Karri’s greetings from the US
I left my home and my family and friends in Helsinki just three days after I got to know where I am heading to. I arrived to Wisconsin Rapids, WI on August 26th after spending four days in New York. Coming into a family that I had just heard of felt weird first but soon I got used to it and it feels just like a real family to me by now. Things are a bit different in the US but Wisconsin felt a lot like Finland. A lot of forests, lakes, farms and people are not so busy all the time. First Rapids felt like a small city with 20,000 people and I was feeling a bit regretful coming here and leaving everything behind, but pretty quickly I grew into this city and I like how everything is so close to me. Ice Hockey is really popular here which was like a lottery win to me and training to get to the school team was like a dream come true.
I started in school about a week after arriving to Rapids. Lincoln High School has about 1,500 students which is quite a lot compared to what I am used to. Here things are a bit different, for example in school rules are more strict, like no sleeveless shirts, knees should not be visible, phones have to be kept in the lockers and school doors are locked until the day comes to an end. People here take a lot more pride about their school and they are very close with the community and every school day begins with the pledge of allegiance.
People are more family oriented and when not doing homework the days usually are spent doing something together outside or watching a Green Bay Packers football match. My family is not too different from home and we do not really have strict rules with them which is great. Touring around the neighbor states has been great and it still amazes how things so close can be so different. I have another exchange student from Italy living with me, called Federico. Living in a house with American, Mexican, Finnish and Italian cultures brings a lot of perspective and is really interesting. Getting friends in high school was pretty easy, partly because everyone is so interested in the new foreign students but even in this short period of time spent here I have made a lot of close friends and really integrated well in this country. Also the Finnish culture seems to be a bigger part of this state than what I thought, for example finding products in stores named in Finnish and even a town called “Little Finland” felt like a welcoming here.
Text: Karri Partanen 18N
Lotta’s greetings from Spain
Hola from sunny Spain!
I was a first-year student in Medialukio and now I’m living in Fuengirola. When the year started I decided that I should spend my next year as an exchange student.
Our family friend is a teacher at my current school and she told us everything we needed to know. Her kids whom I have known since childhood are also going to my school. The younger one is in 6th grade and the older is a year one student. First, I was supposed to go and live on my own but my father has a flexible job so he decided to come with me. So at the end of the summer, me and my family packed up our car and drove through Europe to Spain.
The first day going to school was immediately different starting from when I woke up. The sun was up, it was warm and when I started walking to school there were palm trees on the way. I was nervous because I didn’t know anybody in my class. They all seemed to know each other from before. Or so it seemed. The students in my school come and go. Some might be there for only a few months, some have been there their whole childhoods and some are there for the whole year. Like me. The teachers were nice and the school building was nice but very small. Here in Finland, I was used to being in big schools with the fear of getting lost on the way to the class. My school in Spain has only three classrooms… So if I get lost it’s totally on me. The differences in my school are not that big compared to Finland because it’s a Finnish school and everybody speaks Finnish. Outside the school it’s when the culture hits you. I live in a district where there are lots of Finns. But the Finnish people in my neighborhood are somehow more relaxed. You can see from far that they are from Finland but they live by the Spanish groove now. The locals I have come to contact with are social and have lots of energy. It seems like their day is only starting when the sun is going down. All these families with small kids having dinner outside at 11 o’clock in the evening on a Tuesday.
It also seems like they have more holidays and celebrations. For example, there was a ”Feria” holiday in Malaga a few weeks ago. It was beautiful. So many colors and all the women wearing flamingo dresses and red roses behind their ear. The meaning of it was to celebrate the entry in Malaga of the Catholic Kings, in August of 1487. Moreover, one thing that is displayed strongly is religion. Almost every house has religious icons outside their house. I think it’s very beautiful. Of course the main difference in my day there is that I can go swimming every day to our pool or the ocean. I mean you can do that in Finland too if you like ice… I am learning Spanish and hope to get more chances to explore the culture here more. Another Feria vacation is coming up.
Text: Lotta Sulin 18N