Finnish student Elina Lamponen spent a year as an exchange student in small-town Michigan, and comments on leaving Helsinki and big-city life, as well as how American high school compared to her schooling thus far in Finland.
“I’m Elina Lamponen. I’m 21 years old, and I go to Alda university in Helsinki. I can say I always wanted to go to America because we see all these movies and all these TV shows and it always shows that everything is so great in America so I really wanted to experience the high school there. So then they put me in this, like, super small town in Michigan. It was interesting because I’m from Helsink, which is a big city in Finland, and then it was a super small town with, like, 1,000 people so ... I can say it was interesting.
I had a bit of a culture shock at first there. It took me a couple of weeks to realize it at first – on the first courses I thought it would be really hard and difficult for me, but it was only because of the language. In a couple of weeks when I caught up in the language, it was fine and I was fine and then I really knew that I was far ahead. It was probably it was in math class where ... when they showed us what we were going to do and gave us homework and we did problems in class, I realized that I’d already done this a year or two ago. So I really got that it’s ... it’s not that difficult. So I had – the math course I took was Algebra 2 which was the hardest math class in the whole school, and then I knew everything on the tests and then I always got like 105% on the test because I just knew everything. The American students, they were really surprised how I could get 105 because they were struggling with the tests.
In Finland, when you go to high school, you don’t have to go to high school if you don’t want to. You only have to take 9 grades and then after that you can go to vocational school and study for a profession. And then when you go to high school it’s kind of like the first two years in American college where you have certain classes that you have to take – you have to take a certain amount of math and English and Finnish and science, so its really a lot more ahead than the American school system. ”