Ready for a challenge, Chris traveled to Finland on exchange and learned one of the world’s most difficult languages, made new friends and experienced teenage life in a nation known for being shy and “silent in more than three languages.” Here is what Chris wrote about his experience:
Looking back now, it is amazing to think about how my entire summer in Finland evolved and only then be able to see the beginnings of the countless things I have experienced and learned along the journey. Just months ago, I filled out the application for the FUSYE scholarship with an inclination that I wanted to go somewhere that I never thought I would go. When I found the opportunities for Finland I thought exactly what my friends and family would later say when I applied – “Finland!?? What is there?” That is how I knew that I had to learn about the country.
I had done some background research and that inspired me to truly understand what this nation has to offer. I was impressed with the staggering superlatives of the nation and intrigued by the idea of a lone nation with only 5.5 million people that could affect our world so much – yet also be so humble to go along with its hard work under the radar of the world’s superpowers. I felt the drive to find out how the nation worked and what made it achieve its exemplary statistics and high standard of living. I knew that living there was the only way I could satisfy my desire and curiosity to learn about the nation.
At my YFU interview, filled with questioning about my lifestyle in America and what I looked for in travelling overseas, I was confident in my idea that I wanted a challenge. That is why I wanted to go to Finland. I wanted to learn about this nation that I never knew much about and submerge myself in this foreign culture that I had little preparation for prior to departure.
I wanted to be actively learning amongst a people with a language I have never heard—despite warnings that it was one of the world’s most difficult languages due to its lack of linguistic relatives anywhere in the world. I wanted to prove it to myself that I could make many friends and experience and learn about teenage life in a nation that is stereotypically known for being extremely shy and “silent in more than three languages”. I had my lists and I had mentally prepared myself to step out of this “comfort” zone and really put myself in a situation more foreign than I had ever imagined yet. My expectations for myself were high, and I was ready for the experience of a lifetime.