From Start to Finnish
Here is an excerpt from the prologue to this Finland chapter.
“I am not looking to provide a rigorous or critical evaluation of Finland’s education system. I am in no position to. Many of my posts will instead be centred on people, stories, narratives: first-hand opinions that I have read about and heard of. I want to challenge my personal biases and preconceptions. For instance, we speak a lot about egalitarianism – one of the socio-economic notions that the Nordic model is premised upon – but what would it be like to stay in such a country? Besides the education system, the media structure is fascinating too. How is it that Finland, with a population size similar to Singapore’s, can house so many newspapers in circulation? Differences in geography? Political sensitivities and media policies? More importantly, how is it perceived on the ground, by the people?
I still have my newspaper subscriptions, so I will blog about developments in Singapore on Mondays and Wednesdays (the original plan was to write more for the Breakfast Network, but we know how the cookie has crumbled, for the time being). Because I am not a good photographer, and my exploits are typically monotonous or excessively frivolous, I will do a Friday round-up of the week – Finnish Friday – from start to finish.”
Week 0 (Friday): Hello Helsinki!
Week 1 (Friday): Routines, Routines, Routines
Week 2 (Saturday): When the Cold Wind Blows
Week 3 (Saturday): Hei! Mitä Kuuluu?
Week 4 (Sunday): Feels Like Home – Almost
Week 5 (Friday): Rolling the Dice in Helsinki (of Gambling and Problem Gambling in Helsinki and Singapore)
Week 6 (Wednesday): PISA is But One Education Indicator (of the 2013 PISA Results, in Finland and Singapore)
Week 6 (Friday): Visit Tampere and Turku
Week 7 (Wednesday): Hefty Fines for Wealthy Speedsters (of Day-Fines and Speeding Tickets in Finland)
Week 7 (Friday): A Baby and a Box (of the Finnish Maternity Package)
Week 8 (Friday): All of the Lights
Week 9 (Wednesday): Changing How We Test (of Examinations at the Aalto School of Business)
Week 9 (Friday): Visit Porvoo
Week 10 (Monday): A Fear to Venture (of Entrepreneurship and Failure in Finland)
Week 10 (Friday): Visit Warsaw and Krakow
Week 11 (Wednesday): Visit Helsinki
Week 12 (Monday): An Independent Union (of Student Unions in the Universities of Finland)
Week 12 (Friday): Visit Saint Petersburg
Week 13 (Wednesday): Two Days in a Finnish Elementary School
Week 13 (Friday): Finnish Art (A Presentation)
Week 14 (Friday): Universal Universities of Business (of the Aalto University School of Business)
Week 15 (Monday): The Reform of Finland’s Universities (of the 2010 Universities Act Reform)
Week 15 (Wednesday): Finnish Lessons (an Interview with Mr. Juha Romppanen)
Week 15 (Friday): The Finnish Model United Nations
Week 16 (Wednesday): Along the Streets of Helsinki (of Eastern European beggars in Helsinki)
Week 16 (Friday): The Finnish Line
Week 19 (Wednesday): Visit Leiden and The Hague
Week 19 (Friday): Visit Utrecht and Amsterdam
Week 20 (Friday): Visit Stockholm and Uppsala
Week 22 (Friday): Visit Oslo and Bergen
Week 23 (Friday): Visit Copenhagen
Instagram Shot of the Week
Week 0 to 2: At Changi Airport, flying off on New Year’s Eve; Some sights from my neighbourhood at Kannelmäki (the train station, and the quaint apartments nearby); Shot of the famous Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia.
Week 3 to 5: Weekend cottage trip at the countryside; Culinary exploits over the weekend; Helsinki Cathedral and the Senate Square.
Home-cooked meals over the weekend: pork chops with sautéed onions and peppers, roasted potatoes and broccoli; deconstructed (haha) cottage pie with a fried egg; stir-fried egg noodles; bolognese sauce for pasta and to keep; and breakfast of toasted croissants, scrambled eggs, and sautéed mushrooms #food #helsinki
Weeks 6 to 8: A day-trip to the city of Tampere, Finland; Trip to Inari and Ivalo with Clement and Wei Leong, Finland; Sights of the lights.
Spent the day in Tampere #finland (Top left-hand corner, clockwise): Keskustori (City Square); Alexander Church; Moominvalley Museum; giant meatballs in the market hall; Spy Museum (first to open in the world); Textile Industry Museum (Tampere was known for its textiles); Tampere Hall, Concert, and Congress Centre; Tampere Cathedral; Finlayson Church; Steam Engine Museum (steam engine that powered the textiles industry); Finlayson's textiles; and Werstas (Finnish Labour Museum) in Finlayson's #vscocam #travel #tampere
Weeks 9 to 11: A day-trip to the city of Porvoo, Finland; Shot from the Helsingin Sanomat; The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
Weeks 12 to 14: A selfie at Kiasma, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland; The Cathedral on Spilled Blood in Saint Petersburg, erected on the site where Alexander II was mortally wounded; The Finnish Model United Nations, 2014.
Weeks 15 to 17: Best tomato bagel – with ham and sundried tomato cream cheese – I’ve ever had, at Utrecht, the Netherlands; Obligatory shot of a windmill at Leiden, the Netherlands; Tulip fields at Alkmaar, the Netherlands.
Weeks 18 to 20: At Uppsala, Stockholm; At Aurland, Norway, during the Norway in a Nutshell tour; At Bergen, Norway.
#norwayinanutshell (2/3) I've always had the privilege of seeing similar sights in #finland and #sweden (they are all over #norway too, given its geographical traits), but never from such an angle #flam #fjord This is the town of #aurland, photographed from the ferry sailing along Aurlandsfjord #travel #vscocam
Weeks 21 to 22: Fantastic burger meal at Copenhagen, Denmark; Home.
Meet Chiheb. Chiheb is from Tunisia, and he runs the quaint burger joint Banana Joe in Copenhagen, Denmark (Elmegade 18, Copenhagen 2200). According to him the positive reviews from Trip Advisor and Yelp have helped him 108 per cent. That was how I found the place too; after all it is 30 minutes from the city centre. It was 9.15 on a Wednesday evening. I was the only one in the four-seater. For 45 minutes in between bites we talked about our countries, my time in Helsinki and around Scandinavia, and even Russia and Crimea. He told me the importance of travelling (especially when one is young), because one learns to see everything in a different light. My meal was 70-odd DKK (S$18). "Just give me 50 (S$11)". Before I left he had advice too. "Be kind to your family, be kind to the people who have helped you", he mused. "Most importantly be kind to yourself, through your years in university and through the rest of your life". Oh and the beef party was topped with cheese and a fried egg. Delicious. One of the best I ever had. #travel #food #copenhagen #denmark #vscocam
回家了. This exchange semester meant a lot to me. Last year I was (still) beating myself up over stuff, insecure, and always second-guessing myself. Now I am more aware of my privilege and am finally tired of feeling sorry for myself (cue: "To Start"). Singapore beckons, and I cannot wait. Here I did FINMUN. Visited an elementary school. Explored the Finnish maternity box. Travelled. Dined. Saw the aurora borealis and tulips and landmarks. Talked to local students and their student unions. Read about issues in Finland. Blogged. Even learnt a little about the Finnish language and culture. Frozen all the time. More than I could ever ask for. And I leave Helsinki exactly the way it had welcomed me: cold and rainy. This subzero-single-digit to 30 degrees transition is not going to be pretty. #travel #helsinki #finland #bw #vscocam #singapore #home