Finland exchange student says she likes Houston and had a great time enjoying lots of activities and trips.
Minna Kylmäkorpi says she came to Houston August 25 from Tampere, the third biggest city in Finland with approx. 250,000 people.
Asked what she thinks of Houston, Minna says it’s small, but “nice and quiet,” and she likes the nature.
“I love the mountains around it, because pretty much everywhere you go there’s some mountain or hill. I like it,” she said.
She adds that Finland is quite similar, with lots of lakes and smaller hills, but no mountains.
Minna says people were warning her that she would face culture shock but she she didn’t really experience it at all.
“Small things like showers and plug-ins are different [but] I haven’t really noticed any big differences,” she said.
“It might be just because I’m from a bigger city but I find that people are more open here,” she said.
Minna said she didn’t even suffer jet lag after her 50 hour trip from Tampere, Finland, to Houston.
She says she slept only a couple of hours during the trip, and got to Houston at 10 p.m. “I got home. I fell asleep. I slept for 13 hours, and then I didn’t have any jet lag or anything,” she said.
Minna says she’s really enjoyed living with her host family, Lorna and Roland Ofner and their daughter Cassie.
Minna says she’s lived with her parents and 22-year-old brother for her past 17 years, so she was nervous at first about living with another girl.
“When I got here I’m like ‘ohh, I have to live with a girl…. I was nervous about it,” she said, adding that it turned out that she’s really liked having a sister her age.
Minna says she has never had a dog, but she got to have a dog here too.
“It’s a wiener dog too, and it was weird because I’ve always wanted one,” she said.
Minna’s time here has been filled with activities and trips, including a ten-day exchange trip to Vancouver and Victoria, a ten-day Mexico trip with a group of families from Houston, and a weekend road trip to Hyder, Alaska in a motorhome.
Minna said all of those trips were highlights for her, but other highlights were the many little activities around Houston, including snowmobiling up the Telkwa range, a hike with her outdoor education class to Silverking Basin, and going fishing and tubing with friends.
Minna went into grade 11 at Houston Secondary School when she got here, but she says she is in grade one in an academic pre-university-type school in Finland.
The Finland school system has grades one to nine (like high school and elementary school) and then they have an optional three-year school (like college) that you can go to before university where you choose either academics or trades.
Minna says she went there because she isn’t quite sure about her future plans yet.
Asked about her hobbies, Minna said she enjoys playing volleyball and basketball, hitting the gym, drawing, and just hanging out with friends.
Asked why she did an exchange, Minna says she’s wanted to do it ever since she was ten.
“My dad travels a lot and I like travelling and I wanted to learn how to speak [more fluent?] English and learn about other cultures,” she said.
Minna chose to do her exchange in Canada instead of U.S. or Australia because she likes snowboarding, she said, adding that she got a season’s pass to the Hudson Bay Ski Hill and has gone several times.
“It was cool. Lots of snow and big mountains and it was nice,” she said.
Asked how she feels about leaving Houston, Minna said she wasn’t sure.
“I’m excited to go back ’cause I turn 18 and I can get my drivers licence, and I get to see my friends and family and go home. But I kinda don’t want to leave,” she said.
“I had a good family here, and friends, and I like this place.”
Minna says she’s learned quite a lot through her trip.
“I’ve learned to appreciate where I’m from more, and I’ve learned to appreciate little things in life, and my parents and that,” she said.
“I don’t feel like I’ve changed, but I feel like I’ve got much smarter,” she said.