My name is Ethan (aka Jafar, yes from the Disney movie), and I’m a physical therapy student in the 2015 International Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program (IIP) based in Helsinki, Finland. This is my first blog post and I just want to take this time to introduce myself and tell you about my trip so far! This is my first time in Europe, so there are going to be lots of firsts and lots of mistakes, but I’ve really been enjoying my travels.
So I was born and raised in suburban New Jersey, and I’m of Puerto Rican and German/Hungarian ancestry. My town was pretty diverse so I was exposed to peers and families from different backgrounds fairly often. I had a pretty varied group of friends and that stayed the same as I moved to Boston for school. I did a dual-degree in my undergraduate at Boston University (GO TERRIERS), earning a B.A. in Biology and a B.S. in Science Education. I returned to BU after realizing that being a classroom teacher wasn’t for me and completed an M.S. in Human Physiology. I used this time to figure out a more concrete plan beyond “Keep earning degrees until you die and don’t need to pay off your loan debt” and decided to enter the healthcare field and apply to PT school. One harrowing application cycle later I was accepted at MGH IHP and well, now I’m almost done. During this time I’ve taken up circus arts and gymnastics, continue to dance in a contemporary ballet company, and hold down a semi-part-time job at BU teaching their EMT and CPR classes.
I try to keep myself busy.
This opportunity presented itself almost 1 year ago and I’m so glad that I applied and was accepted into the program. As I mentioned before I’d never been to Europe so I was eager to see what the continent across the way had to offer. Here’s what my travel plans look like:
Wednesday 7/29, 21:30 EST: Depart BOS (Logan Airport) for KEF (Reykjavik, Iceland)
Thursday 7/30, 02:30 EST: Land in KEF (Reykjavik, Iceland)
Staying in an Air BnB apartment in Reyjkavik
Saturday 8/1, 03:35 EST: Depart KEF (Reykjavik, Iceland) for LGW (London, UK)
Saturday 8/1 06:35 EST: Land in LGW (London, UK)
Staying in an Air BnB apartment in Vauxhall, London, UK
Wednesday 8/5, 04:40 EST: Depart LGW (London, UK) for HEL (Helsinki, Finland)
Wednesday 8/5 07:25 EST: Land in HEL (Helsinki, Finland)
Staying in CheapSleep hostel in Helsinki
Thursday 8/27: Travel from HEL (Helsinki, Finland) to BER (Berlin, Germany)
Sunday 8/30: Travel from BER (Berlin, Germany) to HEL (Helsinki, Finland)
Saturday 9/12 08:35 EST: Depart HEL for KEF
Saturday 9/12 12:00 EST: Land in KEF
Saturday 9/12 13:00 EST: Depart KEF for BOS
Saturday 9/12 18:35 EST: Land in BOS
And that doesn’t even include the adventure I’m going on with a bunch of classmates this weekend to Tallinn, Estonia, only a short 1.5 hr ferry trip from Helsinki. Needless to say, I want to see as much of Europe as I can on my limited budget and with limited time. I’ve already been to 3 countries and by the end of my trip I will have visited 5, which nearly quadruples the number of countries I’ve visited in my lifetime (if you include the United States). In order to not make this post any more rambly than I’m sure it will be, here are some highlights of my trip so far in a convenient bulletted list.
- Stayed in a fantastic apartment with a gay couple, their infant, and their dog. Life goals as well as dog goals (he was the cutest).
- Icelanders speak pretty good English, which is great because Icelandic is not easy.
- Got to see a geyser and take an awesome selfie with it, and by selfie I mean I stood there with the front facing camera on recording a video for like 8min before the geyser went off, then took a screenshot of my best face. Like a pro.
- Took pictures of a huge waterfall, which I thought was absolutely gorgeous, but then again I’ve never really been to Niagara Falls, but then again again Niagara Falls are not in Iceland and therefore way less interesting.
- Iceland’s nature is absolutely stunning. It’s like Narnia, Middle-Earth, and Westeros. I also don’t watch Game of Thrones so don’t quote me on that last one, but I’m probably right.
- Went on a boat excursion to an island covered in puffins. They really are as adorable as they look on the Internet.
- Found a two-for-one happy hour at an Icelandic sports bar and chatted with some really cool Canadian backpackers. Realized I do not have the fortitude to be a Canadian backpacker.
- Ate a lobster roll from a food truck. No, seriously, I went to Reykjavik and I had a lobster roll. It was both delicious as well as outside.
- Counted my blessings that Reykjavik is a small, infinitely walkable European city and not a beast like NYC or London (foreshadowing!).
- There is free WiFi on the buses between Reykjavik and KEF and it is THE BEST GIFT EVER.
- Stayed in a small flat in Battersea with a cool Brazilian expat.
- The English speak English. Yay.
- Forgot that the UK has their own style of outlet that’s not an EU outlet. Cool Brazilian host had a spare adapter, thankfully.
- Learned that I’m really bad at figuring out the cheapest kind of transit pass / ticket to buy for an extended stay in a foreign country.
- Also learned that any financial mistakes you make in the UK will utterly wreck you because exchange rates.
- Had Chinese food in London’s Chinatown.
- Partied at a London club until 3am, also accidentally went to the club where Foxes ended up doing a short set. Amazing.
- Was a complete and unashamed tourist: took pictures of all the landmarks, lots of them were selfies, and I feel completely justified in all of my choices.
- Appreciated that British museums are free to the public, and spent lots of time in the National Gallery and the British Museum (mummies!). Seriously USA, get it together with the free museum thing.
- Ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in 7 years (!!!) who I did not know was living and studying in London.
- Realized that London is BIG and that learning the buses, tube, and overground is a must.
- Did a handstand over the Prime Meridian at Greenwich Observatory.
- Pub food and pub drinks are the best food and drinks.
- Staying in a hostel near the Kallio neighborhood in Helsinki.
- Hostels are not AirBnBs. In any way, shape, or form.
- Traveled from the airport to Helsinki with Rebecca Brees (IHP DPT ’16) and her friend Elias, who is from Finland. He gave us a tour of the grocery store near the hostel so I wasn’t totally lost trying to buy groceries.
- Took a ferry to the island Suomenlinna, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site (other notable sites include the Tower of London, Giza in Egypt, and Old City Tallinn in Estonia). Rock beaches and old fortresses with cannons!
- Met the other 24 members of the IIP, including 1 PT student from Seton Hall, 4 OT students and 4 of my PT classmates from MGH IHP, 6 Danish students from Metropol University (3 Nutrition, 3 OT), and a bunch of Finnish students from Metropolia (PT, OT, and Social Services).
- Finns and Danes also speak pretty good English, even though they will profusely apologize for how “bad” their English is.
- Walked around Helsinki A LOT. Not as big/intimidating as London, but not as small as Reykjavik. Almost Boston-esque.
- Got a student card from Metropolia which let us get a crazy discount transit card for our stay (YES) and discounted food in the cafeteria when it finally opens (DOUBLE YES).
So that’s a quick overview of my travels so far. I’ve met some pretty awesome people and seen/done some really cool things already. I still have a month left, and I cannot wait to see what’s in store! A group of us are traveling to Tallinn this weekend (as I mentioned before), we’ve split up into teams of 5 and have met our community partners to begin the first phase of our IIP project (which I will elaborate on in another post), and we are trying to plan more fun things for us to do together during our time in Helsinki. Perhaps spectate a football game in the Olympic Stadium, Finland v. Faroe Islands? A chocolate factory tour with free chocolate? A Russian hockey league game? Travel to Lapland and maybe catch the Northern Lights? There are so many opportunities, I don’t want to miss a thing. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to travel abroad. I’ve already gotten close with the people staying at the hostel (5 IHP including me, the 1 Seton Haller and 2 of the Danish students), and we all want to visit each other’s home countries when this is over!
Look forward to more Jafar jokes and me talking about what the IIP program actually entails in a future blog post.
BRING ME THE LAMP!
-Ethan / Jafar