All posts by Sonja Honkamaa

A pianist on exchange

My exchange year in Denmark is reaching its end. I ended up in Aarhus quite randomly – I knew nothing about the city nor the music academy when applying here. However, after being accepted I was really looking forward to a year abroad and ready for a new adventure. I did not know what was waiting for me, but loved the idea of going.

Moving in was easy, I got a lovely apartment very close to the school and Aarhus seemed really nice. My good feeling didn´t really change after the first impression – everything worked great, the school seemed really good, I met nice people and I was very impressed after the first piano lesson with my new teacher. I felt so lucky, how could everything be so well? Well, it could.

My daily life in Aarhus consist of practising, teaching and common classes like ear training, music history etc. Every week there is a piano lesson with my teacher and addition to playing solo, I have studied accompaniment with singers and chamber music with other instrumentalists. Most of my studying time goes for practising and one of the main reasons why I enjoy studying here is the great facilities for practising and having a lot of time for it.

The school also offers the students a lot of opportunities to perform. The piano class  has student concerts about every three or four weeks. In the beginning of the study year we had an annual piano festival OPUS organised by the piano students. This year the theme was L. van Beethoven´s music and I must say that it was great way to start the semester and get into the piano class.

I spend my free time hanging out with my friends from school or doing sports, either at the gym lifting weights or running in a park nearby. I really love to spend time with the piano class. We are different kind of people from around the Europe sharing the same interest. During the year we have had such a good time together, numerous discussions about music and piano, nerdy jokes, dinners at the school´s rooftop, after-concert beers in the local pub, group lessons on Saturday afternoons and a lot more.

Both The Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus and Tamk in Tampere have their own strengths and weaknesses. The studying follows the same principles in both schools so that in the end there are not any really big differences. The courses are quite similar and my schedule looked about the same in both places. It was mainly the studying environment which made the difference for me. There is something I really like about the music academy here in Aarhus – the physical studying environment, practising facilities, the common atmosphere among the student and the teachers. I can say that the Erasmus year has been the best studying year for me so far. I have learnt so much about piano, music, myself and life overall. But without the great education I got in Finland I would not have ended up here in Aarhus.

What does Finnishness mean for me?

The two things that came to my mind when I started to think what Finnishness ment for me were the seasons of the year and as a food lover, Finnish food of course.

During 12 months Finland goes through four completely different seasons, and I think it´s fantastic. Every season has it´s own lovely sides. Let´s start with the fall. Every time it comes I always feel like getting a new start, it´s like having a blank page in front of you. I love the chilly mornings, beautiful sunsets and ruska (that´s when the leaves start getting brown, yellow and red before falling off). And the best thing is yet to come; Christmas!

Winter is the time for wool socks, hot cocoa and candles. (At least on holidays…) My absolutely favourite part of winter is going to sauna and ice-swimming. It´s just crazy to dip yourself into icy water but believe me, it´s worth it! Even though during the winter the day is really short, every day after Christmas it´s still getting longer and longer all the time, just little by little.

Then the spring. After the loooong winter the spring feels like heaven. The first sight of the sun is just something unbelievable.Usually the spring is so busy at school that there is quite little time to enjoy it but still the increasing amount of light just gives you so much more energy.

The last but not the least, summer. It´s something you feel like waiting forever, and before you realize it´s already August…  Still in the summer the Finns get out of their caves, get even chatty and surely enjoy every bit of sunshine they can get.

…and then it starts all over again. And I just love it!

The food. Sometimes it´s said that Finnish food isn´t really a big thing. Weird it may be, but I could never let go of rye bred, Carelian pies, mämmi, cabbage stew or rice porridge. I think those are the things I´ll miss most during my student exhange 😀