The end of the fall semester is here and pretty much everyone is toiling away with exams, finishing group projects and typing term papers. There is also a bunch of students who, in addition to all this, are most likely trying to avoid thinking about the inevitable logistics of packing, airport busses and the continuously decreasing number of weekends during which there still might be a chance to take an overnight train to Lapland to see the northern lights.
This fall, there has been much talk about the first ever exchange students at UCPori, most of whom, I hope, have finally surpassed the shocks of cycling to class in freezing rain and of realising that the grocery stores lock up their beer at 9 pm. I can imagine that some wish they had applied to stay for the whole year, while others already eagerly wait to get back home to their old friends and better food. I also truly hope that someone will get to experience the bittersweet moment when a relationship turns into a long-distance one.
There are many reasons to go on an exchange but what unites all exchange experiences is that it takes one out of their own environment, pushing them into places they have never been to, even ones that might not seem terribly exciting in the first place.
I also had never been to Pori before I moved here for school in mid-August. I feel that I shared a fairly common view of the city as being a small town where nothing ever happens. Under this illusion of a boring city, I was surprised when I met one of the exchange students at SAMK. When I asked him about living here, his eyes lit up as he started telling me about how he had gone horseback riding, spent a weekend at a seaside cottage and found the shadiest pubs by the bus station just because people at his internship placement had invited him to come and he had decided to always say yes.
Just few weeks back, the same friend invited me to go ice-skating with him as the rink next to his house had just been opened. Claiming to be busy, I declined but regretted afterwards. Firstly, because I did not manage to make time for a friend who will be leaving in a couple of weeks. Secondly, because I know for a fact that I will not go ice-skating from my own initiative.
I am very glad that I was reminded of something that I know I learnt during my own exchange but have clearly forgotten since: The best way to meet new people and to get to know a new city is to never say no when someone invites you somewhere. Exactly in these times when everyone seems to be overly busy with school, it might be worth noticing the city and the people around you. What would you still want to experience here if you were flying away before Christmas?