So check this out…I’m getting myself prepared to meet my new classmates in the Sports Management and Health Promotion Master’s program at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland, in a new environment completely out of my comfort zone, new social setting and in a country I’ve never been to before. A distant land far, far away from where I call home whereby never before in my life have I seen so many trees on a large scale in one geographical location! But that’s a story for another day. I’m looking myself in the mirror and I’m half-heartedly, half-motivated making a meek effort to rehearse my lines about what I’m going to say as I take the stand to introduce myself to complete strangers I’m meeting for the first time, albeit almost three weeks later than everybody else in the program. I feel like I’m back in junior school. My palms are both sweaty to the point where I’m almost having heart palpitations(well, not really), but you get the picture of someone who is perhaps a slight bundle of nerves. All eyes are on me and the spotlight couldn’t be any brighter! I get up, perhaps looking like the nerdy and trendy new boy in class with spectacles on and all that, and my delayed higher level academic journey to greatness with my peers finally begins…
As a fashionably late starter to the program, to say the journey has been a roller-coaster ride so far will be an understatement. From hashtag social media movements to get yours truly from not sleeping on the streets of Jyvaskyla(not literally I must add!) so as to find a decent place to live in my early days here, in addition to the volume of academic work — which keeps us mentally stimulated and very much on our toes everyday — to the various social, physical and sporting activities that the university has to offer, there is plenty to keep one occupied that at times one does get the feeling that having only 24 hours in the day is simply not enough!
The wide-ranging variety of courses associated with the program, the different faculty student groups and the opportunity to mix and mingle with others in group settings from different programs are all part and parcel of the phenomenon of being a student here. Learning Finnish is also a fascinating challenge, though for the majority of the international students it may make us look like Bambi on ice at times. But as is always the case when moving to a new country, there’s plenty to learn and to embrace each day and the same can be said about Finland in general and the university and the city of Jyvaskyla in particular.
However, much of what has made the experience an enjoyable one so far has been the fantastic group of people involved in the above mentioned program. It is incredible that despite the differences and diversity in our respective backgrounds, cultures and nationalities, the SpoSMaPro program has had the ability to bring us all together from various countries and continents to live, work and have a mutual understanding in achieving a common goal in one location in the pursuit of our respective dreams.
It’s two months on now from that warm and pleasant early autumnal day, and the picture of me perhaps looking like a rabbit in the headlights in front of my peers couldn’t be further from the truth. The autumn sunshine back then has been swiftly replaced by a combination of plunging temperatures, rain, snow(or ‘flurries’ as one of my classmates, who will remain unnamed, likes to put it), late sunrises and early sunsets, giving us a somewhat grim picture of what lies ahead in the long, freezing cold and dark wintry days and nights to come. However for those reading this with an interest to perhaps pursue their studies at this university one day, it is not all doom and gloom in the beautiful city of Jyvaskyla. Indeed, it is quite picturesque once you venture outside the confines of the student environment and get to see what else the city has to offer in getting yourself acquainted with Finnish culture, food, folklore, history, landscape and the language ofcourse. Heck, even as a latecomer like myself you might even be lucky and be christened with a Finnish version of your name as I have!
Having been here only a couple of months and experienced the sights and sounds of the city in that period, one does get a sense that the city and its friendly local inhabitants certainly have played their part in welcoming us and making this experience an unforgettable one thus far which, in the cold light of day, no doubt will leave a long-lasting indelible mark on us all in the end…and certainly one well worth the wait! Kiitos, L 😉