Monday, August 27, 2012

Home Sweet Haliskylä: Arriving in Finland (Part 2)

I arrived at the Turku bus station at 12:35pm after my two-hour ride from the Helsinki airport. As soon as I stepped off the bus my student tutor, Sampo, and another American student he was helping, John, were there to meet me. Sampo is Hungarian-Finnish, and spent a semester studying abroad at the University of Vermont so his English is great. Coincidentally, John is also from Texas - originally from Richards, TX and studying psychology at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX. His English is okay, too. 

We rode a bus to my apartment so I could drop my bags off before heading to the International Office. On the bus I learned that John had already been in Turku for almost a week, and already knew his way around the city. At first, I was a little bit wary of hanging out with another Texan - fearing that I might miss out on a legitimate Finnish experience, or get too comfortable with what was familiar and not push myself out of my comfort zone. I had nothing to fear, though. I lucked out and John is as interested in all things Finland as I am. He is enthusiastic about learning the language, getting to know natives, and travelling to different regions of the country. Almost immediately I could tell that he had spent as many hours as I had typing "Finland" into YouTube, Google, or Wikipedia - fascinated by this strange place that is about as far from Texas as you can get.

At the apartment, Sampo gave me my keys, showed me my room, and then we were off to the International Office to take care of some business. Here are some pictures of my room and the apartment:
My unit in the Haliskylä apartment complex - most exchange/international students live here
Close-up of the berries in the tree - not sure what kind they are
Why do I have a fan? It just might be too well insulated here.
The view from my window - the building in the background is the S-Market (grocery store)
After our visit to the International Office we rode another bus to Ikea so that I could purchase all of the basic supplies for my apartment and get some lunch. 

Two Texans at a Swedish store in Finland - yes, that's John he looks like a Finn!
Cockatoo flip-flops for 2 Euro, probably the best purchase of my life
After Ikea I crashed in my bed at 6:00pm. I had been up at least 28 hours straight at that point and was exhausted. The next morning, John and I walked about 3 minutes to the S-Market to get cereal. The S-Market is a magical wonderland of modern me at least. In order to get a cart, you must insert 1 Euro into the coin slot attached to the handle, and when you return the cart you get your Euro back. Then, you walk through the automatic swinging gates that let you into the shopping area. You cannot go back through the gates once you enter - you have to go through the store and past the registers. Almost every product is labeled only in Finnish and Swedish - this isn't a problem for things like bananas, Cheerios, or bread but can get tricky when looking for butter or particular yogurt flavors. They had many products labeled "Tex-Mexican" (because of course Finland is the place for Tex Mex), but John said not to trust it. Apparently he found out the hard way. Here are some picture highlights from the S-Market:

The back of S-Market
Recycling machines - insert bottles and cans, receive money
Not a gallon in sight
Took me forever to decipher this one
After you check out, insert Euro coins to go double-or-nothing at the arcade-style slot machines...and try to be more successful than John was.
More to come very soon! Thanks for reading!


  1. Hey Nathan!

    I'm enjoying your Blog :) Thanks for sharing all of the everyday details...especially the grocery shopping. LOVE the crazy Cheerio box. Keep it up!
    I leave in a week for Istanbul and will soon be in your place :)
    Keep writing to us...!

  2. Hi Nathan,
    I'll be in Turku in August for studying. Have a lot of things to learn before arrving in the place so I'm glad that I find your blog. Thanks for sharing your experience :). Are you still in Finland?