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Future Leaders 2018 -blogi
Interesting conversations, inspiring meetings, lifelong friends (Bella)
My mom sent me an email one day with the classically ambiguous subject line “maybe you should check this out???”. I left the email unopened for a few days, adding to the ever growing pile, waiting for the fated day when I would have to open them all and respond to every 'Spanish Word of the Day' and articles about the dangers of microwave popcorn.
However, when I did eventually open it, it contained a hidden gem of an opportunity to travel to Helsinki, Finland from Washington D.C. and surrounding areas. Immediately, I marked it as a possible plan for my summer.
I was in the midst of applying for colleges and incredibly stressed with deadlines and school projects, but I managed to complete the AFS application and just hoped for the best. I did not really expect to be chosen for the second round of the application nonetheless for the entire program.
Once I finally got word that I was officially going for the summer and had an excited freak out session, I thought about what that meant. It meant I would have to go to an entirely new country for most of my summer and leave my family and friends for my last summer before they go to college. I also would have to meet a whole new group of people and volunteers whom I had not met before.
Luckily, I have always been adventurous and willing to try everything at least once. And honestly, I do not think I could have made a better choice for my summer vacation. Once I got over my initial fear of the intense change from my daily life, I met absolutely amazing friends who will most definitely be lifelong friends even when we get back to the states. But most importantly, I learned about how much of an independent leader I can be.
Being in a new country forces you to be a type of leader regardless of what you do. For example, living daily life for me includes learning how to take public transportation, trying new food, exploring different tourist and local attractions and meeting different people from a new part of the world.
In doing so, I think myself and my fellow exchange students are really good examples of leaders because we all took the leap from our customary summer vacations to learn more about different countries, inevitably connecting the countries and allowing for a more globalized outlook for the Future Leaders.
Additionally, I have had many interesting conversations about the differences of politics, cultures, foods, schooling, and more between the United States and Finland. Personally, I have found many ways the United States could potentially improve their systems and legislation. Of course the geographical, political and size differences make these ideas difficult but the conversations still spark new ideas and concepts for me.
On top of daily life, another leadership aspect incorporated in the program is the meetings with entrepreneurs, artists, delegates for committees and more. It has been incredibly inspiring to meet with young, active members of Finnish society. Different careers being represented in a different manner than scary, professional, adult jobs has been enlightening and has opened many doors for us to look into for college and personal careers.
As a group, we have also been representing American youth and in doing so we increase our individual and collaborative leadership skills. I believe creating this international connection has a plethora of positive outcomes for each of us here and the Finns in Washington D.C. but also for both Finland and the United States.
Text and pictures: Bella Hinrichs