I was just chatting with our school’s exchange student, a lovely girl here for the year from Finland. Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I was an exchange student in Finland myself, many years ago. It has been really great having Satu here. We greet each other in Finnish in the halls, and once a week or so we chat more thoroughly about things. I hope she enjoys having someone to speak her own language to, because I sure love speaking with her.
I talk to myself in Finnish to practice, but that doesn’t help my listening skills. I can tune into Finnish radio, but radio doesn’t have the necessary pauses that allow assimilation of meaning nor does it provide opportunity to clarify meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary. Having Satu here has been fantastic. In September, there was a lot that I struggled with when I listened to her. I constantly had to check words. Now, I find that I understand her so much better. I’ve learned some vocabulary (What does it tell you about my exchange that I didn’t know the word for ‘homework’! lol). It makes me so happy that so many years after my return to Canada, I can still speak fluently enough to have these interesting conversations with her. When I promised my 4th mom that I would never forget my Finnish, I meant it. I have kept my promise.
I also have really enjoyed the excuse to do some Finnish baking now and then. When I take karjalan piirakoita or some pulla buns to school for her, it’s nice to know I’ve brought a bit of ‘home’ into her week.
It makes me thankful, once again, for the existance of the Rotary Exchange Student program, and thankful that I was part of it. It is amazing how it never leaves you. When you meet another exchange student, of any age, from any country, you instantly have a common bond of experience. There is always something to talk about. Eyes sparkle with fun or commiseration.
Once an exchange student, always an exchange student.