This September a couple of the second year students of the upper secondary of KSYK were able to participate in an exchange trip to Gap in the southeast of France. The trip was a great way to learn about a new type of culture and overall a great experience for the students. In November, KSYK had the chance to return the favor and welcome two of the French students into our school to receive a similar experience. Huhuu interviewed Aline and Tessa to learn about their experience in Finland and any observations they may have made concerning the cultural differences between Finland and France.
Tessa and Aline are both 17 years old and come from the city of Gap in France. They are currently in their last year of upper secondary school in Dominique Villard. During their exchange in Helsinki they stayed with Annika (20B) and Siiri (20E) who spent three weeks in Gap a couple months earlier. This made coming to Finland significantly easier since they had gotten to know eachother beforehand and there were some familiar faces when Tessa and Aline arrived to Helsinki. There were six students in total who took part in the trip to Finland: the other four students in addition to Aline and Tessa spent their visit in Rovaniemi. When I asked them whether or not they were happy with the fact that they were sent to Helsinki instead of northern Finland, they both agreed that Helsinki was a good option for them. “I think that there’s just more things to do in Helsinki than in Rovaniemi, even though Rovaniemi might have been cool as well”, said Aline. Both of them did still agree that either city most likely would have given them an awesome experience and they would have been happy either way.
One of the exchange students, Tessa
Before arriving to Finland, both Aline and Tessa had heard of the most typical stereotypes about the behavior of Finnish people. Their perception of Finnish people was that they are very introverted and even rude at times. Thankfully, according to their experience, these expectations turned out to be completely false. Most of the people they met during their trip were very welcoming and social and made sure that Tessa and Aline were included in everything happening around them. Everyone was very interested in hearing about them and their culture. Another thing they found really surprising about Finnish people is that most people speak surprisingly good English. According to Tessa, French people don’t necessarily speak English that well and the common language made transitioning into Finland a lot more comfortable for them.
Prior to the exchange, both of the students had some things they were a bit nervous about. These things included travelling without a parent for the first time, adjusting to the Finnish school system and even just getting along in different social situations. When speaking of host families, Aline and Tessa had two completely different experiences but they both feel like they got along well with everyone and got through any communication issues that might’ve occurred.
Aline taking a tour of the art museum HAM.
When they were asked about any differences that might have stood out between Finnish and French schools, the list turned out to be quite long. Nearly everything is done differently in KSYK compared to Tessa and Aline’s school in Gap. First of all, they noticed that the atmosphere in our school is a lot less formal than it is in a typical French school. Teachers are less strict, they don’t have to be referred to as “mr.” or “ms.” and the overall atmosphere is a lot more low-maintenance in Finnish schools. Another thing that surprised them was how everything in upper secondary is done on computers. Finnish upper secondary students rarely do anything by hand but in France, students don’t use computers for any of their assignments and do everything from class exercises to exams on paper.
The best part of the exchange for Tessa was to visit a completely new city and learn a bunch of new things about Finnish culture. She really enjoyed learning about the Finnish school system. “It’s difficult to give just one answer”, said Aline when asked to think back on their favorite parts of the stay. Even though Covid must have affected their stay in some ways, they still got to visit a lot of places like museums and the opera. Another highlight for Aline was the Finland-France football match she got to see with her host family. Overall, both Tessa and Aline were very happy with their exchange and all the new things they got to experience.
Text: Peppi Särkelä
Images: Aline and Tessa’s own photos