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Spend a year or semester of high school in Finland near “Santa’s hometown” (Rovaniemi) and immerse yourself in the daily life of one of Europe’s most magical countries. The Finns tend to be very well-educated—they’re avid readers of both newspapers and library books—making this a rewarding place for a unique high school experience. Get an inside look at a country that celebrates summers of seemingly endless sun and finds light in the near total darkness of winter. By living with a local host family, you’ll be able to learn the language, take part in the customs, and taste the food that makes Finnish culture unique.

Things to know

Finland has more saunas per capita than anywhere else in the world; if you like a good steam, you’re in luck, because almost every modern home or apartment has access to one. Another thing the Finns have lots of: cell phones. There are actually more cellphones than people in Finland! During the warmer months, you’ll likely witness the famous midnight sun (when it’s light out nearly all night and day). On the other hand, the Arctic winter finds Finland in darkness for almost a full 24 hours. That’s when Finns spend their time sipping coffee indoors or, for the adventurous, doing outdoor winter sports.

Eligibility Requirements

Current high school students and recent graduates are eligible. Specific age requirements may apply; contact AFS for more details.
Must be in good academic standing (recommended GPA of 2.5 or above).

Your journey to Finland

Your journey to Finland will begin in New York City, where you’ll meet your fellow AFSers from the United States and attend an overnight orientation. Then you’ll travel as a group to Helsinki, where you’ll be met by AFS staff and volunteers.

Soon you’ll be ready to head to your new community. Along the way you’re bound to notice the crisp air and pristine landscape, as the environment in Finland is one of the cleanest in the world. With nearly 200,000 lakes in the small country, you’ll notice dots of glistening water almost everywhere you go. Keep an eye out for reindeer too, since in the northern part of the country these semi-domesticated animals actually outnumber people.

Aurora borealis over a track through winter landscape, Finnish L

Meeting your Finnish host family

AFSers have lived in communities all throughout Finland, but you’ll most likely find yourself in a small town or rural area in the Southern half of the country.

Finns are generally kind and open-minded, even though they can be a bit shy at first. Families are usually small, with only one or two children. People in Finland appreciate punctuality, good manners, and practicality. Equality is also very important, and it’s common for both parents to cook dinner or clean the house.

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Settling into daily life in Finland

Teenage life

As a teenager in Finland, you can expect to have a lot of independence. Your friends will probably enjoy spending time outdoors, even in the winter. You’ll likely have the opportunity to go cycling, boating, or skiing (either cross-country or downhill) and take part in Finland’s active culture. Other common sports are soccer, track-and-field, basketball, ice hockey, and pesäpallo (Finnish baseball). Golf is getting so popular that people even play it on frozen lakes during the winter! You’ll discover that most teenagers also like to dance, especially in the summer. Finnish high schools have a formal dance called the vanhojen tanssit for students in the second grade (where most AFSers are placed). Otherwise, you’ll find dance floors (lavatanssit) all over the country that play both modern and traditional music.

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Your high school in Finland

Finland has one of the best education systems in the world, so you can expect classes that are both engaging and challenging. You’ll most likely be enrolled in a public high school (lukio) where the year is divided into five or six terms. You’ll study a few subjects intensively each term, including Finnish, Swedish, math, science, psychology, art, music, history, and geography. And don’t be surprised if your Finnish classmates are more direct than what you’re used to; they might even refer to teachers by their first names.

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Food you’ll encounter

Finns tend to drink a lot of coffee, and they often enjoy it with a sweet wheat bread called pulla. If you like a good smörgåsbord (a Swedish hot and cold buffet), you’ll be happy to discover that Finland has its own version, called the voileipäpöytä. At a voileipäpöytä, you’re likely to find a variety of fish, potatoes, berries, and dairy products, along with rye bread. Another common Finnish dish is makkara (sausage), which is roasted over a fire and eaten with sinappi (mustard). But don’t forget the country’s most unique delicacy—reindeer! The Finns eat reindeer stew, steak, cutlets, meatballs, and even tartare.

What's Included

  • 70+ years of experience delivering high-quality programs through a worldwide network of 50,000 dedicated volunteers
  • Accommodations with a vetted host family
  • Round-trip international airfare for the designated program dates
  • School enrollment fees
  • Worldwide, 24-hour emergency assistance
  • Access to an in-country support team and network, as well as our Participant Support Department based here in the U.S.
  • Orientations and intercultural education before and during your program
  • Secondary medical coverage
  • Visa support and guidance
  • Inclusion in a worldwide returnee and alumni network of over 1,000,000 people
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Returning Home

“Life-changing” is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad. “Transformed” is another one.
When you return home from high school in Finland, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and developed the confidence and resilience to accomplish anything you set out to do.
That transformation isn’t only visible to you, though – others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers. Second language fluency, intercultural competence, creativity, and critical reasoning will help you succeed, whatever path you take. “Life-changing” means it’s only the beginning.
It’s not just an adventure abroad; it’s a whole new reality. The perspectives and personal connections you gained will stay with you and likely draw you back to the second home you found in Finland.

In fact, our alumni reviews have made AFS one of the top-rated organizations in the study abroad industry.

A new you awaits.

Apply for High School Study Abroad in Finland!

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