My Life in the Last Two Years


What Have I Been Up To?

A lot has happened since my last blog post almost two years ago. I traveled around Europe for an entire month, I moved back to the US, I became a substitute teacher, I left the US and moved to Finland, I started a Master's program, and I traveled some more! The last two years I have been trying to figure out what to do with my life since I decided to shake everything up and move to France. My move to France completely changed my mentality and my goals, and in the last two years, I have been trying to figure out what exactly those are.

Cousins trip!
Athens, Greece

Summer 2015

After I moved out of my Parisian apartment, I lived out of a backpack for a month (maybe even longer) and traveled throughout Europe with my cousin. We visited a total of 11 countries in just four weeks! We saw Greece, Croatia, Italy, the Vatican, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, Monaco, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. It was crazy, exhausting, and absolutely one of the best experiences of my life! If I could do something like that again, I would in a heartbeat.

After the trip was over, I moved back to the US, back in with my parents, to try and build up that bank account again and decide what I wanted to do with my life. I started looking for teaching jobs, but since it was so late in the year, I found none, and decided instead to be a substitute teacher. The first few months back home were spent getting used to the idea that I couldn't just take a weekend trip away to a new country anymore, adjusting to living life with newfound independence, and coping with cultural differences that I got used to and learned to love. Sadly for my friends and family, I got back to the US already with potential plans to go back to Europe.

Two places at once? Should I stay or should I go?
Left foot: Italy Right foot: The Vatican

Fall 2015

Once I began substitute teaching again, I fell back into my old habits: go to work, go home, do nothing. No walks to explore new neighborhoods, no weekend visits to new cities or countries. I was in a post-travel hangover. My life had been completely changed by independence, discovery, and self-improvement. I was ready for a new adventure, a more challenging one, and I had an idea that began growing in France that I was starting to explore. 

So in the fall I began researching. I had made the decision that I wanted to get my Master's, but not in the United States. I used cheap tuition fees as my excuse and justification for moving to a new country and continuing my life of adventure. I went through all the countries in Europe and looked at every school with low tuition fees, and English-based program, and a degree in some type of history or genocide studies. I made my list and applied to 16 programs! 16! I was nervous I wouldn't even get into one, so if it sounded interesting, I applied.

Since I was applying to 16 programs in 3 different countries, I decided that I needed to go to these countries and visit to decide if I could actually live there. And of course, I added in a few other countries, just so that I could enjoy the Christmas markets. So I began in Sweden where I visited Stockholm and took a day trip to Uppsala, one of my top choices for schools. I then went to Copenhagen and decided that I am terrified of bicycles (there's just so many)! Then I headed over to Berlin, because apparently it was my one year anniversary since the last time I was in Berlin, so of course, I just had to go. Then I went to Prague, because Prague is always a good idea, and let's just say the Christmas market was so worth the detour. Then finally I made it to Finland where I fell in love with Helsinki. And with that, I knew where I wanted to live, it was just a matter of getting into the program.

Hello New York!

Spring 2016

This was probably the most nerve-wracking period of the year. The waiting game for an acceptance letter seemed to be too much, and working as a substitute teacher was not a worthy distraction. Luckily, I had a few trips ahead of me. First was a trip to the Bay Area for a crafting convention. Yes, I said it: crafting convention. I love to craft and a weekend spent crafting with my aunt was probably exactly what I needed! Then I went to Palm Desert with my grandparents and did some hiking. My grandma tiring me out every day with long walks and weather that was way too hot was probably another good distraction. And I was able to go to New York City with my brother, our first siblings trip ever, but not out last. It was so great to discover a new city. And it was in New York that I got my first acceptance letter, and to one of my top schools too! I came back ready to face the end of the school year.

Finally after months of stressing, acceptance letters started coming in. I was hoping just for one, and one by one, each school accepted me, making me cry and jump for joy. But my top school had yet to send any letter. Finally, in May, I was browsing the university's website and noticed a list posted about the newly accepted students, and my name was on there. I cried, breathed a sigh of relief, and waited a few more days to make sure I got the letter and that it wasn't a typo before announcing it. I got accepted to the University of Helsinki, my top choice, for a Master's in European Studies. My dream had come true and my hard work paid off. 

The rest of the spring was spent making preparations. I researched everything, like how to set up a bank account, how to get housing, practicing Finnish, anything that I could possibly need in order to move to another country with no contacts in that country at all. At least in France I had my family to fall back on. In Finland I had no one. So I got everything in order and braced myself for the next few months, expecting them to be incredibly difficult. 

Exploring my new home
Suomenlinna, Helsinki

Summer 2016

After I booked my ticket, I packed up my things once again, said goodbye to friends and family, and enjoyed one last party at my best friend's wedding before boarding a flight to Finland. I lived in a hotel for two weeks (thank you Holiday Inn and your incredible deals with rewards points) while looking for an apartment. And just when I was beginning to give up hope (I was literally in a church praying that I would get at least one decent apartment offer) I got a phone call and accepted it immediately. It was in the area of Helsinki that I fell in love with in December, I was not about to turn that down.

So the rest of the summer was spent visiting France and moving into my apartment. While waiting for the last tenant to move out of the apartment, I went to France to visit my family that I hadn't seen in a year. Then I came back, moved in, and started taking a Finnish language class, just hoping that maybe I'll get a job. Luckily my dad came over to help me build everything from Ikea and he was able to see why I loved the city so much. We even managed to fit in a day trip to Tallinn. I even found a job as an occasional nanny teaching a little boy French. Everything was falling into place.

Fall 2016

Finally I was able to take my first courses at the University of Helsinki. I was nervous, as usual thanks to my social anxiety, but luckily right on the first day, I met some great people that I am still friends with today. The courses were challenging, and nothing like I had ever experienced. I felt unprepared and behind everyone else, so of course I made sure to put in my best effort. It seemed like everyone already understood theories and how to research like a professional while I was still in the mentality that you just read and summarize. But finally I got the hang of things, or I just became really good at making my teachers think I know what I am doing.

Balancing school and work was hard. At first I didn't have much of a social life, and it was not like I was working that many hours either. But gradually I was able to build a steady social life in Helsinki and feel better connected to the city. I also had to cut back on my travel. So I went to Oslo in September, just because the flight was so cheap. I also went with a friend to Krakow and Auschwitz in November because I figured it would help with my thesis and give me a travel fix. Then when my mom said she had a free hotel night, I jumped at the chance to go to Berlin in December. It was my third consecutive trip to Berlin in December, so of course I had to take advantage of the Christmas markets. 

In December I was also lucky enough to get to go home. My grandparents wanted to surprise the family, so no one knew that I would be coming home. My sweet brother cried when he saw me get out of the car, so did my cousin, and my aunt when I showed up to her house on Christmas Eve. Surprising my family was a lot of fun, and a great way to celebrate the end of a very stressful and very rewarding year. 

Birthday in Munich? Don't mind if I do!

Spring 2017

Returning to Helsinki was easy this time: I had an apartment, I had a social life, I knew that I was going to be ok. So I continued with my studies and tried to push myself more too. I went to more events, I figured out how to balance my time better, and I decided on a thesis topic. It seems like I had really built a life in Helsinki in just a few months and I was really enjoying it.

In the spring I also got to celebrate my birthday by traveling to Prague, Munich, Salzburg, Neuschwanstein, and Nuremberg with my mom and my aunt. It was so nice getting a break from studying but also showing them Finland and other countries that I love visiting. And at the end of May I was able to come home for my brother's graduation.

In all, my two years since living in France flew by. It seems like just yesterday that I was going to the boulangerie to pick up my baguette or waking up early on a Saturday morning to catch a flight to some country. I miss that lifestyle, constantly being gone, constantly exploring. But I have to say, I really do like what I am doing now. Although I can't travel as much as I used to (damn student budgets) I still fit in weekly doses of exploration, whether it's walks around the city with friends to visiting a new museum (on a free day). I am still so thankful for every opportunity that I have had and so appreciative for the help that I have had along the way. I do not for one second take this for granted and am very aware of the privilege that I have to be able to live this lifestyle. Traveling has opened my eyes and will continue to do so.

New adventures and challenges? I got this!
Athens, Greece

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