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Fulbright to the Fullest: Welcome to Helsinki! - Embassy of Finland, Washington - Consulate Generals of Finland, New York, Los Angeles : Current Affairs


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Fulbright to the Fullest: Welcome to Helsinki! 

Sam Northern, an elementary school teacher from Kentucky, traveled to Helsinki in January for a four-month teaching program. Here he shares the story of his first day in Finland.

Photo: Sam Northern
Sam in front of the Helsinki Cathedral.

At 35,000 feet, I found myself above the clouds both literally and figuratively. My feeling of euphoria was due to my impending arrival in Finland. For four months I am residing in Helsinki, Finland to visit Finnish schools, interview education professionals, and complete an inquiry project as part of  the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program.

Photo: Sam Northern
Above the clouds
Sam on the plane towards Helsinki.

Once the plane landed in Helsinki, I received a text message from a friend back in Kentucky explaining that she had arranged for someone to meet me at the airport. Having a welcome guide to Finland was the best thing that could of happened. My new friend not only helped carry my luggage, he explained the train and tram station and knew exactly how to get to my Airbnb. We even went to the Helsinki Christmas Market where I sampled cheese, cold smoked salmon, jerky, and chocolate.

I awoke the next day to steady rain and a dark sky. During Finland's winter, the sun does not rise until past 9 o’clock; it sets shortly after 3 p.m. With the address for my apartment complex, Töölö Towers, written on a piece of paper, I headed out the door. I had researched my apartment’s address, but it is not the same as having step-by-step directions as when connected to the Internet. After making several apparent wrong turns, a barista finally pointed me in the right direction. I arrived at Töölö Towers wet, cold, and tired. It was worth the effort to store my luggage at the housing complex while I later traveled to Estonia and Lapland.

Photo: Sam Northern
Getting to know the new city.

My next stop was to a Finnish phone company where I purchased cellular data. The clouds parted and the sun brightened the moment I put the new sim card into my phone. If only I had had data when searching for Töölö Towers. Equipped with cell data, I was ready to take on the world…or at least Helsinki. I used my GPS to navigate to Temppeliaukio Lutheran Church, or Rock Church. On all sides of the circular church are excavated stone. Water seeps in and slowly trickles down sections of the wall. It is no wonder Rock Church is one of Helsinki’s most popular attractions.

My first day in Helsinki included an.assortment of sights, sounds, and tastes. To experience is to learn. As Helsinki welcomes me, I welcome all the Finnish adventures to come. Each experience will help me to understand Finland better than any guide ever could.

Blog by Sam Northern

Follow Sam's journey in Finland on his blog Journey to Finland. (This text has been edited from his longer blog post, which you can read here.)

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Updated 2/19/2018

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