I was very happy to interview our lovely exchange student Tomoka Okita who is from Japan. Here are some of her thoughts about her exchange year.
Why did you decide to come to Finland?
I was interested in a society where women and men are equal. In Japan, there is a big gap in society between women and men. For example, men get better salary. Also the school system was something I wanted to learn about because Finland is always one of the top countries in PISA-tests. Finland is famous in Japan for its architecture, nature and brands like Marimekko and Moomin and I wanted to see those things.
Now that you have seen the education system, what do you think about it?
I really like the Finnish education system. There are several things, which make it so great. Everyone can receive the same education, which is important. The equipment that you have here, like in the art class, is wonderful. Hallways, toilets are always clean, you get free warm meal every day, the building looks nice. One of the most important things is that the teachers are professionals in the subjects they teach. It isn’t always like that. And those teachers who teach foreign languages do so much more than teach only the grammar. They teach the culture too. For me it’s also nice that almost every teacher can speak English. I also like that students are somehow “free”, you don’t have so strict rules. Also no second school after the normal school day, as we have in Japan.
What do you think especially about F. E. Sillanpää Upper Secondary school?
It’s a nice environment for exchange students. And as I said, the teachers here are great. I also like the building of F. E. SIllanpää high school. Oh, and I like “tupa” where students can hang out without the teachers.
How about the students here?
Every student can speak English. And everyone is so nice! Especially I like 1B because it’s cheerful and chatty. They throw some great parties too.
What do you think about Finnish people in general?
The first impression for me was that Finns are very shy but now that I have been here, I can say they are not. Finnish people are very open-minded and honest. All Finns are also very logical, like when they explain things to me in English. They usually make it very easy for me to understand. One thing that is completely different in Japan is that I have to put an effort in making a relationship with everyone. In Finland if I don’t like someone, I don’t need to be with them, and it’s okay. No bigger drama. In Japan if I don’t like someone that can become a big problem. Finnish people are also very wise and I like that they don’t always show that to everyone.
Which are the best things about Finland?
Parties! For me parties are a place where I can meet new people because everyone is so chatty and open-minded there. Nature is the second best thing. In Tokyo there is always so hectic that is so nice to be in a country, where is quiet and calm. I also like sauna, snow and the fact that Finland is a safe country. I don’t really have to worry about getting robbed.
Is there something that you really don’t like in Finland?
Busses are not on time.
What are your favorite foods in Finland?
Salmon, chocolate (especially Fazer’s), Karelian pasty, coffee, sausage, salty liquorice, Christmas dishes (the Christmas ham is the best!), ice cream, hot wings, vegetable sushi (It’s different here than in Japan and I really like it!), gravlax, cloudberry jam, mead, cinnamon roll and the food that my host mum makes. I don’t really know are these all Finnish dishes but these I have tasted the first time in Finland. I would also like to point out that Munkkila is the best bakery!
Did you know a lot about Finland before you came here?
Not a lot. I knew that Moomin and Santa Claus are from Finland. I knew about 500 words in Finnish before I came here. When AFS decided that I would come to Finland, I started to search information about Finland. For example, I sought information about the equal society. But almost everything that I have learned about Finland, I have learned by living here and experiencing this Finnish lifestyle, not from books.
You are leaving soon, what are your thoughts about that?
I will miss all my friends the most. And the great education system. I don’t want to go back to Japan! I have had so many great adventures here, so many wonderful memories. I feel so sad that I have to leave but at the same time I’m happy to go back to home and see my family and friends. Although I already know that in a few years I will come back, I just wouldn’t want to leave. Because I love Finland.
Written by Sara 1B