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My exchange year in the United States

lähettänyt Hannele Vehkaoja 16.5.2017 klo 11.02   [ 16.5.2017 klo 11.03 päivitetty ]

Jenni Korteniemi:  My exchange year in the United States

After my first year at high school I left my friends and family and everything I had in Finland and travelled to the United Sates. I spent almost 11 months as an exchange student in a small town just outside Kansas City, next to the state border of Kansas and Missouri. I lived a totally normal American life with a wonderful host family and went to the local high school. 

10 months went by fast. I took every chance I could to make the most of my time in the States and experienced things I had never even thought about. I made friends from all around the world and learned new things daily. Obviously, I also had my hard times, especially around Christmas time. Even though my host family was great, the culture shock hit me after a few months. When everything around you is being done in a different way, including the most simple things you take for granted, you easily start to compare your life abroad to the life you had in your home country. Suddenly small talk feels stupid and you just want to talk to someone who understands why you need to watch ’’Linnanjuhlat’’, even though it seems boring. Luckily, I got over it and the shock didn't last long, and most of my year was absolutely amazing. I realized that there are some things that simply are not better in either of the countries, they are just different. 

However, I did learn to appreciate Finland in a whole new way. Going to an American school opened my eyes to the excellent education system we have in Finland, and seeing my American friends stress over college payments made me feel so grateful that I get to go to university for free in Finland.

I think spending a year as an exchange student was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. If I had to name the best thing about it, I would say traveling across the country and meeting the people I’m sure I’ll stay in touch with for the rest of my life. The year changed me and when my time in the U.S. was coming to its end I found it very hard to leave everything I had there. Also, I felt nervous when thinking about how many things had changed back home while I had been away. However, I was happy to come back to Finland, because you know, who could live without sauna and salty licorice forever, right?