Exchange students experience life in the United States


Kanervo after one of her varsity lacrosse games. She only has ever played lacrosse in the U.S.

Sophia Kalakailo, Editor

Farmington High School is home to numerous exchange students this year. Students from nations including Finland and Germany have been studying in the United States, experiencing American culture through the lens of Farmington High School.

Living in a new country has many surprises. Schools in the U.S. are especially different.

“School here always has the same classes every day,” said Sina Hinrichs, who is from Germany. “We have different classes on different days.”

Furthermore, student-teacher relations can be different, too. In the U.S., we address teachers as “Mr.”, “Mrs.” or “Ms.” which is not the case in schools such as Sanni Kanervo’s.

“In Finland, we use their first name,” she explained. “It is totally normal and not disrespectful.”

American schools offer many extracurriculars and other school-sanctioned events like sports, clubs, dances, fundraisers and more. Hinrichs’s favorite experiences in the United States include homecoming.

“We don’t have school dances in Germany. I’m looking forward to prom,” she said.

Kanervo had a similar experience with school dances, as they do not have them in Finland either.

Language, social norms and customs are different as well. The things people do for fun, the topics of conversation and greetings are all factors that an exchange student must consider as they live in a new country.

“In Finland, we don’t do small talk,” Kanervo said. “So that was something I had to get used to.”

“A lot of people have to be home by midnight, but in Finland people stay up until three or four in

the morning over the summer and on weekends,” Kanervo continued.

Although Kanervo has enjoyed her friends and the new culture, she is not problem-free.

“People don’t know about other cultures and Finland sometimes,” she said. “They may ask insensitive questions. They can be ignorant to the fact that I may not know certain norms here.”

Customs and norms in households can be different too. Exchange students observe these differences first hand. Host families are essential to an exchange student. American households host exchange students for the year as they attend school.

“It is not easy to go to a new country and live with a new family,” Kanervo said. “But there is good and bad for all exchange students with host families.”

Abigail Collins-Carey, a former FHS student who studied abroad in Uruguay, shares her struggles as an exchange student.

“On paper my exchange year  sounds like the worst case scenario. I switched host families four times, experienced many forms of misogyny engrained in Uruguayan culture, etc. During this year I had some bad experiences, but I learned from them and cherished the extremely prevalent positive ones. Consequently, this became the best year of my life,” said Collins-Carey.

With Hinrichs’s and Kanervo’s year coming to an end, they urge anyone interested to take an exchange yea