Happy Easter everyone!

It´s hard to imagine that my exchange year will be over in just a little over a months´ time. I've developed as a person tremendously and I´m really starting to find myself and realise who I want to be as a person. Life is a journey of endless experiences that ultimately shape and lead us to who we want to be. There is only one way to go, and that is forwards. Still, it is up to each and every one of us to choose wich path we want to take. We are the masters of our own fates, and we shouldn´t rely on anyone else to choose which paths to follow. Friends and family will always be there to help and guide us through both good and bad times, but it is only by our own commitment that we can truly find lasting happiness in life.

My exams are over and my life is starting to get back on track. I have met some beautiful new people in Hämeenlinna, and I´m so grateful that they have become a part of my life. From exchange students to former exchange students to plain Finns. You probably know who you are and I would like to thank all of you that have made my months in Hämeenlinna awesome :D! Even though I´ve been speaking English a lot with the exchange students, I really do hope that my Finnish language has developed to some extent. At least all my matriculation examinations and such are finally over so I can focus 100 percent on language studies. It is hard to stay away from exchange students cause they are always the people who are the most social and understanding. I love all of them. There is no doubt about the fact that you have to possess a certain kind of bravery to go on an exchange. I admire everyone who does it, since it really changes who you are and makes you open your eyes to what life is truly about.

I love setting goals for myself. Always having something to strive for makes me feel like life has some kind of meaning. I want to constantly make myself a better person and learn to see life from different angles. I´ve discovered that travelling is what I love to do and that´s why I always love to have a new trip to look forward to. Of course I aspire to be a lawyer and have a family and all that, but in my oppinion setting smaller milestones for yourself on the way is cruical to live a good and healthy life. Making plans for 10 years in the future is absurd.

My next thing I have thought about doing is some kind of longer hike. I´ve looked up the "Laugavegur trail" in Iceland and it really looks fantastic. People always say they want to travel while they are still young, but they don´t realize that they are young now! Never say no to an opportunity! You won´t be young forever and if travelling is what you want to do then do it. Planning for the future is as I already said a bad idea, plans can change and disappointment is inevitable. Money shouldn´t be a problem. Money is just a number on your bank account. You can always work for your money if you really want to do something. The only problem is the set of one´s mind.

I´ll post some pictures of my last couple of weeks in Hämeenlinna and from the amazing "Laugavegur" track I would like to do below. Someone keen? :P


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Hello again everybody! I must admit that it´s been a while since my last post. Considering the fact that I´m back in good old Finland, there hasn´t really been anything interesting to write about :/ I would like to say that everything is back to normal, but it really isn´t...

There is a lot of stuff going on in my life right now. I have for instance just started out with my matriculation examinations in eg. English, and moved out of town to the Finnish-speaking city of Hämeenlinna. I´m staying here with my friend Riku to improve my skills in the Finnish language and become more independent as a person. I´ve decided to keep writing blog posts maybe once a month to keep all my friends and family in New Zealand (and all around the world) updated on what I´m doing. Blogging is a tough habit to break :P. I´m very grateful for all the postive response I got for my blog while I was in New Zealand, so I decided to keep on going :). Atleast until June when my exchange ends...

So have I integrated back into my culture? Yeah, I guess so... I never actually felt any kind of "culture shocks" or whatever they´re called! Maybe they´re nothing but myths, I actually don´t know. However, I need to be honest! If I could go back to New Zealand or even go back to the time before my exchange I really would. Before and while I was there I felt so happy about everything. To put it another way, I felt blessed of all the wonderful things I had in my life. My life has now taken a turn and it feels like it is falling apart... I´m stressed about my exams, stressed about my car license, stressed about being in a new town with limited friends, I´m still sad about my grandmother´s passing (which I still haven´t processed), my friends going off to other schools, and other problems with people I really love :(. I really hope that these bad times are followed by better times cause I´m really not feeling too well at the moment. Luckily, I have lovely people around me who help me as much as they can to get me back on track.

I´m right now sitting in mine and Riku´s newly furnished flat, wondering how I´m going to get used to this "new" life. We´ve got everything we need here and I really can´t complain about the company either... So yeah, most people would probably say that we are living the student dream or whatever, but considering the circumstances, I´m not really enjoying it at the moment. Now I just need to focus on speaking and connecting with other people and hopefully establish some good friendships :). Below are some pictures of the last few weeks, including pictures of our flat, our "penkkis" day and general pictures from Hämeenlinna.

“Never regret yesterday. Life is in you today, and you make your tomorrow.”

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(Written a couple of weeks ago)

I´m back in Finland, Christmas has passed, and everything is back to normal. It doesn´t even feel like I left my front door. It is overwhelming to look back at all the things I´ve done during the past 5 months. It feels like a dream that I´ve now woken up from. I´ve climbed up the rabbit hole and where am I now? Back in the arms of my girlfriend, in the comfort of my family, and the amazing atmosphere of my friends. I have nothing to complain about. I loved every single second of New Zealand, and now I´m going to enjoy every single moment of winter in my home country Finland. I just need a little bit of snow and then everything is perfect :D

So we have celebrated Christmas and all that, but I´m not here to write about what I do in Finland, so I´m just going to leave that out. I have some pictures from our Christmas celebrations down below if someone would like to have a look... This post is mainly here to conclude my blogging in New Zealand and say thank you to everybody who has read my posts. I am grateful for this amazing opportunity and I´m sure it´s going to benefit me in the future. I´ve certainly broaden my perspective on life and my understanding on different cultures. The Kiwi culture was something really unique (both the "Pakeha" and the "Maori" perspectives), and it has truly become my second nature.

Of course I will miss all my friends in New Zealand, but I´ve realized that I just need to be thankful for the time that we were given together and now point my goals elsewhere. Thank you Lyn, Bruce and Barry for being the best hostparents possible. Thank you Luk for being a brother and one of my best friends. Many thanks to Sian and her family for being like my second family and my best friends!

I would definitely recommend exchange to everybody! It is the perfect opportunity to experience something new and experience a new culture! There are only a couple of downsides, but millions of benifits! So, DOOO IT!!!! If anybody has any questions about exchanges, I´m more than happy to answer them for you. So once again, thank you!

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Hey guys! This is an extra post that I should have posted months ago, but haven´t been able to. So when I was down the South Island I did lots of things that you might have read about. Two activities that you haven´t read about are my skydive and my bungy jump :D. I did my skydive up in Motueka and my bungy jump at the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown. New Zealand is famous for bungy jumping and the bungy at K-bridge in Queenstown is the first ever bungy that is open for everybody. Even though both of these activities were very expensive, I don´t regret doing them at all :D

Skydiving... I can´t believe I´ve actually jumped of a plane :O! Everything went so fast! From the moment I got dressed in my suit to the moment I jumped of the plane felt like minutes. And guess what! I was first to do it XD. They instantly led me to my tandem jumper and to my camera guy and started filming me :D. I got dressed and then they led me to the small plane that we were going to use, and it was crooowded. I didn´t even have space to sit properly. I had to lay down in another guys lap in order to fit in to the plane. We flew around for like 15 min with a view of the Abel Tasman National Park and then my tandem jumper opened the doors and told me to lean forwards facing nothing but the clouds. I curled my legs around his and then he let go of the plane. Our legs flew forwards and in a second or two my legs were above my head. My tandem jumper had decided that we were going to do a backflip!!! :O. I felt sick, but there was no stopping now... We flew down through the clouds and soon I spotted the ground. We free fell for about 45 seconds, even though it felt more like 15... :P Before I knew about it, the parachute was out and we were slowly gliding down towards the ground. It took about 10 minutes before we finally were just a couple of meters above the ground. He told me to put my legs up in a sitting position, and then we hit the ground! That was my first ever skydive :O What a thrill! Pictures below :P

And bungy jumping :O. Jumping of a bridge into the river head first 43 meters :D! I stood on this wooden plateau with the entire bungy rope´s weight pulling me forwards. They counted to five and told me to jump. I jumped right away without waiting or having any second thoughts, and felt the ground coming closer and closer to me every millisecond. It took a couple of seconds for me to hit the water surface, and then I flew back probably 20 meters up in the air. After they´ve let me swing there for a while they then untied me from the rope and dropped me down on a small boat that took me back to land. I am proud that I jumped straight away and didn´t wait for like 5 minutes that some of my friends did :P. Proved my non-cowardice and it looked good on camera XD.

Both activities were awesome and I would definitely recommend both of them! Loved every second of them!

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I am right now sitting in the plane from Dubai to Stockholm, feeling very tired due to the long flights and the time differences. The flight from Auckland to Dubai alone was about 17h long... I think I slept for a couple of hours but I am actually not sure :P. I am very bad at sleeping in planes so I thought I would write about my last days in New Zealand instead :D

This Wednesday, me, Luk, Riku, Bruce and Barry went for a road trip up to Northland, in other words, the part of New Zealand that is on the peninsula north of Auckland. We went there mainly to visit Cape Reinga (the northernmost point of NZ), where the Tasman sea meets the Pacific ocean. The drive was hell but it was definitely worth it. I got some very good photos of the scenery around the coast and the beautiful lighthouse at Cape Reinga. We also went to the sand dunes by Ninety Mile Beach, which was a total surprise for me. I didn´t even know there were any sand dunes in New Zealand :P. Many people go sandboarding there but we just went there for the view :D. Standing there on top of the hills of sand, it really felt like being in some kind of a desert. I took some really great photos of both me, Luk and Riku. Can´t wait for you to see them :D.

As you might have noticed, I haven´t shared any of my videos with you guys :D. I´ve actually made a film with both pictures and videos that I might share on facebook at some point :P. It´s about 50 minutes long though, so nobody would probably watch through the entire thing, haha ^^. I have been working on this film for weeks and I just finished it a couple of hours ago. I can´t wait to share that with you either :D.

So what am I feeling right now...? I´ve said goodbye to all my friends and the beautiful wonderland of New Zealand, and now I have a new adventure ahead of me! Spend time with my friends and family before I go to Hämeenlinna with Riku. That is my adventure right now, and that is what I am going to focus on. I have to prepare myself for my matriculation examinations too, but right now, I am going to prioritize my loved ones. I am feeling both sad and happy, I can´t wait to see everybody again, but I am certainly going to miss everyone in New Zealand. Thank you Lyn, Barry, Bruce and Luk for being the best hostfamily ever, and thank you Sian for being the best friend possible! I will truly miss all of you!

I am just going to write a couple of more posts before I might have a small break with my blogging :), I am going to cover how it feels to be back home and stuff like that, and then my next post will probably before I go to Hämeenlinna. Well, thank you again for reading everybody :D.

"Tane Mahuta". The biggest Kauritree in New Zealand

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My amazing journey is soon coming to an abrupt end... It has truly been educational, and has probably been the most adventurous time of of my life :D. I must say that I am having mixed emotions about leaving due to my immense love for this country. I can´t really say that I am not looking forward to going home, because that would be a lie. I am really looking forward to seeing my wonderful girlfriend, my friends, and my family again. I have experienced so much during these 5 months that I am really starting to get ready for my next journey back in Finland. More about what I am feeling about going home in my next post, because this post is going to be about something quite different :).

One thing that many people back home might not realise is that it is summer in New Zealand right now. As we all know, Christmas i approaching very quickly, and so is it in New Zealand. In other words, they don´t celebrate Christmas with all the winter traditions, instead they might have a barbecue at the beach or something like that XD. Yesterday there was a Christmas parade in my town, but I still can´t get the Christmas feeling as I usually have in December. It would surely be very interesting to experience Christmas here, but for me, I´m quite happy to go back home for the holidays :D.

I am still going to have my hostfamily try out "glögg" before I leave :D. It is one of my favourite things about Christmas, so I am happy that I can share a little bit of the Finnish Christmas with my hostfamily. Of course it´s not the same to drink glögg in the heat of summer as in the cold of winter, but still... :D. I´ve already had them try out "salmiak", and at least Luk wasn´t a very big fan, so it will be interesting to give them a sample of something else :D

As I told you, yesterday there was a Christmas parade here in Paeroa, which was actually quite nice. Many companies and corporations joined in, even though it might just have been for the free advertising :P. The parade was packed with kids, which was good, because they really seemed to enjoy it. I have some pictures of the parade below!

Another thing I thought I would mention is that Bruce´s daughter invited us to have a tour around TV NZ in Auckland. You see, she works there as some kind of an editor or something and she was directing the news at 6 o'clock that day. We had the opportunity to watch her doing her work and we also actually got to sit in the studios live when they recorded the news. That was something really unique that not everyone gets to experience, so I am very grateful that Bruce took us up there :D.

Alrighty, this was one of my last posts in New Zealand. I will still blog after my trip up to Cape Reinga and after I´m back in Finland, but for now, goodbye :D

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Less than 3 weeks left until I return back to Finland :O. I can´t imagine that 5 months have passed this fast. My wallet is in pain, but with very good reason... I have seen much more of New Zealand than I have even seen of my own country Finland. I have only one more place I want to go to before I feel ready to go home, Cape Reinga. I want to visit the famous light house at the top of NZ and look to the horizon where the two oceans meet.

This weekend we drove down to Wellington, the capital of NZ, with my organisation. The weather left a lot to be desired, with rain pouring down and wind almost blowing us away. Wellington is actually nicknamed "Windy Welly", due to its constant wind. Even though the weather wasn´t the best, I really enjoyed it all. The bus trip down there was about 8 hours, which was more than enough to see the countryside XD.

In Wellington we got a guided tour around the "beehive" (the parliament building), rode up the hill in a cable car, and went to the "Weta Caves" studios. Luk and I also got to meet our Norweigan friends that we met down the South Island :D. It was very nice to see them again after a couple of months. We are planning to do a reunion in Switzerland in a couple of years, so I can´t do much more than hope that that will actually happen :/

The highlight of the trip was certainly the Weta studio tour :O. For you guys that don't know what the place is, it is the studios where they made all the costumes for eg. The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, District 9 and Avatar. With an experienced guide, we got to see all the original costumes and props that they used for all the movies. With me being a LOTR fan and all, it was really extraordinary to see all the original swords and pieces of armor that they actually used in the movies. With all the props belonging to the different movie companies, we didn´t own the rights to take photos of them, which was a shame :/.

Another place we visited in Wellington was the Te Papa national museum. One exhibition was very interesting in particular... Weta studios had cooperated with the museum to make these huge statues of soldiers from the first world war (pictures below). So all in all it was a very nice trip and I got to see much more of the North Island. If you want to see what way we drove down, you can click on the link below and follow my journey :D Thank you again for reading!

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1Ttt-pNpGuupwxlaFrxKfXw&ll=-40.386268202111374%2C175.0226036125&z=6

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Hobbiton, Hobbiton, Hobbiton... Finally I´ve visited this truly beautiful site of Middle Earth. Today we all woke up early in the morning to enter Middle Earth and visit the Matamata farmland that has been transformed into the most famous movie set of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. Both movies are entirely shot in New Zealand, with Hobbiton being the only movie set that is still intact. While I was down the South Island I got to visit some of the most famous movie sites, but Hobbiton was something truly special and eye-opening. Nothing like anything I´ve seen before!

So after waking up early in the morning, we then headed straight to the i-center in Matamata. From there we caught a bus that took us to the souvenir shop in "The Shire´s rest", and then straight up to the village. We had a fully guided two-hour-long tour around the village, with the highlights being Bag End and the Green Dragon Inn, where we got to enjoy different kinds of refreshing Hobbit beverages. I am glad we had a good guide, because her stories about the site were truly interesting and she really seemed to know what she was talking about. I really appreciated all the fun facts she gave us about the site.

To walk into this paradise, entirely surrounded in grass, hobbit holes and plants, is something quite fantastic. I never thought I would actually stand next to these small ponds, look at all the astounding hobbit holes, and walk up the hill to Bilbo´s and Frodo's house "Bag End". I am absolutely speachless of all the beauty I got to experience today.

Hobbiton is a must for every LOTR fan visiting New Zealand. You can´t really do anything else but appreciate the immense work they have put into constructing this site with all its details. I am so glad that they have preserved this site for us tourists to visit, because it truly is inspiring and eye-opening. But now I am just going to let the pictures speak for themselves. You can´t really describe the beauty of this place by just explaining!

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Hey guys, it´s been a while :D. School has ended and I am finally on holiday. Even though the last 3 days have been quite boring, exciting things are ahead. Tomorrow I am going to Hamilton to watch Fantastic Beasts (HYPE x500000!!!!), and on Monday Riku will come over from Papakura :). On Tuesday we are all going to Hobbiton, which I have been looking forward to for months... Next Friday my journey takes me down to Wellington for a three day trip. where I get to meet all the other exchange students again :D. That´s going to be really nice :D! But enough of what I am going to do, and more of what I have done :P.

So last week my entire hostfamily went to Rotorua to do the Mitai Maori Village experience. We got a guided tour around the village, spectated different kinds of maori performances and enjoyed a delicious hangi buffet meal in the evening. It was really great! I paid quite a lot of money for it, but considering the fact that we got a meal into the bargain made it really worth its money. The highlight was definitely watching the maori warriors paddle up the river in their national maori "costume".

Surfing is another thing I´ve finally done, and oh my god it is addicting. I surfed for 3 hours and wanted to go back straight away after the lesson ended. I can´t believe I started doing surfing this late. Catching a wave perfectly is the most satisfying thing you can imagine. It is so much fun and I can´t wait to do it again. Me and Luk bought a 2 hour lesson to get the hang of the basics, and then we just played around for another hour. The waves were perfect and it actually went really well (atleast to start with). It was much more fun than windsurfing, that we did a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully I get the opportunity to do it again a couple of times before my exchange ends :D.

Looking forward to writing about and showing pictures on Hobbiton and the Wellington trip :D Hopefully we get to experience as much as possible down in Wellington, because I don´t know how much got destroyed in the earthquake earlier this week :/ Well, see ya next weekend :D!

Thermal activity in Rotorua

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Hey guys! I haven´t done anything too exciting this week, so I thought I would give you my thoughts on the high school education in New Zealand. I am right now in year 13 at Paeroa college (corresponds to year 3 in Finland´s "gymnasium"), the last year before you graduate and go to university. There are many differences in the education system if you compare NZ to Finland, so In this post I thought I would cover the major ones.

As I wrote in an earlier post, the variety of subjects is much larger here in New Zealand and you certainly have a higher range of atleast practical subjects to choose from. Where we in Finland have seperate secondary schools for practical and theoretical subjects, New Zealand has the same kind of school for both. In Finland we have academic subjects like philosophy, psychology, history, social studies, religion, while NZ has got more practical subjects like maori, woodwork, food technology, gateway and vocational pathways.

So in Finland we have 5 terms in one school year. In every term we have a certain amount of courses in different subjects, with some being compulsory and some being voluntary. You choose which voluntary courses you want to take depending on which subjects you are going to write in your matriculation examinations in year 3 (year 13 in NZ). The matriculation examinations in Finland are 6 hour long tests that cover everything you have learned that far. These tests are crucial for your future education and for the schools you want to apply for. After every term you have exams for every course that you have taken that term. So in Finland you can have about 25 three hour long exams a year, while you may have about 3-4 NCEA exams a year in New Zealand :P.

In New Zealand all your achievements count. Throughout your 3 years, you collect "credits" by achieving in both external exams and internal standards. Everything you do is important, while only your matriculation examinations count in Finland. You study for three years in order to achieve in your last year.

While you in Finland get assessed on a scale from 4 to 10, New Zealand has got only three kind of "grades" you can get. They are achieved, merit and excellence. The credits you get from an assessment achieved with excellence are much more worth than for instance assessments achieved with merit. Same if you apply for further education in eg. a university, excellence and merit credits are far better than achieved ones.

That is a summary of the major differences :). I have just finished school and I am right now on "study leave", even though I am not going to do any exams XD. So in actual fact, I am on holiday until I go home :D. On Tuesday we had prize-giving, where I got to experience a very powerful "haka" by the students, and got a certificate of diligence in both Calculus and English :). Richard Mikael Wennberg has graduated college XD. Not many people can say that they have done that XD. Well, see you in a week or so :D. Going to Rotorua to a Maori village this weekend, looking forward to writing about that :D.

Here are some desserts that I have had at Bruce´s place :O

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