Back to school

"Back to school." I remember these words fondly while growing up. It seemed as if every retailer at the time used those three words in advertisements and sales promotions to target kids and their parents prior to the start of the school season.

"Back to school" has a different meaning for me this time around. It not only marks a transition from working life in the United States to international student life in Finland. I think I have a slightly different perspective of school than what I had growing up, as I saw school more so as a means to an end. Do well in school, you will get a career and do well in life. Didn't understand why that was the case.

Now, when I think about doing well in school, I am not thinking about maximizing myself in an arbitrary grading system that may have various degrees of objectivity here and there. I am thinking about what am I learning by acknowledging facts and challenging accepted points of view.


My post today will be separated into three parts; my arrival in Lappeenranta, orientation week and the first week of classes.

Arrival in Lappeenranta

I arrived at Lappeenranta train station two weeks ago on a Friday evening. I was greeted by a student driver named Ville. It was nice of the university to organize car transportation, free of charge, for those arriving from all around the world. He dropped me off at my apartment, where my tutor, Tuire (a second year in the Sustainability Science program) was waiting with my apartment key. Talk about immediate assistance!

Tuire was nice enough to allow me to use her travel bed for the night until I picked up my mattress the following morning from a private seller on the Finnish version of Craigslist called Tori.

Thanks to my Lappeenranta Fulbright Buddy Pekka, a principal at a Lappeenranta high school, I was able to collect and transport the mattress from the seller's home to my apartment. Pekka, who did a Fulbright teacher exchange program in Indiana back in 03-04' (hope that is accurate), was also nice enough to borrow his bike for as long as I need. I would say it is very Finnish bike as it is an Angry Birds bike 😀. See pics below.

Coolest bike on campus

Side view of the coolest bike on campus

Views from my bike: Lake Saimaa

Views from my bike: Forest trails 

Orientation Events

Orientations are part administrative, part fun. Usually the administrative things happen during the day, and the fun parts happen during the evenings.

During orientation I also got to meet my classmates and some professors. I would say approximately half of the people in my program are Finnish, which is great as it allows me to continue my interactions with Finns while at school.

At SuSci Freshman Day. Played blanket volleyball, among other games, as part of a team contest. Our team, "Masters of Curiosity", won first place!

Tradition to throw friends in cold Lake Saimaa . Nobody in our friend group except Thinh and me wanted to go in the water as the water was quite chilly. Credit to our friend Manuel for the video.

First Week of Classes

Not too bad so far.

In LUT, the university goes by something called the period system. Each semester essentially is broken down into two periods, and it is possible to have courses during one period and not the other.

I will have two more courses in second period in addition to the courses I am enrolled in for the first period. It actually works out nicely as it allows me to transition back into the university environment while focusing on my other Fulbright project objectives, such as obtaining greater fluency in Finnish and starting a Toastmasters club.

In regards to starting a Toastmasters club, I connected with the student union of my university. They agree with me that a Toastmasters club would add value to the student body, however they are concerned with the membership costs that are associated with Toastmasters. The student union has expressed this concern to another student named Moses , who I actually met prior to orientation week. I had no idea that he was a Toastmaster as that never came up in conversations. We quickly became allies in the quest to create a club in Lappeenranta and will be speaking with the student union once again to pitch them on the idea that we can reduce membership costs by subsidizing membership fees via student union club funding.

One last thing; I joined the guild for my program. Guilds are organizations that share a common room on campus and hangout with each other during different events. But I will admit, my primary motivation for joining the guild was getting the guild overalls. It is something unique to Finland's engineering students, and I did not want to go through my university time here without being part this particular aspect of Finnish student culture. More about this probably in a later post.

All of the guilds represented (source: LTKY). Pelletti (my guild) has the gray overalls.

I will be heading to Turku at the beginning of next month for Fulbright to give a presentation to American Studies students at the University of Turku. I will be co-presenting with Thinh, my fellow LUT Fulbright friend, on our family's immigration experiences to the US.

My next blog update will be after I celebrate a quarter century of life during the first week of October.

Stay warm.