I’m a high school physics teacher from Boston who is spending four months researching education in Finland on a Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching grant. See the about me and Fulbright pages for background information.
On Sunday I arrived in Helsinki, exhausted from a sleepless overnight flight that was preceded by a hectic week that included midyear exams, conveying all of the necessary information to the teacher who replaced me, and shoveling mounds of record-breaking snow in Boston. I had an evening to unpack (or if I’m being honest, to start unpacking, as I haven’t yet finished . . . ) and then I attempted to get some rest before the Fulbright orientation began.
Monday and Tuesday were filled with orientation activities at the Fulbright Center. This included sessions on logistics, a talk on the Finnish educational system, a 30-minute lecture on 10,000 years of Finnish history, dinner at the home of a diplomat who works at the US Embassy, and a Finnish lesson. It also included cake, karjalanpiirakkat, pulla, and plenty of coffee to aid me in fighting jet lag.
On Wednesday and Thursday I had meetings with my two Fulbright contacts in Helsinki. The first is my advisor Tiina, a researcher at the University of Helsinki and the head of the Innokas Network, a group of schools that employ technology to teach creativity and innovation. I previously met her when I was here in August, and she has been extremely helpful in setting up school observations, as well as sharing information on conferences and other events that might be of interest. I also met my “Fulbright buddy” Ville, a former Fulbright recipient who spent his grant period at Stanford. He is researching engineering education at the university level and gave me insight into higher education in Finland.
Now I’m trying to get all of the logistics of being in a new city squared away. These have included registering to get a Finnish ID number, attempting to open a bank account (not yet achieved), figuring out the best cell phone plan, and buying ice skates and running shoes with spikes on the bottom. I also subscribed to the daily newspaper so I’ll have a steady stream of reading material to improve my vocabulary.