Helsinki’s autumn is equivalent to Bloomington’s early winter. Because we live so close to the sea, it is very windy throughout the day; sometimes you feel as if the wind pierces through your skin like small needles. At school, people are already wearing fur, thick coats and boots. The other day, one of my friends was wearing a scarf that pretty much covered her entire face >.> It is cold, but to most Finns the weather is “cool.” At night the temperature drops to below zero and the windows are covered with a thin layer of ice; during the day it doesn’t get higher than 10C, One of my friends told me, the colder it gets, the more depressed people become. Already on the metro, I see a lot of grim faces and long silence. Supposedly it will get worse when the night becomes longer. In order to stay away from the freezing air and depressed atmosphere, we usually go to the cafeteria or a bar for a drink to warm our bones. Drinks here are not too bad, a little bit more expansive than in the States but not by much. However, the school cafeteria provides very nice food for students at a very low price. A full meal including drinks, salad and main course usually costs around 3-4 euros, which is not bad. I strong recommend the seafood here. Personally I don’t like fish that much, but after coming to Finland and having tasted different kinds of fish (most of their names I can’t even pronounce), I must say they are amazing.
I apologize for posting so late :( The first few weeks of school have been hectic. As a new student, I struggled to find my way around the campus. Fortunately I’ve started taking Finnish lessons. Even though I only know yksi, kaksi, kolme, knowing some Finnish really helps me feel more comfortable and “at home.” I really like the libraries here. I haven’t been to the National Library yet, but the University library is extremely clean and its design is incredible. It’s very different from all the libraries I’ve been to, because people here really take reading seriously and also enjoy hanging out in the library. My friends and I have formed this habit of going to the library to grab a bite and discuss about our classes. Most of us are taking the same seminar classes, so we usually have the same break periods.
One of my elementary school friends came to Finland as an exchange student for a semester, and he asked me “do you miss Taiwan at all?” I guess I see myself as a wanderer now. When I left home four years ago, I told myself not to be afraid. The world is a mystery, an adventure waiting for me, and every journey is a new story. There has been times when I want to turn back and return to where I feel most safe and comfortable, but I keep telling myself I need to be strong and more independent. Even though my family and friends can’t always be with me, but I know they care about me and support me. When I was walking home from school today, I noticed someone had written the word “love” on the road. I smiled and told myself I should be thankful, because I am really blessed to be here.
It took me a while to find autumn leaves, but I managed to find several near my apartment. I felt the change of season, but the city remained the same. In the morning, I have to wear a light jacket or coat because the air is cold. On the metro people appear to be more quiet and gloomy, perhaps everyone wants to know why the sun doesn’t provide any warmth anymore. Indeed, the only source of comfort in early morning is the voice of the opera singer at the Senate square and the smell of freshly baked breads. However, after the classes are over, my friends and I will go and sit on the stairs of the Cathedral to enjoy a sun bath. Some of them hold coffee in one hand and cigarette in another, while the rest of us wonder if winter is not far…
The academic year at University of Helsinki has begun yesterday with an Opening Carnival. Some interesting facts about the University: Even though it is presently located in the heart of Helsinki, it was founded in Turku during the Swedish Empire’s reign. It is one of the top research universities in the world, and the University is bilingual (Finnish and Swedish). The University has many famous alumni including Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, who studied Law before he decided that it was too boring, and Elias Lönnrot, the collector of Kalevala (the national epic of Finland). One thing I really like about the University is it’s really connected with the city. Places like the National Library of Finland, Finnish Museum of Natural History and the Botanical Garden are not only sites for tourists, for also students and families. There are restaurants and shops surrounding the campus, so one never has to worry about getting bored or having no place to go. Having studied in a small town university for four years, I really like this change of scene. Transportation is convenient, too: you can pretty much go to anywhere by walking, taking the bus or metro. I don’t have a picture of the metro here, but if you come to Finland, you will notice the metro in Helsinki is bright orange. It always reminds me of my highlighter and Jaffa (it’s a pretty popular soft drink in Finland).