March 27, 2015

connected


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These past two weeks in Helsinki have been filled with stories; stories of friends very dear to me, stories of reconnected acquaintances, and stories of my family.
Living far from home and from the social hub I have built up for years before my departure is one of the heaviest sacrifices I have made. It was unforeseeable to imagine how difficult and sometimes how easy it has been to be so disconnected from everyone important that used to fill my days entirely.
How quickly the closest of friendships level down from knowledge of everyday details to broad sketches of developments in life. Living in England robs me of the knowledge of what my best friend enjoys for breakfast, who annoyed her that day, and that provoking article she read in the newspaper.
Snapchat and Whatsapp go a surprisingly long way here, but even voice messages and little videos of “what are you doing” are lovely but almost painful peeks into lives I am no longer a permanent part of.

The pattern is similar with close friends; a warm greeting, a lingering tight hug, the faint oddness of meeting each other once again and the silly small talk that is had while ordering something off the menu.
Why is it we always drink or eat when we meet? Funny social conventions imply that it is nice to have something to stir or to poke while having a conversation, just in case an awkward gap of silence grips the air. But it hardly does.

The conversation starts out with an enthusiastic, long-unfulfilled excitement to learn how the other has been doing. How is school, work, your love life, your passions, your mental state? How do you feel about your life direction? What are you proud of, dissatisfied with? What makes you get up in the morning? Who are you voting for?
It is nearly stressful to try and grasp every word that is eagerly pushed forward from one to another. How can we fit months of experiences into a few hours of conversation? How can we possibly relate all the passion, enthusiasm, heartbreak or love drunk, annoyances, sorrow and loss, confusion and hopelessness, sheer joy and community, into less than two hundred minutes? The task seems hopeless and all we can seem to do is to be thankful for every feeling related. I can’t help but hear my thoughts whisper to me in a somber tone: I regret not having this person in my everyday life.

At times I wish I could break into song to fully convey the joy I have experienced in my new life! How do I explain the amazing communities I’ve become a part of, the strange loneliness of a foreign land, the overwhelming chaotic of opportunities, the radiant friendships, the awkward acquaintances? Similarly, explaining the difficulties youth and change have imposed on my character, on my mind, seem entirely impossible to put just right without scripting out my thoughts beforehand. I am entirely anxious to answer this dear person’s queries as well as I can, and time again I feel I am unable to.

When she talks of her woes and worries, her joys and curiosities, I can’t help but study her eyes and her visage. I wish I could soak in all of her existence at once, burn it into my memory as something I could play back when I miss her again in three weeks time.
I pay special attention to the way she uses her arms to paint landscapes of words, to her posture, to her outfit. Often times I notice she has changed. She has matured. Her voice has new vibration to it, which I fail to recognise. She has changed her hair and it frames her face in a new way entirely. I often sit there in awe. She is beautiful. I soak in the gratitude of having her as some ever-changing and distant, but still truly important part of my life. As I listen my mind surfs on and wonders about the novel someone might write of us one day. The song I’ll write about her. The stories I’ll relate to my children about the wild wild 2010’s! The time we had!

What is amazing about my circle of friends is that one hardly knows another. I have always been one to make friends with very different types of people that rarely meet. I am a one-on-one type of girl. I feed off of immersing myself in communication between just two people. That kind of connection seems the most precious.

And even in this group of fifteen persons all different shapes and minds, the turbulences of life seem to be ever so similar. It comforts me greatly. No one has it all right. Everyone is battling something.

The beauty of seeing the richness of our lives up so close is realising that there is no one way to cope with being young. There is no one way to move on from heartbreak, to fit into a new community, to improve yourself, to love others. These past two weeks I listened, in awe, to the personal stories of fifteen of my closest friends. No two experiences were the same, no two reactions to adversity or success were the same. But what we all seemed to share is that being nineteen or twenty, is a time where we encounter the inevitability of change in our young lives. We are confused about our identities still or feel hope in finding them. We are all faced with difficult educational, romantic, financial, and emotional challenges. We all battle them. We all survive.

As I travel back to the new place I try to call home, I feel loss of these wonderful individuals. But even more than that, I am so grateful to witness the development of such a raw and beautiful generation. 

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March 24, 2015

banjo

Hello 

I am currently back home in Finland for the holidays and have been working on a few music projects in my spare time. I spent the loveliest day at the piano today, just playing for fun and recording any songs I enjoyed in particular. I'll be putting more out in upcoming days.

Over the weekend I visited an exhibition here in Helsinki in tribute to our national composer, Jean Sibelius. He was a great patron of the arts and his group of friends consisted of talented Finnish artists of his time. The exhibition displayed his music alongside with paintings and portraits by his dear friends. I was so inspired by the synergy between visual art and music and decided to try my hand at a Sibelius piece. "Finlandia" is undoubtedly his most famous piece, and a true national gem. It was arranged for choir much later, and I have performed this piece many times with my high school choir at Independence Day celebrations. It has a beautiful melody.

I decided to recreate the choir piece by singing all of the harmonies myself (the bass was the most difficult to learn). It holds its beauty in its simplicity. 


I have really been trying to soak myself in all things Finnish, including rediscovering some of my favorite Finnish artists. Scandinavian Music Group has been with me for years, and I decided to cover one of their somber songs, "Vieläkö soitan banjoa?" (Do I still play the banjo?). I admire the bluntness of the lyrics, and their ability to tell a vivid story.



A forest burns across the border
I only sleep
In the morning the streets are in smoke
And the sun in shrinking

You left for Paris
You said you were happy
The girl is beautiful and affable
I loathe her

No one is waiting for me
Why should I rise
Before the new snow
You call after all

I lost you long a go
You shoved your shoulders and walked away
This morning I want to forget
You ask if I've cut my hair
If I've changed
Do I still play the banjo after dark?

I sold my banjo
Last winter
But I still sing
Listen closely

This is the last song
I will sing to you
It is called
Too much too late

I hope you enjoy these little creations.
Maria

January 26, 2015

things I Learned in England


Hello!
I am back with a video on some cultural differences and random bits I wanted to share. Excited to get back into blogging. I have a million things to share!



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bicycles in Sloane Square

Maria

October 19, 2014

exploitation


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Weeks roll past at Warwick at an incomprehensible speed. No day is the same and I feel my motivations, desires, and interests being continuously jolted like an electric current.

The course of my life has taken so many violent turns in a short amount of time.
I am pursuing new, challenging goals that I never even saw coming before I came here.
I want to put out fishing nets all around this ocean. Maybe then I'll end up catching some fish. 



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Am I building myself a new identity?
I don't like to think of it in that way. I am building on my identity, adding layers to what makes me me, filing the edges, smoothing down the corners, going forward.

I want to be sharp. Quick, clever, on top of my game. I want to feel in control of my mind.
We have been reading the Gorgias by Plato in philosophy and I have really enjoyed it as it has motivated me to have a new kind of grip on myself. I realise drawing upon ancient philosophy for self-motivation seems a little silly, and while I disagree with many things Socrates argues in this dialogue, it has brought me fuel.

Socrates advocates ruling yourself; being self-disciplined and in control of yourself, mastering the pleasure and desires that arise in you. He argues that a good mind is a self-disciplined and organised one. A self-disciplined person is just, brave, a kind of paradigm of goodness. He argues it is the path to happiness. This happiness, eudaimonia, is a form of human flourishing.
Doesn't that sound beautiful? While this explanation is a definite over-simplification, it is something I want to try. Blooming and flourishing, yes please.

What are these habits I try to smooth out of my mind?
Laziness, moping around, negative thoughts and discouragement, loneliness, feeling mentally unstimulated, not being focused, and not having a high awareness of what I am doing, seeing, learning, reading, or feeling.
I just have this constant desire to be better, to do better, to create more profound, more complex, more beautiful things.
So maybe to explain this to you in a more concrete fashion, I'll mention a few things I have been working on.


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Working on my degree is top priority. Every week we are expected to accomplish a decent amount for each module.
Politics is all reading at the moment. We have weekly reading lists that I sometimes struggle to keep up with. They have a couple chapters from around five books in the core reading (i.e. compulsory) and the supplementary list is very, very long. For tutorials we are to read from around four works very closely as the content of the tutorial will heavily be discussion based on the reading.

Economics is mostly just comprehension of basic concepts right now. We are required to do one problem set a week on our own and another during our tutorials, plus a bit of reading. I've learned a few new things and I like the mathematical perspective they take on here. I am being questioned about minuscule details I didn't think about before. It is nice to find new curiosities in simple concepts such as demand and supply or elasticities.


In philosophy we read Plato's Gorgias and are now moving onto Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill. Every week we would read a certain amount of pages and answer some questions based on the passage for each lecture. Quite straightforward.

In maths we are to do a formal problem set each week that is checked in the tutorial. However, as my mathematical aptitude is not at the level I want it to be yet, I am trying to do some supplementary exercises to get a good rhythm going. 


My degree work however, isn't the only thing that is keeping me busy. I have been attending every event hosted by Warwick Finance Societies in hopes of gathering as much information and motivation to help me succeed in my applications for spring internships at investment banks.
I have been to networking events, mentoring sessions, and lectures on the technicalities of trading foreign exchange. I have mock interviews, CV clinics, and more networking coming up next week. It is such a dynamic and competitive industry that would be so stimulating to get into.
As my degree doesn't include any finance, I have been trying to pick up some of the basic concepts by reading and researching online. The support and opportunities on offer here at Warwick blow my mind.

When something challenging, competitive, and interesting is dangled at my eyes, I just can't resist reaching for it. 


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I have also been listening to amazing talks. A few weeks a go Tim Harford, a renowned economic writer (author of the Undercover Economist) spoke to us about economic forecasting in his amusingly anecdotal talk.
Sometimes I feel like not only is the value of these talks in the content itself, but in the surge of motivation and drive it gives me to hear an expert speaking of a topic in their field.

Last week Alastair Newton, a political analyst for the bank Nomura, briefly covered the most important political conflicts and their possible effects on certain market variables. His presence made me so giddy.
It is so wonderful to meet people who have a strong grip of what is happening in their field. Makes me want to know so much about something I love. I want to be able to confidently answer any tricky questions fired at me. I wish to be able to offer top of the class analysis that can lead to good decisions. These are the reasons I am even in university.

I want to write an article for 'Perspectives', a political magazine on campus hosted by the Politics society. They are giving me free hands to pick any topic I desire. Isn't that amazing?


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These activities have left me in a state of hunger to do more, to know more, and accomplish more. In fact, I start feeling anxious if hours have passed and I haven't made progress on my to do list. 
This is something I need to work on.  Not only do I want to be productive, I also wish to be comfortable with just floating for a little while. Having time away from everything. Taking walks in nature, exercising, working on our photography with my boyfriend and jamming on the ukulele with my friend have done those things for me.
I started salsa classes! I cannot even tell you how much joy and confidence I get from it. I have a few friends doing it with me and it is such a great release to learn more moves and improvise during the freestyle portion of the class.
I am also keeping up with my musical interests by going to Glee club each week. Singing has always been my go-to outlet when I am stressed. Singing a cappella with others is even better.


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Doing so much requires a lot of organisation and thinking. I try to take one day a week to sit down and plan the week ahead, day by day. I try to organise my mind like this too.
I took a the night bus up to Glasgow to visit my boyfriend this past week. I had a transfer in Birmingham and at 3 am as I was walking around the sleeping city I had a moment.
I just realised how crazy this all is. How brilliant I can make my life. How fortunate I am to have these opportunities, to have so much love in my life. I can't even comprehend how privileged I am.

A part of me is afraid that I'll let these opportunities go to waste or that I will fail in my pursuits. I just have to keep going, keep putting in the effort, keep reaching for excellence.

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breakfast in Glasgow after four hours of sleep on the nightbus

Ben Howard came out with his new album this week and I have been obsessed with this one line in it:
'It's in your nature
Blooms inside your blood'


I aspire to reach excellence.
Living like this is in my nature, in my blood. 


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photos by Ilkka Matias Kumpula

October 7, 2014

the arrival

I do not know where to begin. With a week at University of Warwick under my belt, I am overwhelmed. But in a good way. Yes, good.

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I thought moving here would be easy and exciting. I couldn't foresee the spectrum of emotions I would experience by leaving behind so many dear friends and my entire family. My last week in Finland was very difficult as I parted with everything that had built my life there. I looked at Helsinki with adoring eyes, silently weeping as I walked passed the pastel coloured buildings of the city for the last time. Next time I'd only be a temporary visitor, and Helsinki wouldn't be mine again for a very long time.

So after a couple heartbreaking farewell dinners and my farewell party, I packed all my things into two very large suitcases and flew out to Heathrow with my parents.
One-way ticket.

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Giggling at a burger in Kew Gardens

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After a day of shopping for my flat in London and saying goodbye to my parents, we arrived here. At my new home.

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What initially threw me off was that I had never even visited Warwick before. I had only seen pictures and videos, heard lovely things, and harboured my own visions of the campus for so long. When we arrived here, it all looked even more beautiful than in the pictures. I couldn't believe my flat window overlooked a peaceful green and let in the morning sun. I was in a kind of horrible awe.

Shortly after claiming my flat we went to peruse through the fresher's fair and deal with some administrative business. Suddenly I was surrounded by hundreds of exciting people, all shoving flyers, discounts, information, and free domino's pizza in my face. The piazza boomed with loud music and I was having a tough time keeping my pulse down. Too much, too much. I was too nervous to eat, too busy taking in my new surroundings and wrapping my head around the fact that I had arrived.

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After listening to a parent's welcome speech with my mother, my aunt, my mother, and my cousin left. I was too freaked out to be emotional. I made a trek to the grocery store and tried to figure out how many was too many pence for a bag of pasta.

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After my puzzling arrival, fresher's week set into motion. Here it lasts two weeks, but runs along with lectures. The first week was a surreal big blur of parties, first lectures, sports, societies, and hundreds of new people. I got drenched in slimy fluorescent paint at the paint party, sat in kitchens until four a.m. discussing more and less deep matters. I was so impressed with all my lecturers and through it all, I felt like I was on some sort of vacation.
I still feel like that actually. My room still feels a bit like a hotel room when I wake up, and trekking through the campus in the morning is quite unreal.

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I feel happy here. I feel the immense potential of this dynamic place.
Right outside my house there is a peaceful duck pond that is the perfect spot to come to and read. I am planning to buy a bike a take little Sunday cycles in the beautiful vicinity. Many of my peers studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics are brilliant, interesting people.
I could tell you so many things about how Warwick is overwhelming, amazing.

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My boyfriend visited from Glasgow last weekend and it made this place feel more like home. It was so lovely to explore the area with him and try our hand at proper cooking. We did some lovely photography I'll show you soon and I made a pumpkin pie :3

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The maths and statistics building is my favourite by far. I love the playful water jets and the water lilies. Call me silly, but I'd like to sit there and zone out back to Giverny.

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There is constantly something going on here it's insane. Taster sessions, socials, seminars, guest speakers...
Last week we listened to a panel of economic and political experts answering students' questions about our economy.


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One evening I was feeling  a little lonely and found an empty piano room in the Arts Centre. I sat there for hours, playing and singing. It was such a release to get a away for a little while.

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Everyone keeps going on about how difficult my course is, and from what I've gathered, I love it already.  I love how there is much variety. One day I'll be focused on multivariate calculus and Plato, the other, I'll be learning about Marxism or quantitative easing.
PPE students are required to take 4 year long modules; Economics 1, Intro to Politics, Intro to Philosophy, and Mathematical Techniques (which includes maths, stats, and data analysis). I also chose an additional microeconomics module that focuses on game theory and firm strategy and a politics module titled 'political economy'. I decided to challenge myself and go for the difficult math course, as I am interested in taking up econometrics next year. It will probably be a struggle.
I am going to challenge myself here. This is the first time ever that I am so in love with everything that I am studying.
What can I say- honestly it couldn't be better.


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What I managed to snag from the PPE booksale. Coursebooks are insanely expensive (up to 70 pounds) and buying most of them second hand is a must for me.

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I have been trying to get this post together for ever and I have never been pleased with it. My thoughts are so jumbled and I feel I can't really really fathom them into anything more comprehensive. So this is it for now. 

There are so many things I want to share and I hope I'll get myself straightened out and settled in so I can get back to better blogging.

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Over this past week I have discovered new things about myself; how I am not quite as fearless and outgoing as I thought to be.
But I am brave. That I know now.


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September 21, 2014

peripheral vision



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As I walk my heavily worn path home from the bus stop, the music lulls me into a strange state of heightened awareness.
Have these trees by this familiar road always been so three-dimensional? So tall, so wide, so majestic? A weak wind blows through the foliage and rocks the scenery slightly. Suddenly I become aware of the orange light bouncing on each surface it reaches. This spot, this space I pause in has never seemed as present as it is now. I have passed it daily for twelve years, and only now its true nature is revealed to me.

I lift my glance and a sky of navy blue explodes before me. Opaque clouds, static as ever, join with others and let through the thin glimmer of midnight stars. This moment in space and in time turns rounder, as if to surround me more completely. I am being hugged by this scenery. And indeed, even though it may seem so very real, it is a scenery and I am the spectator. It seems nearly impossible for those orange-lit leaves to be touched with a human finger.
I do not need to use my fingers to touch them. The sphere like shape of this moment eases distance and ables me to tickle the sleeping branches with my eyes. Oh how lush and fluffy and grand these trees are. Day by day, driven by, never admired. Framing a road toward home, and only now on the eve of departure, we are introduced.


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I wrote down this little epiphany around a month a go very late at night. What it is trying to convey is the massive change of perspective I have experienced this past summer. Growing up and taking a leap of independence will change me for sure, however there have been more subtle, more surprising developments as of late. I have begun to see my surroundings clearly. To actually look at the wonderful faces of the people that pass me on the street, to hear the engines purring by, to sense the echoing silence of deserted streets at four am.
Not only am I taking a closer look at my environment, but my thoughts as well. It is as if I am only now able to follow the trails of my ideas and view them in retrospect. While this all might sound strange, haven't we all felt that moment? Pausing and dropping everything, just for a little while, and entering a state of heightened awareness, in which all that made you anxious and felt fuzzy before, was now pristinely clear.

I realize now that what Alduous Huxley called "the doors of perception" have opened for me in more ways than one this summer. I feel the strength and clarity in my peripheral vision in an entirely new, brilliant way.     

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all images by ilkka matias kumpula

September 14, 2014

jump into the fog



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The denim jacket you wear rhymes with your ocean eyes. They are large like two full moons blinking at me in unison, in awe. Your firm hug melts my torso into soft wood. Breathing, warm, and wise.

We sit side by side in this dusty tube carriage. Elbows colliding, knees meeting in jerks of the rail. The soft light hay that sits on your head brushes my cheek as you settle on my bony shoulder. My body pulses forward and backward as lights flicker shut. The barking metal beneath us loops its verse as we travel on into a destination of darkness.


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In two weeks I'll be gone. Out of here. Possibly for a very long time.
I have been giving England so much thought lately. My new home.
My thoughts keep returning to the week we spent in London this past July with my boyfriend. I compiled these photos moments sort of to remind myself what it might be like there. Even though I have visited more times than I have fingers or toes for, permanently moving is a whole other story.

My boyfriend moved to Scotland for university two days a go and the reality of being in a long distance relationship is yet to dawn on me. Helsinki feels a little empty with so many of my loved ones already on the little green island.
The more absent I feel in this city, the more I am drawn to thoughts of London and the wonderful things I have experienced there. I flipped through a cursive filled Moleskine and came across the short moment in writing of us in the tube, going somewhere.

Right in this moment I feel so out of place.  Here I am, waiting to leave, waiting to say goodbye to all that I have known for the past decade and jump into the fog.

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August 27, 2014

limbo

In 29 days my life will change irrevocably. Waiting for it to happen is exciting, frustrating, unsettling. I have never not had to go to school on August 11th.
The Finnish weather gods and headmasters plot together and agree that autumn rain and chill commences exactly on August 11th. And so it does. Every year.
As I lounge around inside (it rains every day) with pools of free time still to be filled until move to university in England, I have been reflecting on what this summer has been and where I want to stretch it further.

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In my mind I see my summer in different phases.
June was for healing. Sleeping, laughing, and slowly but surely coming back to a world of possibilities. Rebuilding friendships and strenghtening connections. Making money for July.

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July was for adventures. London, Paris, Helsinki. Along with my boyfriend and my new group of friends we ventured in forests, in foreign streets, conversations until the sunrise and beyond. I lived a life of the incredible.

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August has been a month of intellectual reform. Being reborn back into a world of curiosities, of creation. My mind was ready to be truly hungry again.
I have indulged in Alduous Huxley's tales of utopia, of psychedelia; Orwell's clever politically shaded works of fiction with greater underlying meaning. I have been introduced into the world of analysing data in out-of-the-box ways by Malcolm Gladwell and Stephen J. Dubner's and Steven D. Levitt's world of Freakonomics. TED talks have been my breakfast club.
Sometimes evenings with Khan Academy math games have felt more stimulating than actual social contact...
I have returned to my favourite library and sat in a lap of sunlight as I leaf through yet another opus of wonder.

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So what is September? I want to continue broadening my mind with all sorts of literary and artistic stimuli, but I also want to take those influences and turn them into something of my own. I want to write more, photograph more, create more. That shall be my goal.
Besides that, it will a month of goodbyes and preparations. My loan contracts have been filled out, but I need to give my mind a minute to adjust to the idea that England will be my new home. My new environment will be a beautiful campus, and the people around me? 23 420 strangers.
Oh, the potential.

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p.s. in case you didn't notice, the hair is also gone.

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 and I'm planning to go shorter.