Windsor, N.J. - There is a phrase that Mercer County Community
College Entertainment Technology student Melissa Neumeyer
is unlikely to forget. In her three-week Study Abroad experience
in Finland this summer, she found herself often repeating
"Anteeksi," the Finnish word for "Pardon me?"
Navigating a new country and a strange language proved challenging
at times, but Neumeyer says she rapidly developed great friendships
that helped her get the most from her trip. Especially helpful
was her home stay host, Helena. "All the stress of my
14-hour journey dissolved when I saw Helena at the airport,"
Neumeyer's host treated her like one of the family, helping
her plan her itinerary and giving her tips on navigating the
trains and metro system. "Helena really launched me.
We went places together and she also let me go off on my own,"
Neumeyer's experience was one of total cultural immersion.
While her initial motivation for traveling to Finland was
its rock music, she notes that "the more I learned about
the country, the more I fell in love." She toured numerous
sights, including museums and historic squares and fortresses.
In a country where children learn English almost as early
as they learn Finnish, she was able to engage in discussions
of music, politics, economics, and the government's generous
approach to funding higher education. She enjoyed their delicioius
food, and she gradually got used to sunset at midnight and
sunrise at 3 a.m.
There was time for relaxation as well. "I used Helena's
indoor 'sauna,' which is typical of Finnish households. Neumeyer
also went to the summer cottage of new friends she met on
the train, where she enjoyed an outdoor sauna set back in
the woods. "Most people escape to their summer cabins
and saunas on the lake for their 'holiday' -- what we call
vacation. They celebrate the midsummer festival of 'Juhannus'
to enjoy the short time they have in warm temperatures and
Neumeyer says she felt very safe everywhere she went, as incidents
of crime and homelessness are extremely rare.
Neumeyer notes proudly that her Finnish language skills improved
dramatically, something she began preparing for well in advance
of her trip by studying Finnish. As a parting gift, one of
her new friends gave her some Finnish children's books to
help her continue to study the language.
trip has given me more interest in learning the languages
of the entire Scandinavian region, including Swedish, Norwegian
and Russian. Perhaps this will benefit me in future job prospects,"
Neumeyer says. "My desire and ability to quickly pick
up languages is great to have."
In conjunction with MCCC's Study Abroad Coordinator Andrea
Lynch, Neumeyer organized her trip through the National Registration
Center for Study Abroad. She earned college credit as part
of Mercer's Independent Study Abroad course, which included
a presentation upon her return.