My name is Oona. I’m a second year student at Proacademy and I’m part of the team called Incore. Here is my story how I ended up spending my spring studying abroad in Minnesota.
When I was in high school I already decided that someday I will study and live in the United States. For a long time it was my dream and when I got in to TAMK I was one step closer to my dream. When we got the information about exchange possibilities I wanted to find out if it’s possible to go to the USA. I was told that it is rare and hard to get there, but I didn’t want to lose my hope. So when the time came I applied there anyways and months later I got an email that I was accepted to the Bemidji State University for spring semester 2014. I felt super happy.
I have always been fascinated by the USA but I don’t know why. Maybe, because the variety of its culture, the industry and the people (although I learned a lot from these at my time in the States and not all of them were positive things). This wasn’t my first time in the States. I had been there two times before but only a short amount of time so I was still curious to see more. I didn’t care where in the States I would go to study. I knew it would be an adventure anyways and it sure was.
So I was accepted to Bemidji State University in Minnesota. It’s a state in the Midwestern US and the town of Bemidji is located in the north of Minnesota. There are only approximately 14000 people living in Bemidji. The size of the city came to me a bit of shock, because I have never lived in such a small city. But as a matter of fact I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the small town and it felt that I really belonged there.
I had few goals for my exchange time. I wanted to see the country and learn more about the culture. That’s why I chose to study American history. Obviously improving my English was also on my list. Writing notes in English, reading the books and talking a lot of English really did a brainwash in my head. After three months I already thought in English.
I arrived in Bemidji in the beginning of January after spending one night in Chicago because my flight was cancelled (that’s another story). It was extremely cold that time and there was a lot of snow. The coldness lasted the whole winter. At its worst it was -30C for many weeks. That wasn’t really my cup of tea.
During the first days we had orientation with other exchange students and when the time went by I became really close with few of them. I ended up spending time with girls from Switzerland and Sweden.
Minnesota is a winter state and ice hockey is as big thing there as it is in Finland. So I was very excited when the Winter Olympics in Sochi started and I found a group to watch the games with. After that I got interested of NHL and we spent nights watching the games of Minnesota Wild. It was so much fun!
I think half of my exchange time I spent studying but I don’t feel that it’s a bad thing. I learned a lot from the five courses I took. I had courses of marketing, management information systems, mass media and society, US history since 1877 and English as a second language. Every course had a lot of different kind of homework like writing assignments and projects. On top of these we had at least three exams during the semester. In the beginning it was hard to read the books because the English was so academic language. I was stressed but in a different way than I usually am in Finland. Our school in Finland is already different than the university in Bemidji because we are not directly a university. At Proacademy we learn by doing and in universities students read the theory and learn from that. I like the way we study a lot more and that is why it was kind of a difficult to start studying at the university in the States. So in Bemidji I spent a lot of hours sitting in lectures but I also built up my courage of performing when I had to go in front of the class few times.
The other half I spent enjoying the life, experiencing new things, having fun and getting to know all the amazing people around the world. I was surprised on my birthday in February, we went to Chicago at spring break, and I saw two NHL games. I also did things for the first time: I skated with “men’s” skates, drove a four wheeler, shoot targets with guns and did ice fishing after 10 years.
When the time had come to an end in Bemidji I first travelled to Seattle, then to San Francisco where my dad had come to see me and with him we went to Los Angeles and Las Vegas. After that I was truly ready to come home.
My exchange time was beyond successful and amazing. I encourage everyone who wants to see and experience the world to go study abroad. You won’t regret it!
With friendly greetings,