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Have myself a Merry little first Christmas in Turku

Hello! I’m Kayla, an international graduate student from the United States. Here in Turku, I live in one of the studio apartments at TYS. I’m here studying East Asian Studies at the University of Turku.

Having the opportunity to come and live in Turku is like a dream. I was a little nervous at first, but being able to live in one of the TYS apartments has taken a lot of the stress off of moving to a new country and made the transition much easier. Turku is a wonderful city and, so far, everyone I have met has been super kind. Before Covid-19 lockdowns, I knew I wanted to travel but there was always an excuse to put it off for later. But when my home country was placed on lockdown, it made me realize that if there is something I want to do, I shouldn’t wait. So, when I got the opportunity to study here in Finland, I decided to take a leap of faith and made the move.

This year will be the first holiday season I’ll be on my own in a number of years but I have made friends here who have invited me to visit their hometown here. My Finnish professor has also given a lot of information on events in Turku and how Finland celebrates Christmas which makes it a lot easier to be able to participate in city events. In the meantime, I have been decorating my apartment with little Christmas and winter nicknacks and eating plenty of
gingerbread cookies. I picked up knitting again and have enjoyed many nights in my room, watching movies, knitting, and drinking glögi.

Back home, I like to begin celebrating Christmas right after Thanksgiving on the 24th November. In the States, we tend to like to use artificial Christmas trees (although I know there are families that go to tree farms to pick their tree out every year). My mother and I have a fake Christmas tree that already has string lights on it. Usually, I decorate the tree on my own, mainly because my mother does the heavy lifting with putting the tree together.

One of my favorite traditions is going to the Christmas market in Baltimore city. They call it a German Christmas Market so much of the food is German and some of my favorite things to eat.

This year, I still get to go to a Christmas market and may go more than once. I tend to spend Christmas Eve making far too many Christmas cookies with my best friend. On the day of Christmas, we exchange gifts, have a small meal (and tons of cookies) while watching Christmas movies.

This year, I plan on watching my favorite movies, The Muppets’ Christmas Carol and The Santa Clause, making hot cocoa, and video-calling my family via Duo. In the coming weeks, I look forward to going to the Christmas market in the center square, making Christmas cookies, going skating, and more knitting.

Kayla Barrett
TYS Tenant Blogger