When it comes to being in a new country, I’m an amateur. A rookie. A clumsy, bumbling fool. I’ve travelled around in the United States a lot, but when it comes to being plunged into an unfamiliar environment where everyone is speaking a language you’ve only been learning for a year, things get confusing. And stressful. And frustrating. You realize how extraordinarily grateful you are for being in the familiar and comfortable environment that is your home, wherever it may be. You realize you need to adapt when the hot water turns off and you need to take freezing showers in the morning; when you don’t know the word for power strip in Russian and have to draw it so that the store clerk can show you where to buy one; when you can’t sleep because it’s midnight and the sun is still out.
I’ll be the first to tell you that this is hard, but this is simultaneously the most incredible and most fun experience I’ve ever had. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to participate in the extraordinary program. It’s been eye-opening and informative and I’ve met some awesome people to share this time with. It sucks to have to deal with cold water and struggle over the communication barrier and live in perpetual sunlight; but it’s amazing to be able to go to a spa with traditional Finnish saunas for six euros; to be able to try incredible food for the first time; to be able to learn the language I love from the people that actually speak it. No matter how confused or stressed or frustrated I get, I know that it’ll be worth it in the end.