Year — Fall 2019
Semester — Fall 2019
Spend a year or semester near “Santa’s hometown” (Rovaniemi, Finland) 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.
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.
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.
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.>
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.
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.
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.
"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, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. That transformation isn’t visible only to you, though - others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers, ranging from language fluency to intercultural competence and critical reasoning. "Life-changing" means it’s only the beginning.
Please Note: Travel date ranges are meant to help with general scheduling and are subject to change; please don’t book any travel based on these dates until you’ve received confirmation from AFS. All programs, prices, and travel dates are subject to change without notice.