And so it begins…

24 hours. 9 months. 9 hours. 6 months. 5.5 hours. 5 minutes.

24 hours en route from San Diego, California to Joensuu, Finland.

9 months from the time I received my Fulbright award letter to departure.

9 hours time difference between Joensuu and my students back in Denver, CO.

6 months to explore Finland and work on my project.

5.5 hours of sunlight per day currently. (And by the end of the month, this will increase to 7.5 hours!)

5 minutes to fall in love.

The warm welcome I received at the tiny  Joensuu airport washed away the cold that filled the air. So many times I have walked out of my gate to see people waiting for their visitors, holding signs to welcome them. Finally, I had my very own sign!

Joensuu Fulbrighters
Kari, Sari, Sundra and me at the Joensuu airport

Our wonderful advisors, Kari and Sari, met Sundra (the other Fulbright Teacher here in Joensuu) and me at the Joensuu airport to take us to our new homes. I had been emailing with Kari for the last 4 months, and how exciting it was to finally put a face to the kind man behind behind those emails. He took me to visit the University of Eastern Finland campus, to the grocery store, and to my accommodation.

Tuesday morning, just 12 hours after my arrival in Joensuu, I woke up ready to go. I couldn’t help but walk out of my room at my home for the next 6 months with a huge smile on my face, ready to begin the next leg of this journey, ready to experience Finland. I had instructions to be at the university to attend an orientation with the other international students, and hoped I could find my way back to the place Kari had showed me the evening before in my foggy jet-lagged state.

river walk
My overcast morning walk across the Pielisjoki river.

The first two days have been filled with getting to know the University of Eastern Finland campus, my advisor Kari, navigating the icy streets, and remembering how to bundle up properly for long walks in the cold. I have managed to squeeze in a little time to explore the city center, however there will be much more to do this weekend.

A view across the river, taken at 4:30pm!
Crossing the icy bridge (and the bike rider in the distance)

My musings for the day:

  • The streets are so well lit to doesn’t feel dark at 4pm!
  • Finnish children can be seen playing outside, even in 20 degree weather.
  • It is appropriate to wear your ski pants/jacket when walking around town, and there are nice coat racks to hang your outdoor clothes when you are inside the building.
  • Finns are not afraid to ride their bike on the icy winter streets in below freezing temperatures.
  • Karjalanpiirakka, or Karelian pies, a local specialty, are quite a tasty treat. They are made with rye crust and a rice porridge filling. Thank you, Kari, for buying me one today!



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