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Exchange Students Adapt to Finnish Schooling: A Snapshot of Their Journey

In the past few weeks 5 new students have entered a new school, a new country and a new lifestyle. Their backgrounds and assumptions have been different from each other but now they get to share the experience of being an exchange student in KSYK.

Sebastian from Denver, Colorado, embarked on an adventure to Finland for his exchange journey. Unlike other exchange students, whose motivation stemmed from experiencing a different educational system and culture, Sebastian sought a change from the perceived dullness of Denver and a chance to travel. Nicole on the other hand wanted to do her exchange in Finland due to its beautiful scenery, she said without hesitation that her first month here has been the most beautiful month of her life.

Our German exchange students Isabelle and Matilda opted for Finland due to its top-tier school system. They were interested in the opportunity to communicate in English while going somewhere different from the United States or England. Amanda, from Latvia, was intrigued by the same reason, sharing the joy of getting to know KSYK and its events such as the night school and the ball.

Nicole and Amanda love Finland’s gorgeous scenery.

When asked about culture shocks nearly everyone had the same answer: the quietness of Finns. Sebastian even mentioned that his introverted nature is considered to be extroverted amongst Finnish people. In addition, Isabelle mentioned that this behavior came off to her as cold and even rude at the beginning. Amanda, however, has had a very different first impression, complimenting Finnish people on being nice and welcoming to her.

Our beloved school lunch has gotten a lot of feedback. Though appreciative that it’s free, almost all agreed that sometimes a small trip to Alepa is more pleasant. Nicole, from Italy, however was confused about the bad reputation of the school lunch, stating that it’s “really good”. The vegetarian options also surprised her positively coming from a small town where there usually aren’t any.

Isabelle and Matilda met on the first day of school and immediately became friends.

Isabelle and Matilda highlighted the dedicated teaching approach in Finland, focusing more on comprehension rather than rote learning for grades. When asked about cultural differences Isabelle answered with: “Maybe the teachers. They really try to teach you stuff so you understand it, not just for a good grade.” The pair also complimented the laid-back and supportive approach that school has towards students and student run activities.

Touching upon a pressing issue in American society, Sebastian shared his experience with active shooter drills back in the United States, a distressing but necessary practice deeply ingrained in the American education system. When talking about the first shooting drill that he could remember, in second grade, he stated: “They [the teachers] failed to communicate to us that it was a drill, and so there was somebody going around and trying to open the doors and knocking on them–. I remember not knowing what was happening.”

Reflecting on his exchange journey, Sebastian encouraged teenagers to consider the transformative experience of studying abroad. He viewed it as an opportunity to grow and develop independence.

Sebastian misses his cats dearly as he embraces the Finnish adventure.

Though the emotional side of leaving one's family, friends and pets can be tough, everyone agreed that the upsides of exchange is worth it. Everyone was on the same page: if the opportunity for an exchange year comes your way, you should take it.

Everyone's exchange stories emphasize the significance of exchange programs in fostering global understanding, promoting personal growth, and appreciating cultural diversity. These journeys, though distinct in motivations and experiences, unite in their broader purpose of bridging cultures and broadening horizons.


Written by Nella Bäckgren

Photos by Peppi Järvelä


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