Photo: Erna Vala
Earliest days in Finland. Meeting other exchange students in Seurasaari.

The Beginning


Beginning to write your first blog post can feel so daunting. Words are fleeting, and really, where does one begin? It’s even amusing to think I could sum up my experiences at the University of the Arts, or relate to you the astounding impact which it has had on me. I’ll start from the beginning:

I arrived for the Spring term to study Music Technology - hailing from a tiny music conservatory in Chicago. December 31st, the plane landed, and Finnair had lost the one bag containing my winter coat. There I was at 9.30 in a cardigan, walking from Huopalahti train station to Clavis, Sibelius Academy’s student housing. The streets were empty, I was cold and praying I would find the building (Oh lack of mobile service!) A young student greeted me with terse niceties and showed me to my room. That was that. I was in Finland.

Now I needed to figure out the New Year - resolutions and all. Lucky for me I already had a friend in the city. A Sibelius student had coincidentally come to my University in the fall, and he being back for the holidays meant I had a party invite on night one. Finland? New Years? It’s all too perfect I know.

Managing the bus system I made my way downtown to Kamppi, getting to see Helsinki (and its residents) in all their New Year’s glory. My night panned out very much how you would expect it. “Welcome to Finland”, I joked to myself taking a bus back to Clavis at 5.00.

What ensued in the following few weeks was all the bureaucracy that comes with doing an exchange; yet the university was always helpful. Marianne, head of MuTe department and a natural motherly type, made the adjustment all the more easy. She was quick to remind me I need vitamin D supplements amidst Finland’s pallid landscape.

(Me at Seurasaari - Ice King)

Goal one was to figure out my courses.

The Universities 2013 merger between the academies gave me the luxury of flexibility. At one point I was even suggested course work at the University of Helsinki. Others thinking of coming here, either on exchange or for a degree, I promote this as one of the the school’s nicest assets. I benefited greatly by participating in the Universities Sound Arts for Masters courses (SAMA), which utilizes facilities and professors from all three institutions. I chose to participate in one course titled "Rhizomatic City", which led to the development of group project titled "Iskuin." This project has been accepted into this years Flow Festival and will be exhibited there in August.

(first stage of Iskuin)

But It wasn’t all paperwork and white snow! I was making friends too. My appointed tutor Jaime (a composition student), greeted all the whole lot of us newbies. There is lots of socializing to be done when you arrive in a country knowing virtually no one. So that was me, all dumbstruck at the excitement of it all, scurrying around to get to the next experience. Mind you, Finnair wouldn't get me my winter coat until nearly the end of January. It had taken a side vacation to Venezuela. No worries, my flatmate was kind enough to loan me his spare coat for that time being.