Returning to Finland, post-exchange stress, and future stories


I returned to Finland in early August, and plunged right back into school. From tutoring freshmen to moving house and focusing on my grad thesis, I’ve been submerged in work, and blogging – here and social media alike – has become something I can hardly think about.

So, where’d a full year go?

I like to pretend I didn’t have a culture shock coming back, and I even felt glad to be back, but the more distant my exchange year grows the harder it feels to be here and not there. Finland is currently in the midst of roaring currents with the European refugee crisis, domestic politics being an utter mess, and education being the first thing they’re cutting funds from, meaning my university is kind of holding on for dear life trying to come through in one piece. I spent a year in a vacuum without having to think about any of this, so it feels like I’d been punched in the face. On top of that I feel kind of like I was the foreigner: not only do I make social faux passes all the time and behave a little strange in public places (what do you mean Europeans don’t hand cash and cards with two hands or at least with one hand on top of the money-offering arm?), I also feel like I didn’t really belong here anymore. I’ve seen and lived in a place I felt was homely and welcoming. Here, people shun away from strangers just as much, but I don’t feel like I have very much left here for me.

Of course going anywhere on exchange is like a bubble where you’re relatively safe from danger and chaos, you’re under the protection of some school, family or organisation; and you don’t have to worry about things like your future, your economical stability, housing, and the like. It’s like a slightly more hands-down, long trip somewhere, and events and fun stuff is being shoved in your face. There’s no commitment. There’s only the slightest trace of having to engage. But I really felt like I needed to be there, and coming back to Finland feels just as temporary, like I never planned to stay long, anyway.

So, I’m going to graduate, and join the brain-leak as they say, and try flee this ship that’s going down very fast. (Domestic politics, like I said, is an utter mess and I’d rather not see where this overtly right-wing government gets us.)

Once my schedule clears up a bit I want to upload more photos. I did a trip to Busan and Gyeongju during my last few weeks, and took plenty of photos I want to share. But that’ll have to wait until I have time from my two jobs, thesis, and seminar paper. I feel like this isn’t exactly what I needed right now, but if it means I’ll be done with (this) school, then that’s something to work hard for.


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