Lapland Recap: Snow, Reindeer, & Santa Claus Village

Hey everyone! I’m currently sitting in the airport waiting for my flight back home! I can’t believe this day is finally here…my time in Europe feels like it went pretty fast, but at the same time I feel like I’ve been gone from America for a really LONG time.

My last weekend in Finland was spent in Levi, the biggest ski resort in Finland, which is located in Lapland. I feel super cool being able to say I’ve been to the Arctic Circle!!

After a 16 hour bus ride, we arrived at our cottages around 1:30pm on Thursday. I ended up getting lucky and having a room with a double bed to myself! Surprisingly it was not THAT cold or snowy up there…the temperature was around zero degrees Celcius (32 for all you farenheit-ers out there). The husky ride we were supposed to take got rescheduled and then all together canceled due to not enough snow. That was a bit of a bummer, but we still had a fun trip!


(view of the town from on top of the ski mountain)

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One day we climbed to the top of the skiing mountain and walked around while watching the sunset. So. Pretty! I thought the sunset was early in Helsinki…but up in Levi it set at 1:30/2:00!! Insane…I would go crazy if I had to live in a place where the sun was setting at lunchtime!

Levi was a lot of fun, but fairly uneventful. We ate, played drinking games, took walks, and just hung out.

On the bus ride back to Helsinki, we stopped in Rovaniemi, which is where Santa Claus Village is located. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip! It felt SO Christmas-y there – it was dark and snowy, and there was Christmas music and trees with lights everywhere.

We went into Santa’s Main Post Office, which is actually really cool, because it’s where all of the letters that people write to Santa actually get sent! They had people who were sorting the letters by country, and there were 1000s of letters in bins and on shelves. So cool! I may have even sent out some mail from there, as you can see in my picture!

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The other awesome part of Santa Claus Village? I got to pet a reindeer AND go on a reindeer sleigh ride!


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Unfortunately, I lost my dear iPod touch on the last day in Lapland (wahhh) but besides that it was such an awesome trip, and a great way to spend my last weekend in Finland!




Lapland Here I Come!

Today I’m off to Lapland!!! For those of you that don’t know, it is an area in wayyy Northern Finland – it’s actually in the arctic circle!!! The student union organization planned the trip, so tonight at 10pm I leave with all my fellow exchangers on a 16 hour bus ride!

Hopefully I’ll run into some of these…

see this guy..

AND if I’m really lucky, even catch the NORTHERN LIGHTS!

Needless to say, I am SUPER pumped for this trip, which will include reindeer sightings, a husky sleigh ride, and possibly seeing the Northern Lights. Bow chicka wow wowww!

I’m off – catch you guys on Monday!



Jack & Sean Do Helsinki

Hey there! Sorry I haven’t updated in a while, but this time I have a good excuse…I had company! Jack (my brother) and his friend Sean came to Helsinki!


They got here last Friday, and we did a lot of going out while they were here, which was always a good time. Everything is open until 4am here, which made for some pretty late nights (early mornings?) and a crazy sleep schedule.




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Our nights included plenty of dancing, shots of Minttu (a Finnish drink), escalator spinning, and overall good times! We also managed to squeeze in some daylight activities…we walked around downtown a lot, ate at a traditional Finnish spot called The Sea Horse, and saw a Christmas parade!

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We had a good visit! Sean left on Wednesday, and Jack just flew home early this morning. Now I’m back on my own, but return to the States in less than two weeks!

The last couple of weeks have really flown by, and I can’t believe my time here is almost done! There are plenty of things I’ll miss about being over here, but I’m excited to get home too. But first I have my trip to Lapland (!!!) and my two classes to “finnish up!” 😉 It’s going to be a busy and hopefully very fun final two weeks!



Finland Fun Facts

Moi! (That means hi in Finnish btw) Sorry it’s been forever, I’ve been lazy at updating this. I’ve done a lot of going to school and walking around downtown. Everyone else was in Russia this weekend, so I just laid low and did some real-people stuff like grocery shopping and apartment cleaning.

Saturday morning I went for a run around the park by the Opera House, and it was COLD! I think the temperature was around 35, but I don’t exactly have winter weather appropriate running clothes so I was chilly.

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I took these at the end of my run…as you can see, most of the leaves are gone from the trees – no more pretty fall colors! Wah 😦

Also, here’s a picture of my main school building:


My school is made up of three buildings that are all right next to each other, so it’s A LOT different from UF. But I’m not complaining, because having only three buildings means a lot less opportunity for me to get lost…and as someone who doesn’t have a great sense of direction, that’s a definite bonus! 😛

Ok, since I’m out of pictures, I’m going to give you some FUN FACTS about FINLAND! (wooo for alliteration!)

  • You don’t tip, and there’s no tax (ok, there is but it’s already included in the price, so it doesn’t count)
  • The emergency number is 112 (not 911)
  • There is only one place to buy alcohol, and it’s state owned. No ABCs or Winn Dixie liquor here! 😛
  • Speaking of which, you can buy beer and wine when you’re 18, but can’t buy “stronger drinks” until you’re 20.
  • They are very big into saunas here – pretty much every apartment, gym, pool, etc. has one.
  • Almost every sign is in Finnish AND Swedish, since Finland used to be a part of Sweden
  • Independence day is December 6
  • Apua! means help! (Mom and dad, you’ll be happy to know that I finally figured that one out 😛 )

Don’t say I never taught you anything!



Helsinki Halloween

Hey hey! Good news – I am finally in my apartment! I was supposed to move in yesterday, but had to push it back a day due to having a leeeettle too much fun on Monday night. It was Halloween, and although it’s not a big holiday in Finland, the exchange kids threw a party! I was pretty impressed that everyone showed up in costume. I went as a cat, which is a laaaame costume, but the only thing I could throw together in 5 seconds so I went with it.

I think the best costume of the night had to go to my fellow American Cameron…he was Snow White! 😛

I meant to take pictures, but accidentally left my memory card in my computer, so I had to steal these two.

It was a crazy, fun night, but let’s just say I was not up to doing ANYTHING all day Tuesday, so I stayed at the hostel for an extra night.

Without further ado, here are apartment pictures!





Luckily, the person before me left the shower curtain, a bunch of cups/plates/silverware/etc., and some blankets/pillows! So I have to buy a lot less than I was originally planning on which makes me a happy camper.

It JUST hit me that I have never lived all alone before! I love having roommates (shout out to Meghan, Shiv, Ang, and CR!) but it could be cool to live alone for a little bit. As my sister once told me when she lived alone…it means you can do the dishes naked! 😉

ANYWAY I also went grocery shopping today, and guess what I found?


What, you can’t read that? Oh yeah, me neither…but it’s PEANUT BUTTER! WOOP WOOP! Oh PB, how I have missed you. It isn’t quite the same as regular peanut butter, but I’m desperate so this will do.

Now I’m off to do some homework that I need to turn in for my Doing Business in Russia class tomorrow morning. Both of my classes seem cool, and not like an overwhelming amount of work so that’s good!



Oh, p.s….I have the greatest roommates ever because they hid these in my bag before I left so I’d have a decoration for my apartment! 😀


p.s. AGAIN – Mom and Dad, here’s the Pinocchio picture, since you “can’t find it?”


Last First Day

Well, today was officially my LAST first day of school! Last night I woke up about 32572483 billion times because I was worried my alarm wouldn’t go off/I STILL always get the first day of school jitters! I had my business and societal relationships in the Baltic Region class from 9:00-12:00, and it seems pretty interesting.

After class I had my 2 euro lunch (whoop whoop) then my tutor, Salla, took me to my apartment so I would know how to get there! I can finally move in tomorrow, and while I’m excited to be out of the hostel, my apartment location is SO not ideal. It’s extremely far away from school, and is making me miss my little Gainesville house where I can walk to campus in 2 seconds. :/

So tomorrow I move from this…


To this…


Hopefully the transition goes smoothly! Tomorrow I have class again from 9:00 to 12:00, but it’s Doing Business in Russia. After class I have plans to go to IKEA so that I can get sheets/towels/dishes/etc., because my apartment doesn’t provide them.

That’s all the excitement (ha) in my life for now! Hope everyone is having a fantastic Halloween – I’m sad that I’m missing it!!



On to the Next Great Adventure

Well I’m officially in Helsinki now, and feeling a little more settled in than yesterday. Today my two new Canadian friends Shane and Alan took me around the main area by school called Kamppi, and they also helped me buy my very own Finnish cell phone! Woohoo, it’s even pink! Eventually we went back to the school and I met my two “tutors” who are basically the people that were assigned to help me figure out stuff here in Helsinki. Their names are Salla and Annina and they were both awesome and greatly helpful!

I know a lot of you are curious about what Helsinki looks like…right now it looks like FALL! Here are some pics of the wonderfully fall-ish leaves…

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Most of these pictures are from a little park that I walked through on my way home from the school today. Coming from Florida, where we have absolutely NO changing of leaves, I really can’t get over the pretty colors! Mom, you would love it!! Also, the weather has not even been that cold! (In the 24 hours that I’ve actually been here haha)

Right now I’m doing some much needed laundry, and then later am supposed to go out to a bar called Shakers with some of the other exchange students! Should be a fun time!

And the quick list of things I’m loving about Helsinki…

1. LEAVES! so. pretty.

2. Good public transportation

3. 2 Euro lunch at school (sooo cheap!)

4. Nice people!



We <3 Berlin

Although we were only in Berlin for about 36 hours, Ash and I of course managed to enjoy ourselves and pack a lot of good stuff into our visit!

When we finally set out in the city on Saturday it was around 3:30pm. The plan was to walk to the Berlin Wall, but on the way we kept seeing so many pretty things that we just had to stop. Eventually the sun was going down and it was FREEZING, so we decided the wall could wait a day!

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After seeing Neptune’s fountain (which is so awesome!) we climbed to the top of this thing…whatever it was. The things we do to get our views! 😛 IMG_3164IMG_3170

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After our sightseeing, we headed back to the hostel and ate a Belushi’s, the bar/restaurant that also served as our lobby. We were in bed by 10:30, like the crazy party animals that we are!

Day two in Berlin was a much more somber day. We decided to take a tour of the former Nazi concentration camp called Sachsenhaussen. Our tour guide was great and very informative. It wasn’t a “fun” thing to do but we both wanted to, and felt like it was important.


The former camp is now a memorial for all who lost their lives there.

We didn’t get back from the tour until after 5:00pm at which point we were mentally and physically exhausted. We had to make it to the wall though, so we walked our butts over to Checkpoint Charlie.

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Once again, we called it an early night, since we had a 3:30am wake up call! :/

We got to the airport this morning around 4:20am, because Ash’s flight was at 6:20am. Mine wasn’t until 12:55pm, but it was easier to just go together and share a cab. After a sad goodbye to my wonderful travel buddy, I killed MANY hours in the Tegel airport Starbucks before my flight.


(^Our last European pic together…tear tear 😦 )

The flight was uneventful, and I arrived in Helsinki in one piece! I’m currently at my hostel (my apartment isn’t ready until November 1…ugh!) watching King of Queens with Finnish subtitles, my only company being three old foreign men. Oh, the adventures of travel. I’m off to shower and hit the hay – that 3:30am wake up call is doing a number on me! Goodnight from Finland – finally!


Jamie (no more Ash – Wahhhhh)

Our Final Days in Prague

Please excuse the lame title, my creative juices are just about wiped out! Our last two days in Prague were a blast! Thursday we had our final company lectures, and it was my favorite day because it was mostly about advertising! It made me excited about my future career path again, and we heard lots of interesting things. One of the more notable ones was that the Czech people REALLY dislike Santa, and one of the agencies even ran an “anti-Santa” campaign for one of their brands! Interestinggg…

After our lectures, Ash and I wandered around the city, and bumped into some hooligans on the Charles Bridge…

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We didn’t have plans to meet up with Gi and Rick on Thursday, but saw them anyway! After our run in, we walked back to the hotel in the hail (wtf?) and had hot chocolate with them before heading back to our own hotel to get ready for a fun night!

The last night of the study tour is the infamous river cruise! Ash and I had two free drink vouchers because of a mix up with our room, so we took advantage of those before boarding the on the beach, anyone?


Our table mates for the evening were Ryan and Devin, and we had a good time enjoying our buffet dinner and free drink tickets while talking and goofing around!

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The river cruise was a great way to wrap up the study tour, which completely FLEW by! Ash and I couldn’t believe it was already over, and we only had one more day left in Prague!

Friday we checked out of our study tour hotel and after much ado, checked into our hotel for Friday night. After getting ready, we met Aunt Gi and Uncle Rick for lunch on top of the UPrince hotel!


That’s the restaurant – you can see it from up on the clock tower…which was our next destination! Once again we were at the top of the world, and the views were amazing!

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After the clock tower, we went on a walking ghost tour of the city that ended with a half an hour of walking through the catacombs. That part was pretty creepy – especially because I am the most scaredy-cat person EVER. The tour was cool though, and we got to hear lots of interesting ghost stories!


(Me and Ash with our British ghost guide, Simon!)

The night ended with dinner at a dungeon-esque place with taxidermied animals all over the walls!

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It was such a fun night! Big shout out to Uncle Rick and Aunt Gi for letting us crash part of their vacation, and being so good to us! THANKS GUYS!!! ❤

So we left Prague with a bang! Our bus to Berlin was Saturday morning at 9am, and this time we actually managed to make it on the bus… haha.


Jamie (and Ash)


Sorry I’ve been so M.I.A., the last week has been extremely busy between the study tour and Ashley’s last days in Europe!

On Tuesday after our long day of company lectures, Evan, Ashley, and I walked around the city and happened upon a pretty nice view:IMG_3032

Then Ash and I went to a small Italian place and ate a whole pizza each because we’re beasts!IMG_3033

Wednesday we had two off-site visits. Our first stop was at Skoda Auto, where we got to tour the assembly line, see the museum of old cars, and hear a presentation. After Skoda we rode out to Velkopopovicky Brewery, where they brew Kozel beer. We had a delicious lunch provided by the brewery, then got a tour of the place (complete with free beer might I add). It was really interesting to hear about how the beer is made, especially since the Czech Republic is the country that consumes the most beer in the world! Statistics say between 140 and 160 liters per person per year – that’s a lotta beer folks! Velkopopovicky brewery brews a huge amount of the beer that the Czechs drink, so it was a great experience to go there!

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They also have really awesome branding, all of which includes a goat (which is what “kozel” means). Oh yeah, AND they have a real live goat that lives outside! Like their mascot. 🙂

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We didn’t arrive home from the brewery until close to 7:30pm. Ash and I had plans to meet Aunt Gi and Uncle Rick for dinner so we did a quick change and booked it to their hotel! We ended up eating at yet another Italian place, called Bilkova 13. It was delicious! Ash and I both got the gnocchi, and it was wonderful!

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It was a very fun, very busy day! By the time we returned to the hotel it was around midnight and we were exhausted…another early night for the party girls! (jokes)

Be back soon with more Prague/Berlin recaps!


Jamie (and Ash)