Thursday, 9 November 2017

Representing Finland on the Embassy of Finland in Washington DC's Website!

I had the amazing opportunity to write a blog post about my Fulbright experiences for the Embassy of Finland in Washington DC! This is a huge honour, especially since it's the Centennial of Finland - I love to have been able to do a little bit of something to represent Finland in the world this year!

Check out the post here:

Fulbright to the Fullest: Inspired by Inclusion

In other news, I just finished my inquiry project on the inclusion of LGBTQ+ students in American schools and got amazing feedback for it (I was told I should pursue a doctorate )! Thus, all is well in B-Town :).

An autumnal snap of the Sample Gates.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

One Day in Indianapolis

At the end of September, in an attempt to escape the stress caused by the inquiry project, Julcsi and I decided to catch the Campus Commute shuttle from Bloomington to Indianapolis for the day. Indianapolis is the state capital of Indiana, and it's conveniently just an hour away from Bloomington, so a day trip can be arranged easily. The bus connections here are not the best in general, so Campus Commute is a life saver! It operates between the two IU campuses (yes, there's another one of those in Indy) during the week and a round trip will cost you $23.

We managed to choose an incredibly hot day for our Indy excursion - it was 35 C!! What a day to spend seven hours wandering outside! At the same time, it was perfect because everything looked so pretty and we really got to experience Indianapolis at its best.

The shuttle dropped us off at the State House, which looks a lot like the Capitol in Washington, DC.

After our photo session, we decided it was time to have breakfast, and headed towards the Monument Circle, which is the very centre of downtown Indianapolis. I instantly liked the city - it's very much like New York, only smaller and, as a result, with a more intimate vibe. Sex and the City-type music was playing out in the streets, and there were lots of lovely-looking restaurants and coffee shops everywhere. We ended up going to a breakfast restaurant called Yolk for some West Coast Crepes.

The Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

Our next stop was the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza. There, we also met a very friendly squirrel (seriously, squirrels and groundhogs have been one of my favourite things here in Indiana!).

The Indiana World War Memorial in the background.

Hello, squirrel!

The Plaza continues behind the Memorial.

The State House from another angle.


Next, we headed for the Canal Walk - a waterside promenade perfect for jogging, sightseeing, or simply a peaceful afternoon stroll. You can also find gondolas, pedal boats and street art along the canal, so it's quite nice, especially on a hot day. I was a little bit surprised to find out that the canal itself was more like a very shallow pool (though no swimming!). I had imagined something along the lines of a romantic little creek, but the overall impression was pretty much that of an artificial river in a concrete jungle. Quite like a very, very urban Venice. Still, it was quite pleasant to be by the water, and - crazy as we are - we eventually ended up doing the whole damn walk, all 3 miles of it (almost 5 km)!

Indiana State Museum.

By this point, the heat got to us, and we needed to head inside for some air conditioning. We decided to have some cold drinks at the coffee shop of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. The museum itself seemed interesting, too, so if we still have time, I'd maybe like to go back to explore more.

The Eiteljorg Museum is right next to Indiana State Museum.

Once we'd regained some energy, we ventured out again, and found the "I Am Indy" sign...a cool view with Indy itself in the background!

The State Museum looked pretty cool from the outside, too - let's see if we'll get the chance to go there before the Fulbright experience is over.

Finally, we did the Canal Walk in its entirety before catching our bus back to Bloomington.

We found an urban library.
The bridge leads to the zoo.


We both really enjoyed the day and highly recommend Indianapolis as a destination. I think three days is all you need to see everything there, but it's one of those places where the atmosphere is enough to make you love it, so you might even be up to spending more time in the city.

My next post will be about Boston - not yet the conference aspect of it, but the city itself. Stay tuned!

Monday, 23 October 2017

Free Time in Bloomington, Indiana

It's been more than a month now since my last post. I've been so busy here in Bloomington that you wouldn't believe! If you don't remember all the things I need to do while I'm here, check back on this post. I've been working on my project like mad lately and already have 52 pages done. It wouldn't need to be that long, but a) I always want to do things properly and produce quality, and b) there is a lot to say about my topic and I want to include absolutely everything I can in my paper. After all, I'm planning to use my literature review, my findings and my final product as teacher training material. I'm very determined, and I hope a door will open for me to do just that, whether it's back in Finland or elsewhere.

I've also gone through several stages of cultural adjustment. First I was in a delirious honeymoon stage for approximately a month where everything was fantastic and amazing; then I was quite angry for some time over things not functioning the way I would've wanted and expected them to; and eventually I got really tired and fed up and didn't really feel like doing anything at all whatsoever. My current state could be described as a combination of being okay, feeling like I don't have enough time to enjoy my free time here, and being somehow passively homesick. I want to go to the sauna, I want normal food, and I miss my cat. I also miss real people - American people can come across as quite superficial, which is basically the complete opposite of Finns, who are often said to be the most honest nation in the world. I'm not complaining, though - if anything, I'm happy to finally have found out what I appreciate about my home country. 

Anyway, this post will be all about free time in Bloomington. I haven't had that much of it, to be honest, which is a little bit sad. At the same time, I'm not a sociable person in general, which means that I need a lot of privacy and alone-time. It's been difficult to combine doing free time activities and finding the time I need to be in peace when this exchange period is so short. When I'm at home in Finland, I always prefer reading, writing, and watching TV and films at home over going to places, and I'm not really the person who meets up with people or attends events all the time. This is something people often don't seem to understand, but the truth is that some people (like me) are homebodies who need a lot of time to just be. Here, the compulsory activities take up such a large chunk of my energy that I'm craving my alone-time even more, which leads to me not wanting to run around in my free time as well. It's not me being impolite, it's me being who I am.

That being said, though, we've still done quite a lot of stuff here, and in this post, I'll elaborate on six different things.

Pride Fest

In August, we attended Bloomington Pride Fest. There was no parade, but instead it was a day of speeches, musical performances and info booths on Kirkwood Avenue downtown. People were geared up in pride products like flags, leis and other accessories, and local companies showed their support, too, by being present and for example giving out rainbow-coloured badges. A nice day, all in all! It was especially lovely to see parents supporting their LGBTQ+ children there - it made me smile :)!

Street food!

Celest Fest

Indiana University constantly arranges festivals dedicated to various topics. There is something happening every single week, so if you're into stuff like that, you'll never run out of things to do here! I already wrote about Culture Fest in a previous post, and the next festival we participated in was Celest Fest to see the eclipse. 

Celest Fest was great! First we queued up for protective glasses. Once we'd got them, we checked out the many informational booths and enjoyed the music before the sun disappeared. In Bloomington, it didn't get completely dark, but instead what we experienced was this hazy, dim, dusk-like light. It was cool nevertheless!

Solar eclipse shadows.

Israeli Brunch

We've also had more cultural events with our Fulbright cohort. Ornit and her family arranged a lovely Israeli brunch for us all in their house - amazing food and good company! Some surprise musical performances as well, and a very tempting tree house!

My fellow Finn Sanna with her husband Kimmo. Follow Sanna's Fulbright experiences on her blog

Youssef in the tree house!

Love these people!
Eid with Team Morocco

We had the chance to celebrate Eid together with Team Morocco - Youssef, Y├ássine and Karim. They had prepared a delicious feast for us, and Youssef had brought all kinds of traditional pots and cups here all the way from Morocco so that the experience was very authentic, too. And we all got Moroccan keyrings! Thanks so much, guys! You can follow Karim's Fulbright blog here and Y├ássine's Fulbright vlog here.

IU Recreational Sports

We live right next to a huge IU sports centre with gyms, group exercise, squash, basketball, an indoor running track, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. For me, it's all free and for Julcsi, it was less than $80 for the whole autumn. You'll need to bring your marriage certificate with you to get this kind of discount for your spouse, though! You'll need a certificate to prove that your kids are your kids, too, if you're planning on purchasing them a membership as well.

I love the Rec Center! Check it out! We've gone swimming, to the gym and one group exercise lesson, which I didn't like because the instructor didn't do the movements according to the rhythm...what's the point of the music if you don't use it properly?! The pool, it!

Lotus World Music and Arts Festival

This festival took place at the turn of the months of September and October. I'm not really convinced that this event was my thing, but we went anyway. There was music and food, and that's pretty much it. You could buy tickets to concerts, which we didn't do, so we just wandered around downtown, checking out what we could without paying for anything. We also bumped into a group of Fulbrighters and ended up going to the Latin Late Nite at IMU for a little bit.

So yeah, here's what we've been up to in our free time! We've also been to Indianapolis, Boston and Chicago, but I'll write separate post on each of those later on. Time here seems to go by so quickly - we're already at the end of October! I still keep wishing this exchange was longer so that it wouldn't need to be such a stressful experience at times, but we're definitely trying to make the most of it as it is.

My next posts will probably be on our cityscapes, but I'm also planning to write about the conferences we've attended, the school visits I've done, and campus life in Bloomington, so stay tuned :)!