Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Wherever you go...

... And there you are.

This simple expression has taken on so much meaning for me when, all of a sudden, I found myself re-starting my life in a new country, a new city, and creating a new home. About a month ago I stepped off a plane onto Finnish soil... and there I was!

Ever since my first Junior World Champs in Sweden in 2008 I have always wanted to live and orienteer in Scandinavia. After finishing my Bachelor's degree in France I decided that it was time to put Phase II of my master plan into action. Complete chaos ensued with university and visa applications, packing and last-minute furniture selling but, skipping the details, I can now say that I am an official Master's degree student in Turku, Finland!

How did it all fit?! Thanks to Amel and Philippe for the skateboards for easy transportation! photo: Amelie Chataing

This will be my fifth year of living in Europe and, honestly, I haven't seen the time fly by! I feel so fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to live and train in France because it really has shaped me into the human being and athlete I am today. I learned so much from star athletes like Thierry Gueorgiou, Amélie Chataing, Philippe Adamski. I am so grateful for the overwhelming support from the French National Team, le Pôle France, and my French club le NOSE; they were all fantastic!!!

The French Connection: when it all started in 2009! 
Can never get enough of these smiles! photo: Theau le Loch
JWOC 2012 memories :) photo: Simon Leroy

I learned many things the hard way: how to properly take care of an injury, how to not over-train myself during a training camp, and how to balance training, school and sleep. However, I have also been so inspired by seeing things first hand: what happens behind the scenes before the big race day and the dedication and commitment required to really go after your dreams. All this knowledge and these unforgettable experiences are what I'm able to take away from my time in France as I strive to become an even better orienteer here in Finland.

Incredible training camps with the French team! photo: Willy Guillemin

Since this isn't the first time that I've moved to a new country I knew what to expect when I would have to furnish a new apartment, sort out a bank account and a telephone number, and just adapt to a new lifestyle in general. I knew it would be difficult at first but that everything would eventually fall into place. 

A Canadian teammate (Will Critchley) in Finland! photo: Toni Louhisola

What I didn't expect though was the immense generosity I received from the stupendous orienteering families living in Turku. I can remember running and smiling to myself one day while thinking about all the lovely new people I had met so far and how incredibly lucky I am. It's like having an extended family spread across the entire world! It really says something about orienteering as a sport when you can arrive in a new county and already feel like you're at home. I am so grateful to everyone who has so warmly welcomed me to Turku... kiitos!!

Turku has fantastic biking...
...And orienteering!

I think I will be really happy here :)