Making Spirits Bright: Surviving the Dark Winter in Finland

"Kaamos" is the Finnish word for "polar nights:" some places don't see sun for three months. Helsinki, where I am, is southerly enough to get some light--almost seven hours per day now! Still, it's not as luxurious as the nine and a half hours Toronto has. On the bright side (pun intended), my Finnish friends have shared some "Winter Survival Tips" that I am definitely bringing home with me! Bedtime and Morning Routines Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is never easy as a student, but it gets harder when there's no sunlight to guide you! I'm not an early riser, and it's really difficult for me to wake up at 8:00 when it's completely dark. I also lose track of time at night, since it gets dark at 4:00 pm! Keeping a bedtime routine has helped me get to sleep. I try to turn off my screens half an hour before sleeping, and clear my mind by writing in a journal and reading a little before bed.
A pen and pencil case rest on top of a journal. Another notebook is in the background,
I have just started journalling, and I really enjoy it!
Exploring the Great Outdoors When the sun is only out from 9:00-4:00, you can spend a day without ever seeing it! I try to enjoy the outdoors whenever I can. This weekend, I went walking with friends around Sibeliuksen Puisto (Sibelius Park). But using parks doesn't require daylight here! The paths are lit when it gets dark, and they're full of joggers and cyclists as early as 7:00 AM!  If I time my morning run right, I can watch the sun rise while I run.
A stream runs through a park, with trees on either side. The water reflects early morning light.
I came across this stream while running at 9:00 am.
Two girls walk down a path in a park. The setting sun is shining through the trees, creating shadows. The sea is in the distance.
Walking with my friends through Sibelius park at sunset, around 3:30 pm.
Exploring the Great Indoors Like Toronto, sometimes the weather in Helsinki makes outdoor activities impossible. Luckily, there are plenty of indoor adventures, from museums, to concerts, to indoor markets! As a Sibelius Academy student, I get free tickets to many concerts, including the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Museums in Helsinki can be quite expensive, even for students. I miss my free Tuesdays at the ROM, and free admission at the AGO!
Museum patrons look at paintings hung from blue walls, beneath a domed ceiling with black and white patterns on it. The focal point is a circular skylight.
I visited the Rex Museum, a modern art museum, on my first day in Finland.
Exercise, Indoors and Out! Exercising in the morning helps me wake up even when my retinas are saying I should sleep. I already mentioned running outside, but I've also found a gym that offers good student rates. I miss Saturday morning yoga at Hart House but it's pretty cool taking yoga classes in Finnish! Hot Drinks, Warm Treats, and Overall Coziness According to the International Coffee Association, Finland is the world's second biggest consumer of coffee per capita! It makes a lot of sense: the coffee here is pretty amazing. A warm drink, a candle and a blanket can transform a late-night study session into an almost positive experience. I'm also addicted to Korvapuusti--Finnish cinnamon buns!
A table is decked with cups of coffee and hot chocolate, and pastries. There is a lamp on the table, and on the wall in the background are paintings and a mirror.
Coffee and Korvapuusti at Helsinki's oldest Cafe, "Regatta"
A city street at night, with lanterns hanging across the street, and holiday lights draped from trees and buildings. Two streetcars are travelling down the street.
Lights in downtown Helsinki bring the city to life at night

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