Be Here Now

"Wherever you are, be all there"

I like to imagine what could have happened, how things could have been if one little thing had gone differently. I often daydream about the future - what will my life look like when I'm in college, how I'm gonna style my first own home, where I'd like to travel when I finally have the chance to go wherever I want to. I'm a daydreamer. That's also why I love reading books so much, especially fantasy books. It's like you can dive into a whole another world through the pages of a book. 

When I'm alone in the bus listening to music, I often go through my memories from exchange on my mind like pages of a book. It's a whole another life that I got from exchange, and whenever I'm having a bad day, I just think of one good moment from America and it makes me smile every time. I love that I have another life full of lovely moments that I can look back on. Whenever I think about it, it fills me up with happiness. I'm so happy that it happened.

It's been two months since I came back, and my year almost feels like a dream already. Because here, I am the only one who experienced it. My family and friends were really supportive and followed my year through my blog and I've told them a lot about my experience, but at the end of the day, I was the only one who really was there. No one that I have around me here shares those memories that I have from Michigan, and sometimes I almost feel like it all happened in my head (do you know what I mean?). Like, did I really just live in America for a year or did I just dream it all? Well, even if it was just a dream, at least it was a good one haha.

But, to be honest, even though I love looking back on last year, I think I do it a little too much sometimes. Because when I think about America, my mind is somewhere else than here. I once saw this quote "Wherever you are, be all there" and it's something that I want to do better. I want to try to be in this moment wherever I go. I miss my life in America a lot, I do, and I will never forget it - all the memories, the people that became important to me, all the things that I learned - I'll carry them with me forever. I'll go back to Michigan for a visit some day, and I can't wait to see my friends again. But. For now I'm here, and as much as I miss my exchange year, I can't keep living in the past. I have to focus more on what's now. Keep my mind all here a little more. On exchange my only goal was to enjoy the year I was given and make the most out of every moment, because I knew my time there was limited. But isn't that how everyone should try to live their lives? Living life to the fullest, taking every chance you're given, enjoying every moment? Everyone's time here is limited, after all, so why waste your time holding on to the past or worrying about the future. We really don't have anything else except what's right now. And I am exactly where I need to be right now (whether I like it or not), so how about I just try to live in the moment, and be a little more here?

It's true that change is always scary. It doesn't matter where you go, or where you come from - whether you're leaving or coming back - when everything changes, it always feels hard at first. It was hard for me to adjust to everything that was new when I went on exchange, but it was (and still is) also hard to adjust back when I came back to Finland. It's not the things around you that make you feel weird and stressed and out of place, it's the change. It's the fact that everything around you (or a big part of your life) is suddenly different. But I guess that going through changes is part of growing. It may be hard to accept, but that's just life I guess.

Life in Finland has felt pretty good lately. I like being back at school, and when I'm around my friends it feels like I never left. I love that. My classes this year are interesting and I'm so happy to be back at the Finnish school system. I've also started playing tennis again, and I'm really excited about that. I missed tennis. Oh and I'm turning 18 in less than two months, yay! That means, among other things, that I'll finally get my license soon. So many exciting things are coming up - in other words, it's all good here :) 

Next time,
- Iida


I'm Just Happy That It Happened

Hey all,
Even though my exchange year is over now, I thought why not to share some of my thoughts about being back home to my blog. A lot has happened since I left America, so here's also a little life update.

Coming home after exchange was so weird. I walked into my room after 10 months and I felt so weird that I fell out of words. I just stared at the walls and thought "whose room is this?". I was in shock. It didn't feel like my room - and it wasn't. It was the room of my old me. When I saw it, I realized how long I had been gone and how much that had changed me. One of the first things I did on my first days back at home was make my room look like my American room as much as possible. I put up pictures of my friends, postcards I had bought from my travels in America, my graduation cap and a picture of my tennis team. And it started to feel a little more like home. Still, during my first weeks in Finland I felt really weird and out of place most of the time. I just kept asking myself "what am I doing here?" Everything was so different I couldn't believe it... Now that I've been back for a month, it's gotten easier - I'm starting to feel like home here again and my reverse culture shock is not as bad anymore (it still hits me sometimes, though). But I still miss Michigan so much and my friends from exchange even more. I think about my time in America every day. Sometimes, when a very good memory crosses my mind, I just miss it so much that it hurts. But in the middle of all this, I tell myself to be happy that it happened, not to cry because it's over. And I am! I'm so, so happy and grateful to have had the chance to go live abroad for a year and meet all the people I met and do all the crazy stuff I did. The happiness is greater and more powerful than the sadness about it all being over. Now I have a whole another life that I can look back on and smile when I'm having a bad day. It makes me richer in a way that is impossible to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it by themselves.

It's good to be home, though. My summer here has actually been very nice. I've spent a lot of time with my friends, traveled around Finland with my family, spent a week at a cottage just swimming and eating and tanning all week, and I also went to a big music festival and saw my favorite band Years & Years, which was awesome! I've done a lot of stuff and I'm happy about that since I haven't had too much time to think about things and be sad. Also, Finland is even more beautiful than I remembered. There's forest and lakes literally everywhere, and the nights are bright because the sun sets only for a couple hours every night. And it's SO quiet here compared to America!

I'm going back to school in less than 2 weeks. I'm actually kind of looking forward to it (I know it sounds crazy, but I am for real). Getting back to school will probably be hard and exhausting, but I'm excited to have a routine in my life again and actually challenge myself in school and study so that it actually matters to me. And have free good food at school everyday ;). I've seen quite a lot of my friends already, but it's nice to see all the rest of the people I haven't seen in a year.

Huh. It feels good to be writing again. I said at the end of my last post that it would be my very last post in this blog, but here I am again. Maybe I will keep posting here every now and then, because I find that writing is my thing and it helps me to stay on top of things. And I want to do it in English so that all of you guys can read it.

Thanks for reading,



Moikka! Mä palasin Suomeen vähän yli viikko sitten. Tän viikon oon viettänyt jet lagista toipuen, perheen ja kavereiden seurasta nauttien ja kaikkea "uutta" ja erilaista ihmetellen - ekat pari päivää tuntui että olin koko ajan pienessä shokissa miten erilaista kaikki oli. Edelleen on kyllä aika hassu olo. Tosi outoa olla nyt täällä.

Halusin tulla vielä kirjoittamaan jonkinlaisen postauksen kotiinpaluusta ja siitä miltä tuntuu olla nyt kotona (itseä nimittäin  aina aiempien vaihtareiden blogeja lukiessa ärsytti, kun kukaan ei koskaan kertonut miltä tuntuu sitten tulla takaisin sieltä). Tässä nyt vähän ajatuksiani siihen liittyen. Eka kuitenkin vähän kuvia siitä mitä tuli viimeisen kuukauden aikana Ann Arborissa tehtyä. 

Downtown iltahämärässä ja kasa kavereita. All I need! // Erittäin amerikkalaisella lounaalla Marien, Franzin ja Majan kanssa vikan koulupäivän jälkeen // Viime hetkien shoppailua Urban Outfitterissä vielä kun voi // Ann Arbor aka Tree Town. Niin nätti ja vehreä kesällä. 

Viimeistä kertaa mun ja Franzin lempikahvilassa Fred'sissä... // Outdoor poolilla viilentymässä kuumana kesäpäivänä // Meidän koulun pihalle tuli fair eli tivoli just pari päivää ennen mun lähtöä, mihin sit heti tietysti mentiin kaveriporukalla // Amerikkalainen frozen yoghurt on niin hyvää.

Graduation oli kesäkuun 7. päivä. Mä olin siis senior mun koulussa joten nyt sitten valmistuin. Graduation oli semi hieno kokemus - tulevat vaihtarit, suosittelen menemään mukaan siihen jos vaan voitte. Mähän en siis mitenkään virallisesti tuolta valmistunut, mutta sain sellasen "congrats for completing a year in an American high school"-diplomin. Mun vanhemmat tuli tosiaan Suomesta tänne mun luokse käymään pari viikkoa ennen mun lähtöä ja tulivat sitten just sopivasti tonne graduationiin! :) 

Ann Arboriin tuli just parin vikan viikon aikana Ann Arbor Summer Festival, jolloin keskusta täyttyi ruokakojuista, livemusiikista ja erilaisista tapahtumista, kuten ulkoilmaleffoista. Tuolla tuli vietettyä aika monena iltana aikaa ja oli kyllä kivaa. :) Vika kuva on mun viimeseltä illalta. Noita tyyppejä tulee ikävä!

Mulla on jo nyt kova ikävä Ann Arboria ja kavereitani sieltä. On niiiin outoa olla nyt täällä Suomessa yksin ilman kaikkia niitä ihmisiä, joita mulla oli ympärilläni siellä - vähän samanlainen fiilis mikä mulla oli kun tulin Jenkkeihin. Sellainen, että täälläkö mä nyt sit vaan oon. Mitä ihmettä mä täällä teen, kun kaikki muut on siellä jossain muualla? 
Michiganista lähteminen, etenkin kavereiden hyvästeleminen oli vaikeampaa kuin olin kuvitellut. Viimeiset kaksi viikkoa jotka vietin Ann Arborissa oli nimittäin ihan mahtavia, ehkä parhaat kaksi viikkoa koko mun vaihdosta. Olin kavereiden kanssa melkein joka päivä ja me tehtiin kaikkea kivaa. Käytiin kajakoimassa, ulkoilmaleffassa, syömässä, pelaamassa tennistä, hengailtiin keskustassa ja vaan oltiin. Ann Arborissa oli (on) jotenkin ihan erityinen tunnelma nyt näin kesällä, kun on lämmin ja aurinko paistaa pitkälle iltaan. Sitä tulee niin ikävä...
Ja sitten tuli mun viimeinen ilta ja piti sanoa heipat kaikille, mikä oli aika hirveetä. Ihan kamalaa, että en voi olla varma milloin nähdään uudestaan vai nähdäänkö ehkä koskaan... :( Ollaan nyt kuitenkin aika varmasti päätetty nähdä porukalla ensi kesänä jossain päin Eurooppaa. En malta odottaa. 

En usko että vieläkään ihan tajuan, että en ole menossa takaisin Michiganiin nyt pitkään aikaan. Mulla on ollut heti sieltä lähdöstä asti sellainen olo, että lähden vaan jollekin pikku matkalle Suomeen ja kohta meen sitten takaisin kotiin. Mutta sehän ei ole niin. Mähän oon nyt kotona, täällä Suomessa, vaikka se hassulta tuntuukin.
Tuntuu oudolta olla täällä. Mikään ei ole oikein muuttunut, kaikki paikat ja ihmiset on ihan samanlaisia, vaan minä itse olen se joka on muuttunut. Oon kai vielä jossain reverse culture shockissa, kun kaikki asiat tuntuu jotenkin niin järkyttävän erilaisilta kuin Jenkeissä. Ei se nyt varsinaisesti ahdista, mutta tuntuu oudolta. En voi uskoa, että oon nyt jo Suomessa. Ajattelen edelleen englanniksi ja suomen puhuminen tuottaa välillä vähän vaikeuksia. Kun puhun mun siskon Annan kanssa joka sekin palasi nyt juuri vaihdosta, käytetään ihan koko ajan englanninkielisiä sanoja suomen seassa juttelua helpottamaan. Mitenköhän kauan kestää, että englannin puhumista pitää taas oikein kunnolla miettiä... En haluaisi unohtaa englantia tai kadottaa mun jenkkiaksenttia. Onneksi kuitenkin on Facetime, niin voin soittaa kansainvälisille ystävilleni milloin vaan :')

Kotimatka oli melkein 24 tuntia pitkä (lennot Detroit-Chicago-Frankfurt-Helsinki) ja yhdessä vaiheessa tuntui, etten ikinä pääse perille. Kun se kone lopulta sitten laskeutui Helsinki-Vantaalle, olo oli niin epätodellinen, en vaan voinut käsittää mitä oli tapahtumassa. Oli kuitenkin parasta nähdä meidän koira kentällä vastassa! <3

Nyt on pitänyt totutella siihen, että en ole enää vaihtari (tai no, mieleltäni olen sitä kyllä loppuelämäni ajan). Yhtäkkiä mun ympärillä ei ole kansainvälistä porukkaa koko ajan, en kuule englantia tai italiaa tai saksaa ollenkaan, kukaan ei sano mun nimeä hassusti tai sano sitä erikoiseksi, kukaan ei kysele multa Suomesta tai ihmettele miten mun englanti on niin hyvää. Kaikki on yhtäkkiä taas ihan erilaista. Vaikka voisi luulla, että asiat täällä tuntuisi tutuilta ja turvallisilta, oli se kuitenkin enemmänkin shokki tajuta miten monia pieniä asioita mä olin täältä unohtanut. 
Mutta onhan se myös kiva olla taas Suomessa. On ollut ihanaa nähdä ja halata kaikkia niitä ihmisiä, joita on ollut 10 kuukautta ikävä. Ja syödä suomalaista ruokaa (kaikki on niin ihanan tuoretta ja terveellistä). Ja käydä saunassa ja uida järvessä. Suomi näyttää niin kauniilta ja puhtaalta (ja hiljaiselta!) Jenkkeihin verrattuna. Kyllä tää tästä, kyllä Suomi alkaa varmaan taas kohta tuntumaan omalta, mun pitää vaan antaa itelleni vähän aikaa.

Tää on nyt varmaan mun viimeinen postaus tänne blogiin (tai no, katotaan jos blogi-innostus iskee taas jossain vaiheessa, en kuitenkaan lupaa mitään). Sain kuin sainkin pidettyä tän jotakuinkin aktiivisena koko vuoden ajan, jes! Kiitos kaikille jotka on mun postauksia lukeneet. Toivon että tästä oli edes jonkinlaista apua tuleville vaihtareille. Haluan vielä sanoa, että kannustan ehdottomasti kaikkia lähtemään vaihtoon, jos vain on mahdollisuus. Vaihtoon lähteminen oli ihan valehtelematta tähänastisen elämäni paras päätös - se oli todella hieno vuosi ja se tulee kulkemaan mun mukana koko loppuelämäni ajan. Vaikka oonkin surullinen siitä että mun vaihtovuosi on nyt ohi, oon mielettömän onnellinen ja kiitollinen siitä, että sain kokea tämän kaiken. Se ei ollut aina helppoa, mutta todellakin kaiken sen vaivan arvoista, ja nyt mä tunnen olevani miljoona uutta kokemusta ja muistoa rikkaampi. Vaikka nyt mun elämässä alkaa uusi vaihe, nää muistot kulkee aina mun matkassa!

Kiitos kun luit blogiani! <3



A LIFE IN A YEAR - in English

Hi everyone! It's me, Iida. I don't think I've ever made a blog post in English although I've been writing a blog the whole time I've been in the US - which is 9 and a half months today. It's crazy how fast the time has went by. So much has happened since I left Finland, yet I remember the day I left just like it was yesterday. Now that my year in Michigan is coming to an end, I want to talk a little bit about how I changed and what I learned during this year. And I'm writing in English because 1) it feels the most natural at the moment and 2) I think it's finally time to let my non-Finnish friends read my blog, too. 
There is so much I want to say that I feel like this text is going to be very messy. I'll try my best to keep it reasonable.

So, on August 23rd, 2017, I left my whole life behind and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan for 10 months. I had tried not to have too many expectations for my exchange year, for exchange is something you can't really prepare for and whatever you expect it to be like, it's not going to be that way because everyone's year is different. So I tried to keep my mind open and not expect anything.

Moving alone to a place where no one knew me before was very liberating in a way. No one knew what I was like before, so I could do whatever I wanted without anyone knowing I was only "faking it until I would make it" (like wearing bright red lipstick to school on a totally normal day). No one could be like "what are you doing, this is not like you". I felt like I could do whatever I wanted, and it felt so good. I tried new things and experimented with my personal style a little.

Of course it was hard in the beginning when I didn't know anyone, I had zero friends, and I didn't know anything about anything. It was a bit of a shock to realize how different everything was. The houses, streets, school, food, the weather, language, literally everything was new and so very different from Finland. Adjusting to all of these differences was hard at first and the process took me a while. I had to accept that there is not only one right way to do things - the way I had lived my life in Finland was not the right way - it was just what I was used to. And suddenly getting dragged away from everything I knew was a bit of a shock (I guess they call it the culture shock). I told myself a million times a day this quote every exchange student knows: "It's not right, it's not wrong, it's just different." When I made more friends it all became easier, too. Eventually I learned to accept things like they were and I got used to them. And I learned to love some of them. Like, for example how nice and open people are here. In Finland people don't talk to strangers, and that's why I didn't really know how to do small talk when I first came here. But now I like chatting with people I don't even know and I'm so glad about that haha! Also, my American hometown Ann Arbor is really nice and very pretty, and I loved it from the first day I came here. I couldn't have wished for a better placement.

This whole year has been about getting out of my comfort zone and doing things I would have never done in Finland. It's amazing what a year in a different place can do to you. I think everybody should experience it at some point of their life - what it's like to be alone in a new place and not know anybody or anything about the things around you. It makes you see everything in a different light - your life back home, things you used to do in your free time because you might not be able to do them in your host country, people you used to spend time with, and most importantly yourself and your values. You (or at least I did) begin to question how things are back home, because you see how they are done differently in your host country. Also, being an exchange student in another country eventually gives you a ton of self-confidence and strength, when you realize you can handle things on your own without anyone's help, simply because it's the only option. No one's exchange year is as perfect as it looks like on their Instagram feed -  everyone has their battles. But when times get hard, that's when you grow. You'll get over it, and in the end, it feels pretty damned good to be able to say "I did it".

Living far away from home also made me appreciate everything I have in Finland a lot more. My family and friends who are always there to support me, home, the clean and beautiful nature that is very close where I live, the world’s best school system, Finnish food (oh how I miss it!), how peaceful and safe Finland is, the unique Finnish language that no one outside of Finland knows how to speak… There are so many things I  now that I have had to live almost 10 months without them. I had to travel far to see up close, I guess.

And, of course, my English got ten million times better. One of the main reasons I went on exchange in the first place was that I wanted to be fluent in two languages. My English was not even that bad in the beginning, but I was surprised how different and weird and awkward I sounded compared to Americans. Everything was hard in the beginning, but I picked up the language fast and now people often mistake me as an American, which I think is funny. I still do have an accent, but it's not very noticeable at all. Now I even think and have dreams in English sometimes. And the weirdest part is that my first language Finnish has gone worse this year - I mean, of course I can still speak it, but it feels very unnatural and I forget words and use weird phrasing. My friends always laugh at me when I call them. I feel like I could easily forget Finnish entirely if I stayed in the US for like 20 years and stopped keeping in touch with my Finnish people. (I'm not planning on doing that though, don't worry mom...) 

One of the greatest things about my exchange year is that I met so many new people with different backgrounds since Ann Arbor is very diverse. I made friends from not just the US but all over the world, since I got to know many other exchange students that are also spending their year in Ann Arbor or the area around it. Spending time and having conversations with people from different backgrounds has opened my eyes a lot. Many times I found myself hanging out with people I know I would have never talked to if I was in Finland. I got to hear so many stories from different cultures and know different ways of living, and I realized that the way I live life is not the only right one. All my international friends have taught me lots of things - one of the most important things being that you cannot judge people by one thing, because there is always many sides to every person. Also, prejudice is never a good thing, because you can never know who might become your friend. I’m really grateful to have met all my exchange student friends, because they’re going through the exact same thing I am, and they always know how I feel and they are always there to support me! 

I feel like this text is getting way too long, so it's time to wrap it up. Overall I think going on exchange was the best decision I have made in my life so far and I've learned from it more than I ever could have imagined. My exchange year was amazing and I sure will miss it a lot when I go back to Finland (only two weeks left!). It feels unreal how close the end of my exchange is and while I'm excited to go home and see my friends and family again, it will be very hard to leave this life I've built during the past 10 months. To be honest, I don't know how am I going to be able to just leave... like I said, it will be very very hard but I know I will carry these memories with me forever. And I'm also excited for the future! This is not the end, this is just the beginning. <3 

Thanks for reading this far, 
- Iida