Coming home. A year later.

It's been a year since I came back from exchange. I haven't seen a lot of exchange students write about what it was like to come home, and back when I was going through it I really would have liked to hear someone else's thoughts about it. So here's my experience: what it was like to come back, why it was hard, and what I've learnt since then. Enjoy! 

Almost exactly a year ago, on the 25th of June, 2018, I came home after spending 10 months in Michigan as a foreign exchange student. During those 10 months Ann Arbor had become my second home, where I had awesome friends, a lovely host family, routines and hobbies, a whole another life. I had had the best time during those 10 months; I had made memories I'd never forget and learnt important things one can't learn at school. I had made friends who had been strangers to me just a year ago but were now so important, that it was hard to imagine what my life would be like without them. A place I had never even heard of before my exchange felt like a home to me, it had become my comfort zone. 

So you can imagine how weird leaving all this behind and going back to Finland for good was to me. At the end of my exchange, my home country felt like a blurry old memory, the life I had lived prior to my exchange was like a distant dream. I felt like I had grown and changed so much during those 10 months abroad that it was hard to imagine fitting back to the routines of my "old life". I wasn't the same person I was when I left anymore. I was new, and this new Iida liked to speak English full time, take Mrs. Fitz's American Literature at school, play tennis in the school team, hang out in Downtown til late at night with her friends, take walks around sunny Burns Park and spend hours talking with her best friend at Starbucks. I had finally found my place in there and felt comfortable in the routines I had developed. In other words, I really liked my life in America and really didn't want to let go of it.

My last day in Michigan 

Leaving was also hard because I didn't know what to expect. I was scared how much I would miss America. I was also scared that I would "lose" all the progress and growth I had done during the year. I was scared that the minute I'd go back to Finland, I would change back to be the same "old Iida", which I didn't want to be anymore. I wanted to hold on to being the new Iida. It sounds so silly now, but back then I would actually stress out about it. 

Of course, I had missed my family and friends and other things in Finland very much during the year, and I was happy to go home and see everyone again. I love Finland with all my heart; the problem wasn't that I didn't wanna go back to Finland. It was that I didn't wanna leave Ann Arbor and the life I had created. But unfortunately, you can't be in two places at the same time... 

So, yeah. I went home. At first it felt like the end of the world. I was a MESS the night before I left. It all felt so unreal. I remember how speechless I was when the plane landed in Helsinki. I couldn't get a word out, it was just so weird to be in Finland after what felt like such a long time. I flew home with a big group of other Finnish YFU exchange students, and we were all like "What the heck just happened?!?". It was lovely, though, to first see my sister and then my parents and our dog at the airport! But overall I think I was in shock the whole day when I came home. 

The summer after I came home was... weird. I missed my friends and America every day so much that it hurt. I was struggling to find my place here again. I was home but also not. I was incredibly grateful for what I had got to experience, but sad that it was over. I was unsure about everything; when would I see my exchange student friends, who were now scattered around the world again, who would I keep in touch with, when would I be able to go back to Michigan, how would I keep up my English... Luckily, my family and friends here really helped me get through it. They welcomed me back so warmly and were patient with me when I didn't know what to do with myself. When I was with my loved ones, who had waited for me the whole year, I didn't miss Michigan or dwell in my memories. I was able to just live in that moment and enjoy their company I had missed so much. But when I was alone, I kept falling into this deep slump where I would go over my memories from exchange again and again, and all I would want to do was go back to Michigan for even just a second. 
It felt impossible to imagine that a year later, I would still be in Finland, not Michigan, and be fully happy and content and balanced with my life.

Finland, however, was even more beautiful than I had remembered; it felt unreal that I lived in a place like it. Finnish summer is honestly pretty amazing. But it took time before this place would start to feel like my actual home again. Which is weird, considering I had lived here for 16 years before leaving for 10 months. It's crazy what just one year can do to you... 

After a few months, I kind of calmed down. Facetiming to my friends and sharing thoughts with them helped a lot. I would still sometimes miss everything like hell, but I got slowly used to it. I was happy when school started, because that brought routines, new friends and old friends back into my life. I was able to move on. I was also happy to go to school again and pick up my studies from where I had left off before my exchange (though it was challenging at first). I remembered how much I actually enjoy learning and studying interesting topics after not taking school that seriously for a year. (None of the classes I took in America counted for me in Finland, so I had to redo a year. That's why I didn't really have motivation to do the schoolwork in America.) I would still miss Michigan very very much at times, I had bad days and better days. It wasn't easy to let go of it. 

A lot has happened since last summer. I worked my butt off for school, tried new things such as doing theatre at school, kept on playing tennis (I started it in America), turned 18, partied with my girls, loved Finland more than ever, went to the Finnish prom (which was SO much fun), and kept living. In March, I watched my friends take their final exams and leave the school, as I would start studying for yet another regular exam week.

The spring was pretty crazy. Me and my sister Anna and our friend Emmi all won free Interrail passes from the DiscoverEU contest, and we started planning an Interrail trip for June. Anna and I wanted to fund the trip all by ourselves, so we set up a small window cleaning business to raise money. We would wash windows before school, after school, in the evening, and on weekends. While also doing our homework and studying for exams and planning the trip. April and May were probably the busiest months of my life so far, it was just insane. But I also really enjoyed running my own small business. It was so rewarding to see that we could actually earn money if we worked hard enough! 
And then, finally, at the beginning of June, we got out of school, my friends graduated and I didn't, and then me and Anna and Emmi went on our own little adventure. Those two weeks of backpacking around Europe were awesome, we truly had the best time. It was so worth all the work!!!

The best possible reward for two months of endless to-do-lists.  
Finland. Home. 

So yeah. It's been quite a year. I have grown a lot. I see some things about my exchange differently now. I am more mature, more balanced and more confident than a year ago. I have learnt to trust that true friendship lasts no matter how big the distance is, if you're willing to work for it. Going through the "aftermath" of my exchange has not been easy, but I have learnt a lot about it. I think I will value this experience later in life even more. 

When you're in the midst of living your exchange student life, it feels like it's all you have. All you are. All you're ever going to be, even. Towards the last months of my exchange, I remember feeling like that was the best version of me yet, and the best I was ever going to be. I was so fully immersed to America, that I didn't really think about Finland or the future or anything. And it felt like the end of the world when it ended. 
But now, I can see that 10 months is such a short period of time in your life, and that there is so much yet to come after that. One year away from everything changed me a lot, but I have so much more yet to learn and it was so silly to think that my evolving would stop when I'd come back from exchange. Sure, one period of time in my life ended, but so what? It could not have gone on forever anyway. And it's definitely not like an exchange year in the middle of high school is the only cool international thing I'm ever gonna do. No, I'm already excited for doing an exchange from university, exploring the world more, maybe going solo traveling and so on!  

Even though a year ago I almost couldn't imagine being in this situation, I can now say that I am really happy to be right here, right now. I am happy, and excited for the future. I still think about Michigan every day and miss it a lot. It's always going to be a part of me. But beyond everything, I am grateful. I still think that going on exchange was the best decision of my life. Sometimes I just stop to think how crazy it is how many wonderful things I've already got to experience. Like what did I do to deserve all this? It makes me humble. 

To all the exchange students that are going through this right now, I wish you luck, and I promise you'll get over it. If anyone can relate, let me know!! 

If you read all the way to the end, thank you, I really appreciate it. This is all I've got to say today. Let me know your thoughts about my post! 

- Iida


Keskitalven mietteitä


En olekaan hetkeen kirjoittanut suomeksi. Tuntuu hassulta. Mun suhde tähän blogiin muutenkin on ollut viime kuukaudet vähän väärillä raiteilla. Olen luonut itselleni liian korkeat vaatimukset siihen, millainen postauksen tulee olla jotta sen voi julkaista. Olen kirjoittanut vain englanniksi, koska tuntui, että kun oli kerran sille tielle lähtenyt, ei voinut enää "yhtäkkiä" tehdä postausta suomeksi. Mikä oli tietysti ihan typerää, koska tämähän on minun blogini ja saan tehdä tällä ihan mitä huvittaa. 

Kaipaan kuitenkin suomeksi eli omalla äidinkielellä kirjoittamista. Joten nyt mä heitän kaikki turhat säännöt nurkkaan ja kirjoitan juuri siitä mitä mieleen juolahtaa. 

Meillä oli eilen enkun tunnilla englantilaisia vieraita, jotka pitivät tunnin. Mä olin myös tiistaina kierrättämässä heitä ympäri koulua parin kaverini kanssa. Se oli tosi kivaa ja he olivat tosi mukavia ihmisiä, mutta niiden brittiaksentti kuulosti mun amerikanenglantiin tottuneeseen korvaan todella oudolta ja epäselvältä. Jouduin monta kertaa pyytämään heitä toistamaan kysymyksensä, koska en ihan oikeasti vaan ymmärtänyt:D. Se tuntui niiin hassulta. Brittienglanti kun on kuitenkin periaatteessa sama kieli kuin mitä Amerikassa puhutaan, mutta ei silti kuulosta yhtään samalta. Tai tavallaan ymmärsin kyllä, mitä ne britit juttelivat, mutta he käyttivät sanavalintoja, ilmauksia ja äänenpainoja, joita mulle itselle ei tulisi mieleenkään käyttää (tajuatteko mitä tarkoitan?). Se oli niin hassua. 

Vaikea uskoa, että tammikuu on jo melkein ohitse. Ihan kohta mä tanssin Wanhat (en malta odottaa!), ja sitten kaikki  mun abikaverit lähtevätkin koulusta. Se tuntuu haikealta. Pian kaikki kaverit häviää jokainen omiin suuntiinsa, ja mun pitää jäädä vielä vuodeksi kouluun. En haluaisi kokea sitä taas uudelleen, mutta kai se vaan kuuluu elämään, se että ensin joku juttu on ihan parasta ja sitten se loppuu. Muutosten hyväksyminen on tärkeä osa elämää, niin tuskaista kuin se välillä onkin. Mä koin viimeksi jotain tällaista viime kesän alussa, kun lähdin 10 kuukauden jälkeen Michiganista. Silloin meidän seitsemän hengen kaveriporukka hajosi vielä isommassa mittakaavassa, koska me kaikki asutaan eri maissa. Se oli vaikeaa kestää, vieläkin on, mutta oon myös oppinut luottamaan siihen, että tosiystävyys kestää pitkänkin ajan ja välimatkan. On rikkaus, että on useita ystäviä eri puolilla maailmaa, vaikka niitä onkin usein ikävä ja näkeminen ei ole ihan helppoa. Ja aina tulee kuitenkin myös uusia juttuja, ja uusia kavereita joiden kanssa luoda uusia muistoja. <3

Intensiivisestä opiskelujaksosta kertoo se, ettei puhelimen kameran rullasta löydy juuri muita kuvia kuin matikan tehtäviä ja pari kirjastoselfietä. / Niin nättiä ulkona.

Odotan kuitenkin tosi innolla kevättä ja kaikkea mitä se tuo tullessaan. Juuri nyt, keskellä kylmintä tammikuuta, on vaikea uskoa, että koulua on jäljellä enää vähän yli kaksi jaksoa. Niin se vaan kuitenkin on. Tasan vuosi sitten olin Amerikassa vaihtovuoteni toisen puolikkaan alussa, ja kesään ja kotiinlähtöön tuntui olevan ikuisuus. Kevät hujahti ohitse kuitenkin aivan käsittämättömän nopeasti, ja luulen, että niin käy nytkin. Sen takia haluan yrittää pysähtyä useammin nauttimaan ihan vaan tästä hetkestä. Hengittää syvään. Ymmärtää arvostaa juuri niitä asioita, joita mulla juuri nyt on. Nauttia nyt tästä valtavan lumisesta ja kylmästä talvesta, kunnon pakkasesta joka puree poskia, ihanista lumikinoksista ja narskuvasta lumen äänestä kenkien alla. Yksi asia mitä en ennen Jenkkeihin lähtöä ollut muuten tajunnut, on se miten arvostavasti ja iloiten suomalaiset suhtautuvat lumeen, kylmyyteen ja talveen. Michiganissa kun useimmat tuntuivat pitävän lumesta lähinnä vaan sen takia, että sen sataessa sai olla pois koulusta, ja niinä päivinä pysyttelivät visusti sisällä, koska ulos ei muka voinut mennä kun siellä oli niin kylmä. Teitä ei aurattu, vaan ne päällystettiin ällöttävällä suolalla, joka  sulatti lumen, kulkeutui sisätiloihin ja pilasi kengät. Musta on ihanaa, miten Suomessa oikein toivotaan, että tulisi kunnolla lunta ja talveen sopeudutaan sen sijaan, että siitä koko ajan valitettaisiin. Talvi on parasta. 

Nyt oon ollut kolme viikkoa joululoman jälkeen koulussa, ja jos ihan rehellisiä ollaan, tuntuu melkein siltä kuin en olisi koskaan missään lomalla ollutkaan. Koko ajan on kiire. Kouluasiat stressaa, vaikka kuinka yrittäisi olla stressaamatta. Oon toisaalta pystynyt säilyttämään samalla aika hyvän opiskelumoraalin, eli ainakin tärkeät läksyt (eli matikan ja bilsan, jotka on mun pääfokus nyt) tulee aina tehtyä ja tunnen olevani kursseilla hyvin kärryillä. Amerikasta palattuani mulla meni hetki, että löysin opiskelumotivaationi uudestaan, mutta oon niin iloinen että oon saanut siitä nyt taas kiinni. Mun mielestä on tärkeää, että halu panostaa opiskeluun lähtee itsestä, eikä hommia tee kenenkään muun pakottamana, koska vain silloin syntyy oikeita tuloksia. 

Opiskelu lukiossa on oikeasti oikeaa tasapainottelua. Tasapainottelua sen välillä, että jaksaa tehdä paljon työtä, mutta myös osaa rentoutua. Pitää pystyä tekemään läksyjä myös viikonloppuna (koska niitä tulee paljon), mutta silti niin, ettei tunnu että koulujutut on mielessä koko ajan. Mua henkilökohtaisesti parhaiten auttaa irtautumaan koulustressistä rauhalliset kahvihetket ystävien kanssa ja salitreeni tai muu urheilu. Salilla käymisestä on tullut mulle oikeasti melkein kuin pyhä retriitti. Tykkään mennä sinne yksin ja kuunnella treenatessa musiikkia. Treenatessa pystyn työntämään kaiken muun mielestäni, ja vaikka se saattaa hassulta kuulostaakin, rentoutumaan. Tulen hulluksi jos en pääse jonain viikkona salille, haha.

Tällaisia miettieitä tällä kertaa! Voisin kirjoittaa vielä vaikka ja mistä, mutta nyt ehkä laitan stopin tälle postaukselle ja siirryn matikan läksyjen pariin. Ai että, olipas kiva kirjoittaa suomeksi. Kiitos kun luit! Mukavaa torstain jatkoa :)



Life Update

Hi all,

It's been a while. I thought I'd share a little life update.

For me, this fall has been about trying to balance my life between working hard for school, taking enough time for myself and taking care of my health, while also making time for seeing my friends.

I had to get back into serious studying after a year when school started in August and I'll admit it, I kinda had a hard time with it at first. My first exam week this year (six weeks after school started) did not go well (in fact, I got the worst grade I've ever got for math). But I picked myself up and started really focusing on school and by the time the second exam week rolled around (another six weeks later), I had developed a studying routine that I had actually started to enjoy. I did so much math the week before the test that I felt like there was nothing else in my head, hahah. But it payed off - I got a 10 (the same as an A+) for the second math exam! It felt especially good because I knew I had worked hard. :)

I've also been taking a theatre class at school. It has been a lot of work but also interesting and a lot fun. I can't tell you what our play is about because our show is this week and we want to keep it as a secret until then, but let me just say that it's gonna be really cool. I even got a small role in it, even though I hadn't done theatre before, so that's really cool. It has taken up a lot of my time, though.

A beautiful sunrise at 9:30 am / Went to choose our this year's Christmas tree with my family on Finland's independence day (Dec 6th), like we do every year. We'll put it up right before Christmas / Homemade sushi, that was surprisingly easy to make and turned out really good / It is starting to look like Christmas in Jyväskylä, too. <3

You know what I realized the other day? That the more you put effort into something, the more it will pay off. Like the more you give out of yourself to something, the more it will give you back. For example, the theatre class I'm taking now. In the beginning of it I was not that motivated to go to every practice and to be present in the sessions because I didn't really know a lot of the people there and I didn't know what to expect from the class. I skipped it a couple times and didn't really think it was that important. Then my sister dropped the class because she thought it was taking up too much time. At first I thought about dropping the class, too. But then I thought that I hadn't really even tried to make it work, and decided to give it another chance, this time actually trying - like, I was either gonna do it with my full effort or not at all. And you know what? Once I started to actually do stuff for the theatre, I found that it was really fun and started enjoying the practices. So yay. I need to keep that in mind.

By the way, sorry if my English sounds a little weird. I haven't written a text like this in a while. I've written essays for school, but that's is a little different because I have to focus more on grammar etc. It's been a while since I last wrote in English just for myself and my readers.

About that, by the way. I had thought that school English would be very fun and easy for me after I got back from America, but... well, it is pretty easy, but it's also reeeaally boring. It's not that I don't like English, it's just that the English they teach us here is kind of different from the English people actually speak in Michigan. School English is much more grammar-focused, essays and vocab quizzes make up a big part of your grade and it's all based on British English, so there are a bunch of words I've never heard of. To me the whole class feels pretty pointless, because I mean...I know I can speak English well enough, despite the grades somebody else decides to give me. But I have to take English anyway because none of the classes I took in the US will count for me in Finland. Whatever. At least the homework is easy. And well, I guess it doesn't hurt to learn some new words and to sharpen my writing.

I don't know how many months ago I left Michigan - I stopped counting days a while ago. I miss America, but in a good way. It doesn't hurt that bad anymore. Mostly I just feel thankful. I'm moving on, finally. I've started volunteering with Finland's YFU which has brought me a lot of new things to think about. I'm going to do interviews and (hopefully) volunteer at orientations for future exchange students here in Finland and so on in the future.

Kiasma, a museum of modern art in Helsinki where I visited a couple weeks ago.

I have 3 more days of school left and then I'm finally off to Christmas break. I need a break so bad. Even though I've been motivated to study, I am getting tired and stressed out of it. Also, I'm super excited for Christmas this year since last year didn't really feel like a real Christmas (I was in America, away from my family etc). So this year I'm gonna try and enjoy every second of it. We're going up north to Lapland after Christmas with my family to ski and enjoy the snow and coldness. Can't wait!

Wow. Did I really just write a full length blog post? You guys don't know how many times I've started writing a post and then deleted it after two sentences. I'm so happy I finally got a post out. I've missed this. 
I will not promise to write, because I don't want to have any pressure for writing, but just know that I haven't forgotten my blog. :) 

Thanks for reading. Later x

- Iida


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