|Exchange students make Grant home|
Three new students are enrolled at Perkins County High this year. They all fluently speak different languages, and come from different backgrounds and walks of life. Suvianna (Suvi), Vilja (Vicki) and Sibylle (Sibby) are the foreign exchange students from Finland and Germany. They seem to be fitting in to the school system and community well.
By Naomi Schmitt
Perkins County High School
Suvianna Syrjakari is our first foreign exchange student from Helsinki, the capitol of Finland. She has enjoyed being in America a lot because, “You will see [a] different way to live and see different things!” Her favorite thing about Grant is the people. “Everybody is so friendly!”
When Suvi came to Grant she did not know what to expect. She didn’t expect that the people would be so friendly. There have been a few things that have taken some getting used to for Suvianna, however. For example, “... you don’t have very much free time and most all activities are in school.”
When she first left her country she was very scared. “I really wanted to come here but on the other hand it was very difficult to leave everything in Finland. I knew that it would be very different here!”
Suvianna loves sports. “I like to try new things. I liked volleyball a lot! I never have played volleyball before this year but it was lots of fun!”
After volleyball she hopes she will have more time to run, dance, ride horses and do other sports. She is excited for basketball to start.
“I [also] like to hang out with friends and have fun!” she said.
In Finland, Suvianna was on a gymnastic team for almost 12 years.
“Gymnastic[s] was a big part of my life for a long time. I stopped gymnastic[s] about one and a half years ago,” she said.
She tried lots of different sports during last year. She would also run with her friend and ride her friend’s horse.
Suvianna spent a lot of time with her friends in Finland.
“We spend lots of time downtown and sometimes at someone’s house. Almost every weekend I had something happening with my friends.”
Something Suvianna misses from Finland that isn’t in America is Finnish rye bread. She also thinks it is weird that Grant does not have any public buses or trains.
“It is difficult for me because I always need someone who can drive a car,” she said.
Another thing that is an adjustment for Suvianna is a lack of sports-playing opportunities outside of school in Grant. She reported that while there are no sports in school in Finland, “We have a lot of different sport opportunities outside of school that you don’t have here.”
Volleyball has taken her to a lot of other towns near Grant such as Big Springs, Imperial, Wallace, North Platte and others. The largest city she has been to is Denver. Suvianna has been in the U.S. twice before this year. Overall, this trip to the U.S. has been a positive experience for her.
By Shania Metcalf
Perkins County High School
Vilja Jutunen is the second of the three foreign exchange students currently attending Perkins County High School. Vilja, otherwise known as Vicki, is from Oulu, Finland.
Oulu is the sixth biggest city in the entire country of Finland. Although she is a junior here in America, Vicki will be beginning her second year at an upper secondary school in Finland when she returns. She will then have two more years of school, and will graduate in 2013.
Some of the things Vicki likes to do in her free time is dance. She is also thinking about trying basketball. But for now, she says she just goes to the fitness center and dance studio. She also likes to study languages. She can speak Finnish, Swedish, English, French and Spanish.
“I can’t speak them all fluently but can say some things at least!” she said.
When asked about her experiences as a foreign exchange student so far, Vicki said, “I really like American people! People are really friendly and always there to help.
“I like to speak English and it’s a totally different thing to actually speak in an English speaking country. It’s funny to notice how even little things can be different here! I learn new things every day about America!”
Her favorite experience in America would be visiting New York City and the Black Hills in South Dakota, but every day is an adventure.
Vicki is with the Rotary exchange program.
“Rotary is a wonderful organization and they truly want me to have a great year! If someone would like to become an exchange student I would strongly recommend choosing Rotary!” she said,
Before departing from Finland, she got to choose three countries that she would be willing to go to. America was her first choice, so she was really happy when she found out where she was going to spend her year.
Vicki said, “I chose America because I have just always wanted to come here and learn American traditions, learn English in American way, see if schools here are really like in the movies, and if everything is like I imagined it would be.”
She was inspired to become a foreign exchange student in seventh grade.
“I just wanted to learn more English and actually speak English and not just study it at school, and of course experience a different culture,” she said.
“By the time I went to upper secondary school I kind of forgot the whole exchange thing but then a girl that had been in France through Rotary came to my school and told us about her year there. Then I started to act, and here I am!”
Her current host family is the Jensens. When asked about them, Vicki said, “I have nothing but good to say about them! They made me feel like I was a part of their family immediately when I came here and they are always ready to help me and be there for me. They are just wonderful people and I’m always going to be thankful for them.
I’m also going to stay with the Kuskies and then I’ll have a third family too.”
She also told us about her family at home in Finland.
“I have two little sisters and a little brother. I live with my mom Eija, stepdad Tero, little sister Elina and little brother Lauri. My other sister Essi lives with my dad. We also have three gerbils; Hunaja, Hani and Taateli.
“My mom is a nurse and my stepdad is a taxi driver and he has his own business. I’m so grateful for my family for letting me have this opportunity because I know they miss me a lot and I miss them too.
“My dance crew is kind of a second family for me and I miss them a lot too.”
By Naomi Schmitt
Perkins County High School
Sibylle Skuba, or Sibby as we call her, is the third exchange student from Calberlah, Germany. Sibby said that at first coming to a different country was very weird because she didn’t know anyone and she was totally by herself.
“You have to trust people you [have] never even seen before and stay in a house you [have] never been [in] before,” she said.
Once she settled in it was alright and she felt comfortable. One thing Sibby thinks is very hard is that “... you’re all by yourself and you don’t have [your] parents behind you who you could ask what’s right and what’s wrong. You have to make your own decisions and stand behind them.”
When she left Germany, Sibby was excited for what was going to happen next. She looked at it as an adventure and did not think very much about the fact that she would not go home for a long time. “I was just happy that I [got] to experience all of this,” she said,
Sibby likes that Grant is not too big and said that she would get lost if Grant was much bigger. She really likes that everybody knows everybody. When she came to Grant she did not expect the people to be so open minded.
“Everybody is always friendly and willing to help you out,” she said.
Something that her school in Germany did not offer was all the different sport activities.
Some things Sibylle likes to do is hang out with friends, talk and laugh, read, listen to music, watch movies, and ride her bike.
In Germany she was in gymnastics for three years. She also liked to jog with her friends and play the guitar which she did for five years.
Something Sibby noticed that is different here is that in Germany the water had carbonic acid in it. She also stated, “There are just these small differences [that] make the USA way different. Like the cars, the attitudes towards [a certain thing], the food, the school and many other things.”
Besides Grant, Sibby has been in Poland and Switzerland. Her host family has also taken her to Denver about three times.
All three of these girls are enjoying their stay in America and are seizing the opportunity to try new things, and gain new experiences. If you come across any of them, be sure to welcome them into the community!