• Club Number 18039
  • District 9685
  • Chartered 1946

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Youth Exchange Student John Goris - Report from Finland

Winter is coming to Finland early it seems. We had the first Autumn snow of the year in Toijala just two days ago but it only left a light coating and is already melting away. It’s not so cold yet, the days hang around -3 to 5 degrees so with three layers you’re fine unless it’s really windy. Just like squirrels, the Finns are preparing to hibernate for the winter. DVD’s are being stocked up on, video games are being bought and everyone’s getting a new winter jacket. 

It’s really noticeable the shift in people’s moods with the cold weather. People don’t do stuff nearly as much as in summer and I think they’re already getting bored. But it looks like there won’t be any chance for snow sports for another couple of months so it should just be snow in the shoes and the occasional snowball fight. 

I had a really awesome opportunity to be a teacher for a couple of days at a school in a nearby town called vesilahti. One of my school friends is a teacher there and she asked me if I’d like to give my presentation about Australia to her English classes. They’d be for years 7-9 so about 12-15 year olds. The lesson plan was first to introduce myself, then give the presentation, short question time and then we went outside and threw a boomerang. 

The classes responded really well to my presentations and asked a lot of good questions about both me and Australia. At lunch I was given a tour of the school which has recently been awarded best international school in Finland which is extremely impressive considering Vesilahti is rural town smaller than Toijala. I gave my presentation about 12 times and then after I finished on the second day, I was invited by the school principal to join him, and the school council, on a day cruise to the Aland islands between Sweden and Finland. The cruise was also for the school student council so they could meet and decide on school matters. 

I prepared a report about my school in Australia, how it differs from school in Finland but talked about more philosophical matters like the school’s ethos and the importance of the school in the community. In the afternoon the meeting was over and we could enjoy the on-board buffet, spa retreat, duty free shopping and all the amazing views of the Finnish archipelago. I spent this portion of the cruise with the principal who is an extremely funny man and we chatted casually whilst enjoying the cruise. 
I also moved to my last ever host family, the Tuominen’s, since last report. They’re a very nice family who have a lot in common with me. My host Dad is called Juha, he spends a lot of time out of the house because his job requires him to travel a lot but when he is there we tend to watch movies together. 

Anu, my host mum, doesn’t speak very good English so we speak finglish with each other. My youngest host brother, Julius, loves video games so we play together. Jasmin was an exchange student in new Zealand last year and we’re already becoming really close friends because we have so much from exchange in common. The other big highlight is Kristian, my exchange student friend from Germany came to visit us. I’m so jealous of him being able to travel around Europe so easily! Why does Australia have to be in the middle of nowhere!? 

Anyways he came to visit and it was really great to catch up. We went to Tampere together for the day with a couple of other people, got up to some shenanigans and then had a movie night back at my house. He seemed to be dealing with post-exchange life quite well and had grown a lot from the experience. Matty D and I decided that we would travel together to Germany, Finland and the States to see all the good friends we had made on exchange. Just need to win the lottery/ rob a bank first.

Last weekend as part of a scout activity. We went around Tampere doing challenges. These were just little games but at the end we got to abseil down pyynikintori! It’s this old stone tower thing that’s about 30 metres high and on the only hill in Tampere so you can see the whole town from up on top. Abseiling down wasn’t really scary. Especially after going bungee jumping but it was still pretty awesome. It was like a slow awkward version of being Spiderman. 

School’s going well too, I’m learning French in it this semester which is so much easier than Finnish. I’m actually learning quite a bit of Finnish from my French which is helping me study for the language test this week. I’m quite nervous about but I’ll tell you how it goes when I get the result back. 

John Goris

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