Before embarking on this Exchange journey, my biggest fear was loneliness. Little did I know that I was about to make some of the best friends of my life from all over the world!

Orientation

Our friendship started during orientation when most of us had met. We were in the Computer Science Guild (equivalent to a pillar in SUTD) and on Exchange/ERASMUS. However, even post-orientation, the hanging out never stopped, the lunches never stopped, the hours of procrastination in the Learning Centre (Library) never stopped, the evening saunas and hotpots never stopped. Here are some of my most memorable times spent with them.

Nuuksio National Park Hike

One of the few times we had close to full attendance was during our trip to Nuuksio National Park in Espoo, Finland. It was a beautiful hike at the perfect temperature, ranging from 12 to 16 degrees. We chatted all along the hike, with some pretty much running ahead and the rest of us catching up behind. We stopped for lunch at a campfire, where Federico and Valentin cooked their food and the rest of us enjoyed our snacks.

The hike ended off with everyone exhausted but with their hearts full. Finland really is all about nature with 80% of their land covered in forests and we got the opportunity to experience the serenity of Finland’s nature.

 

Suomenlinna- Viaporin Kekri Festival

Another one of our memorable outings was our visit to Suomenlinna during the festival of Viaporin Kekri. The Suomenlinna Sea Fortress is a cultural treasure and officially a world heritage site.

 

The festival celebrates the arrival of the long, grim, and inescapable winter in Finland. The main event of the festival is the Kekri Buck burning ceremony, during which a figurine goat made of hay is burnt.

 

That day in particular was exceptionally cold, with the temperatures going sub-zero and the winds blowing strongly. We got some warm glögi (the Finnish version of mulled wine) to beat the cold! Despite the constant shivering and rubbing of hands together, we appreciated the phenomenal sight of the goat burning next to the sea.

 

Hotpot Dinners

Being the only other Asian in the friend group, it was my job to bring the Asian culture to my European friends. Therefore, I hosted many hotpot dinners at my place. I relied on my cultured Taiwanese friend, Oscar, to guide us through the preparation and cooking. Hotpot nights were always a blast, with food spilling, music playing and chaos everywhere. It always ended up in a major food coma and a post-dinner sauna session.

The initial fear of being lonely was completely reversed when I met this exceptional bunch of friends. There was never a dull moment with them. Now, I can say I have friends from Spain, Portugal, Romania, Germany, Austria, France, Taiwan, Italy, Belgium and Finland. Till next time!

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