Wednesday, November 5

Cool Chicago

We got a much needed break from the usual with fall break a few weeks back already. Joel and I along with a few other exchange students jetted off to Chicago for a long weekend, and I would have never expected how much I'd fall in love with the windy city.

Our hostel (Holiday Jones) was located in the hip Wicker Park area, which was full of cute little shops and quirky restaurants, bars and cafes. I just have to say that I have never been to a hostel this nice. We paid around $34/night for a private room that was cleaner than any other hostel I've ever stayed at. The staff was extremely friendly as well, and we got some nice tips on what to do around the city. The location was honestly perfect. The metro took us there straight from the airport in 30 minutes, and the ride downtown took less than 10 minutes. If you ever find yourself in Chicago, definitely look up this place.

On our first real day, Joel and I explored downtown and spent about 3 hours at the Apple Store because the camera on my phone suddenly decided to stop working. Chicago was also super cold, which actually made me strangely happy. I never really thought I liked the cold, but the seemingly never-endless hot days in Arkansas were somehow getting to me I guess. Now that it's been a while and Arkansas is starting to cool down quite rapidly, I'm wishing I'd never thought this way. Oh well...

That night we also got tickets to a pre-season basketball game with the Chicago Bulls playing against the Atlanta Hawks. I've never really been a big basketball fan but I actually really enjoyed the game, which turned out to be quite intense in the end with the Bulls catching up and I think beating the Hawks by one point in the last second?

A "German" style house in Wicker Park.

The next day, Joel and I had signed up for a food tour in the Wicker Park/Bucktown area we were staying in. This was definitely one of the, if not the highlight of our trip for me at least. This was a 3 hour walking tour centered around local restaurants, but we also got an intense crash course on the area itself and especially the architecture. The history of Wicker Park is actually pretty interesting, and it wasn't really surprising that the fanciest of the buildings are going for over a million dollars... 

Our food tour in pictures.

The different foods we got to taste on the tour were a traditional Chicago hot dog, some amazing hot chocolate from Mindy Segal's hot chocolate themed restaurant (with to-die-for homemade marshamallows!), pizza and hand crafted beer from Piece, a delicious falafel pita from Sultan's Market and finally some crazy good, made on the stop liquid nitrogen ice cream from iCream

First row: Mindy's Hot Chocolate and Bucktown.
Second row: Yes we went to the bean. And random downtown.
Third row: Chicago selfie and Joel in a bear suit in Urban Outfitters.
Fourth row: Our Shaw's Crab House lunches, and cheering at the Signature Room Lounge.
Last row: View from the 95th floor of the Hancock tower, and night skyline from Navy Pier.

The rest of the time we spent exploring the different areas, mainly Bucktown and downtown (the Loop). On Saturday night we had tickets to go see A$AP Ferg and Skrillex on Navy Pier, and despite lining up for ages we ended up having quite a good time. I've never really listened to Skrillex and it's not my type of music, but the show was quite incredible. Afterwards we met some of the other exchange students in the Hancock tower and our Chicago holiday came to the perfect end when while still at the end of an hour-long line we were for some reason handed the best table of the place with an insane view of the city.

Thank you Chicago. I can't wait to come back.

Tuesday, October 14

Good times, bad times

After so many moves across national borders throughout my life, I sometimes feel like I should almost be immune to culture shock. I know what it feels like, I know what to expect. I know that the "grass is always greener"... But it still manages to creep up on me time after time, when I least expect it.

A little raccoon came to say hi.

I remember the feeling when we first got here, and I was amazed by everything, how different and how good everything was, and I immediately regretted choosing a half-year exchange over a full one. Or maybe it's wrong to say that I remember the exact feeling, but I at least remember feeling that feeling.

Sundae Thursday, every week.

Before coming here I swore that I would shrug off any feelings that told me otherwise. I have a limited time to enjoy myself here, and I know it. I need to take advantage of what little time I have and do everything.

Artwork at the UCA campus.

Before I knew it, that feeling was gone though. I started feeling so trapped. I'm used to getting around easily; having places to go; having work, school and friends separate; having my own space; being treated like an adult all the time. I felt like that was all taken away, and I started remembering things back home that I'd never really thought of before, had maybe taken for granted, never even really liked, and I really missed it all.

Finnish cheese at Kroger in Conway?!

If you don't own a car here, you're completely at the mercy of others. I'm so grateful to everyone who has driven us around. I don't remember the last time I felt this dependent on others. I mean, we can walk to most of the essential places, but the lack of sidewalks renders that quite difficult sometimes.

I feel you.

And there's so much work. I don't know if I've ever worked this hard for school. I could not do this much work in Finland; commuting and hobbies and my job take up too much time. And I like that variation.

Having our favorite class outside.

Then again, am I getting off too easily in Finland? I feel like the progress I've made in Chinese these past few months is so much greater than the progress I've made in Finland in the past two or three years. But then again, I somehow feel more motivated. I need my Chinese credits from Hendrix ;)

Puppy therapy is real. No more stress.

There's so much going on here. The fact that we're only here for a few more months does still motivate me to go out and say yes to things and experience so much more. There's no "Oh I can do that next week/month/year". I want to do everything now.

Birthday fountain tradition (Joel turns 24).

There are so many traditions and activities and clubs and events and people that I know I'll end up missing in the end.

Deep fried oreos, anyone?

Even if the food is different, the water is different, the weather is different, the manners are different, the rules and the laws are different, they are all something that will once again be different when I go back home. I don't always like the food, the weather, the manners or the laws in Finland, so why should I pretend I do?

Arkansas state fair.

The truth is that there are always good sides and bad sides to every country, city, and culture. And I think realizing what those sides are is probably one of the (if not the) best thing that you can take away from an opportunity like this.

Sake bombs at How Do You Roll.

And I think it's important to realize that it's ok to be homesick, that it's normal. You can't keep pushing those feelings down, but you also need to realize that that's exactly what it is: homesickness. Things may be different, but they're not necessarily worse. They don't have to be better either, just different. And that's why we're here!

Foster the People in Rogers, AR.

Not traveling is like going through your whole life with your eyes closed. You end up lacking perspective. By traveling you learn to criticize things, but you also learn to appreciate things. 

Wow that was deep. I'll try to remedy that next time.

Saturday, October 4

Partyin' in Memphis

Beale Street.

Two weekends ago around 20 international students hopped on a Megabus that drove us from Little Rock to Memphis! $10 and 2,5 hours later we arrived in one of the southern music meccas.

On our first night we decided to check out the famous Beale Street which is filled with brighter than bright signs, numerous bars, live music, and drunk people.

Met some guys from the military.

Slight size difference between mine and Lilja's drinks?

Live jamming in a park on Beale.

We had a good night bar hopping and drinking all along Beale, and woke up to a nice and hot day of touristing around Memphis. I've heard really conflicting opinions on Memphis. Some people (many of who at least at some point used to live there) seem to love the place, other people shook their heads when they heard of our plans, and asked us why on earth we would wanna go visit?! I'm somewhere in between. I definitely thought it was worth visiting, we had some good food (probably the best quality and value brunch with mimosas, twice in a row, at the Majestic Grille!), walked around a bunch, saw some sights.

Joel and Nicolo as tourists.

I ended up not wanting to spend a bunch of money on the "must-sees", like the Civil Rights museum and the spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, or Elvis Presley's Graceland. Instead Joel and I walked around a lot and stopped by some cute little shops. The only sight-seeing we really did was the Museum of Rock and Soul, and the Gibson Guitar Factory right across the street. I had a great time, but I have to say that Memphis was for some reason super dead, although completely charming as well. I don't know if we were there at the wrong time or something, but even on a Saturday afternoon, the only people we saw were at Beale Street. In the surrounding areas we saw maybe a total of 5 cars as well as a bunch of abandoned houses, shops, and even an entire mall with nothing left in it.

Although a lot of the shops we went in to were quite touristy, they were a lot nicer than most touristy shops I've gone in to!

The Peabody Hotel (which we unfortunately did not stay at) is known for it's resident DUCKS!

After a day of walking around we decided to have dinner at the famous Rendezvous, which I thought was decent enough, but somehow just... could have been a bit better to be honest. Maybe dry ribs just aren't for me.

Rendezvous with (L-R) Eyvonne, Anne-Lise, Inès and Danielle.

After dinner we decided to check out the nightlife in midtown. We ended up at a random house-partyish type of gig for a bit, and then continued on to a bar that had live music for about a half an hour, but some really good drinks instead. Unfortunately I have no photos :(

Our bus back wasn't meant to leave until 10PM, so we still had the entire day on Sunday to get some damn good brunch (seriously, the silent-movie-theater-turned-restaurant Majestic Grille was awesome), walk around, listen to music and see Memphis.

Sunset as we drove out of Memphis.

We ended up trading with some other guys and getting a ride home a little bit earlier. :)

Our jolly crew of at least party somewhat hungover internationals!
(L-R): Inès, Ale, Lena, Salva, Pauline, Joel, Anna, David, Aldmar, Galen, Sunwoo, me, Anne-Lise, Danielle, Eyvonne.
(Thanks Nicolo for the photo!)

I can't wait for our next trip! Fall break in two weeks will be spent in Chicago, Halloween in New Orleans, Thanksgiving in San Francisco... I am going to be 100% broke. But it's definitely worth it.

Friday, September 19


The main building, SLTC (Student Learning & Technology Center), 
that's where we eat and hang out.

I don't even know where to begin. I feel like I've already been here so long, so much has happened! I'll try to keep this brief(ish), but even choosing photos was hard. I want to tell you guys everything!

Veasey Hall is my dorm. Woop!

More Veasey.

What you see when you step out of Veasey. 

Veasey lobby

So you get the idea! It's all super pretty, and everything looks the same, ha. First thing when we got here, I knew I was gonna get lost. And what do you know, first night, Joel and I got lost. It was all fine in daylight, but once it got dark.... We had no clue where we were. Fortunately after a month of living here, I can say I pretty much know my way around. Our campus is tiny. But did I mention it's also SO FUCKING PRETTY!

Our first week here was busy busy busy, International Orientation from morning till evening. It was fun though, and all of us exchange students got to know each other so well. I love our little international community! The week after that, Freshmen Orientation. This included a lot of alcohol awareness, which felt a little silly to most of us who are on average 2-4 years older than all the freshmen, and come from countries where drinking is allowed 3-5 years earlier than here... 

After all getting all oriented and stuff, we headed off on our respective orientation trips. I ended up canoeing in Northern Arkansas. It was amazing. I wish I had tons of pictures to show you guys, but unfortunately I don't. All I had on the canoe with me was bikini, flip flops, a hat and some water bottles. :D Also my trip got to experience something truly Southern (just kidding, apparently it's not normal here). We were woken up at around 1AM by a bunch of drunk guys trying to ram over our tent with their trucks. The police refused to come (camping sites are private property...) but the camp site owners eventually drove them away and we all get to continue living. Woo!

I do have a picture of our camp fire.

There have been so many events organized around campus, I probably wouldn't even remember half of them if I tried to write a list. But here's Pizza Wars, where the best pizzerias around Conway came to school to compete for the title of Best Pizzeria. 

A lot of pizza has been consumed within the past month.

We've all become accustomed to American life. 

This is Salva from Spain. Who walks around Walmart anyways?!

Pep rally, reppin' Iceland, Finland, Spain and Finland.

Karaoke is not only popular in Japan and Finland. 
Here's Soulé (America), Salva (Spain), David (Austria) and Nicolo (Italy).

Matchy matchy in Hendrix colors! That's me, Babsi (Austria) and Alexandra (Germany).

First football game! Although I had no clue what was going on, we stayed till half time! Impressive.

SHIRTTAILS! Me, Alexandra (Germany), Anna (Austria) and Pauline (France) representing Veasey!

That last photo is from one of my favorite events so far, Shirttails. Every year the freshmen from each hall compete against each other in this huge dance show. The first week of classes was super tough, not only cause of all the new courses at a new school, but because every night we had 2-4 hours of dance practice on top of everything else. An amazing experience though! Veasey unfortunately did not win, although I'm pretty sure we should have. We were awesome. Also there's a video, but you shall never ever see that (unless you're good at Googling).

Anyway, I need to run. Memphis awaits us this weekend!