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Future Leaders -stipendiaatit

Kuva: US Embassy

Future Leaders -stipendiaattina Yhdysvalloissa

Future Leaders -vaihto-ohjelman stipendiaatit viettävät kesällä kuusi viikkoa Yhdysvalloissa. Ohjelma on suunnattu 16–17-vuotiaille, aktiivisille ja yhteiskunnallisista asioista kiinnostuneille lukiolaisille. Sen teemoina ovat johtajuustaidot ja aktiivinen kansalaisuus.

Kesäksi 2016 oli jaossa yhteensä 30 täysstipendiä, joista 15 on suunnattu suomalaisille nuorille ja 15 amerikkalaisille nuorille, jotka puolestaan vierailevat Suomessa.

Tässä blogissa vaihtarit kertovat kokemuksistaan. Seuraa nuoria maailmalla ja osallistu keskusteluun!

Future Leaders on CIMOn ja Yhdysvaltain suurlähetystön rahoittama, vaihto-oppilasjärjestö AFS:n toteuttama uusi ohjelma. Lue lisää: Future Leaders

About Finland

First Impressions: Simply Stunning

My time in Finland has been going great so far! On Friday, my host family let me rest a bit before I went out on a walk around the neighbor with my host mother. I live in the countrysides of Finland, in Myllykoski, where the land is mostly flat and filled with idyllic green pasture and farmland, glittering lakes, and forests streaming with life. It is truly a one of a kind experience.

When I first arrived, I felt at home, and although it took me a day or two to adjust to the jetlag, I really loved my surroundings. The house has a lovely garden, and there are plenty of things to do, such as biking, picking berries, playing a variety of sports in the community, and more. The blog below will include all aspects of my Finnish life with my host parents here during my six weeks, from fun trips to Finnish culture and government.

Kyle with host family

My take of Finnish culture, government, and history

Finland has been a great experience, and in addition to exploring the nature that Finland has to show, my host parents and brother have also told me a lot about Finnish history, government, and culture. In contrast to the United States, Finland has several parties in government, with minor parties holding considerable power, especially in contrast to the United States where two major parties dominate politics.

Furthermore, despite a 24% sales tax on many items, college education is almost free and in the cases in which it is not, the government provides a stipend for students that more than covers the cost of not only tuition, but also for rent, such as for an apartment, as dorms are not common. Moreover, I am particularly impressed with the education system, which is rated as one of the best in the world according to PISA results. This really proved to be true when we visited the University of Helsinki and Applied Sciences, where we learned about the hands on approach at the UAS as well as the freedom and open teaching styles teachers were given.

What also surprised me was how environmentally friendly Finns seem to be; one curious fact is that many of the toilets have two functions to flush using larger or smaller amounts of water. This care towards the environment around them was extremely endearing.

Furthermore, my host family also took me on a trip to the National Museum of History in Helsinki, where I learned a lot about Finnish origins, dating all the way from the early 1100s.

Culture Shocks

Having heard a couple of things from different people about Finland, I soon found that they were misconceptions when I finally got to know my family a lot better. The typical stereotype of the silent and withdrawn Finn is actually not very true; in contrast, it would be more apt to say that they do not feel awkward when there is silence, while Americans, including me, might feel the need to break the silence. In fact, everyone I have met during my six-week stay have been extremely nice to me, and even some who couldn’t manage to speak English very well still attempted to strike up a discussion with me. Personally, I have become a lot more comfortable with nature and its silence, and being more reflective and introspective.

Another culture shock that I got was when I first tasted black licorice. I had bought an ice cream that had some kind of black syrup on top, which I automatically assumed was chocolate, and I had a huge shock when I tasted the ice cream and discovered it was a taste completely different from chocolate. It was soon explained to me that the syrup was in fact black liquorice, a well-known Finnish delicacy and candy, but it was still quite the shock for me.

Fun Trips

My host parents took me on many fun trips during my stay here, but the two that stood out to me really were our trip to Estonia as well as our hiking trip at Repovesi National Park. At Estonia, we took a ferry to tour the beautiful town of Old Town, in which I was able to learn about its rich history and culture. In fact, Tallin, the city capital of Estonia, has history dating as far back to the 1200s, in which Old Town was an exquisite and beautiful medieval trading place on the coast of the Baltic. I even got a very cool opportunity to go up an old medieval watchtower, and it was interesting to see the far reaching view the watchtower provided of the area, and I could only imagine its vast benefits in spotting approaching intruders during the medieval times.

Kyle in Tallin

We also took a great hiking trip to Repovesi National Park, which is one of the largest national parks in the southern part of Finland. The nature was extremely beautiful and close up-- in fact, the government did not monitor the environment closely, and we saw many fallen trees which were left there in order to preserve the nature. The government only removed the trees if they were in the way of the trail, and we even trekked through a swamp in the middle of the forest too. I was really impressed with this care for the environment, which I see throughout everyday life here, in contrast to the carefully maintained parks in the United States.

Moreover, one other fun trip we had was going to our grandmother’s summer cottage by the lake, which my family would often go to to relax during the summer. There, we swam, went rowing and fishing, picked blueberries, and played board games, including a game that translates to English as “New finance.” The game was a better version of Monopoly, in my opinion, and a Finnish classic.

Row row row a boat

Conclusion

Throughout my six weeks, I feel this trip to Finland has been one of the best experiences I have had in my life so far. Not only is it just my first trip to Europe but also opened my eyes to a new culture and style of living. I can feel that my life has certainly been changed, and I cannot wait until I return to Finland again. One step of my journey may have ended, but another begins again, coupled with new insight, friends, and an amazing family. I have embraced an entirely new culture with open arms, experiencing the day-to-day life of a Finn, discovering the balance of their strong work ethic but also having fun and enjoying time with family and friends.

Thank you Finland, but most importantly, I would like to thank my host parents, who have made my time here in Finland unforgettable and truly amazing. You have given me an experience that will last with me for the rest of my life.

Sincerely,
Kyle Zhu

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Päivitetty 08.08.2016   Tulosta
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