street art contradicts this by displaying bright and bubbly graffiti.

These are the lower two parts of the campus, connected by a bridge that lays over the lake Jyväsjärvi.

A common sight in Finland: plenty of modern buildings, the scarce old buildings and an abundance of green engulfing the latter.

Jyväskylä has welcomed us with blossoming flowers and uncommon politeness. Because of the kind people and beautiful surroundings, I feel welcomed and comfortable in this new temporary home.

Like this Finnish flower’s name, my first two weeks in Finland have come to a happy end. I can only imagine and wait, with open arms, what this wonderful place will show and teach me next.

Arantxa Akerlundh is a kinesiology junior. She is studying at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland for four weeks this summer.

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