Student Spotlight

A Year in Photos

Hello! My name is Emilia, and I wanted to share my experiences about my exchange year in Washington state.

I started off my year by flying to New York at first. We spent three wonderful days over there exploring New York and hanging out with other exchange students from all over the Europe.


After three unforgettable days I took off and flew to Washington. I was excited, but also scared, from now on I had to speak only English. I met my host parents and my host sister Annika from Germany at the airport and we headed to my new home. I found talking in English quite hard at first. People were talking so much and fast, I barely even understood anything. Of course they tried to get me to talk as well, and I did as much as I could, but everything was new at that time and I was tired from all the traveling and the jet lag.
I got used to the place and the people quite fast, and my host mom did a good job when she took us out with her friends who also hosted exchange students, so we had many people around us and always stuff to do. IMG_0619We also started volleyball the following week we got here, so we got to be around people from our school 3 hours a day before the school had even started! Being a part of a sport team is a really good way to make new friends and possibly learn a new skill as well. During the fall I also went to almost every football game that they had at our school and made many friends that way. Events like that are a good way to get to know more people.
At school I picked classes I was interested in, and also classes that are not offered in Finland. I wanted to try something new, so I chose marketing. The first couple weeks after school had started, my thoughts toward marketing got more negative. I didn’t like all the presentations that I had to present, besides, at that time, my English skills were not that good and presenting presentations felt impossible. I was thinking about switching out of that class, but I decided to hang on and tried to put myself out there. I took a huge step out of my comfort zone. That decision was probably one of the best decisions I have made so far, during my year over here. Due to the numerous presentations I presented, my speaking skills got better and I got more confident in front of people.

IMG_3151My teacher noticed that and asked if I wanted to work in our school’s student store, since I had been one of the most successful students in the class. I took the chance, knowing that the experience would give me a big advantage when applying for jobs later on. My experiences at the student store have been unforgettable, all my co-workers were really welcoming and asked a lot of questions about my home country and were willing to help me with everything, since I was new. Student store has been the place where I’ve found my best friends. The positive people and the atmosphere make me want to be there even during the break time.

The school spirit they have in high school is just incredible. That’s another thing that amazed me, it’s nothing like in my home country. All the spirit weeks, sport events and special assemblies every once in a while keep it interesting and pleasant to attend school every day. 

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Spirit week is of course always followed by a school dance. In my high school, we had three dances and I participated in all of them. The dances were another unique experience that I will never forget.

I went to homecoming with a bunch of my friends and had a good time. I didn’t know what to expect, but I had heard a lot about American school dances and it was exciting to actually get to know what it really is like to go to homecoming and wear those beautiful dresses similar to the ones they wear in movies.
I’ve also spent a lot of time with my amazing host family, and seen so much things with them over in Washington and the west coast.
My host family’s big interest is camping, and we’ve been camping several times during my exchange year. I like outdoors, so it’s always fun going camping with my host family. The landscapes in Washington remind me of my home country a lot, lots of lakes and forest, that’s why I like going out in the woods and spending a couple days in peace on a lake.

I also went to drive-ins for the first time in my life and had fun. There’s something in drive-ins that enthralls me — it might be the chilly air that appears right after the sun has set behind the mountains, or the smell of fresh baked popcorn and the feeling that you are doing something truly American.

Halloween was another big thing for me, since Americans celebrate it big. My friends and I got all dressed up in our costumes, went to trick-or-treat and got a lot of candy.


During my year here I really become a sports fan! Everyone in my family back home hates watching sports, but here almost everybody watches at least football. I became a Seattle Seahawks fan and  watched some of their games and especially Super Bowl with enthusiasm. We also got to go to the Seahawk parade in Seattle and I actually got to see all the players. That’s another day I will remember forever.


My host sister Annika has become like a real sister to me during the year. We spend a lot of time together at school and during our free time. She’s a person I know I can trust and she’s always willing to help me with anything. We share so many memories and our story will definitely continue even after we go back to our own countries.




IMG_3070 IMG_0518I also fell in love with volleyball and tennis during my year here and I’m sure that I’ll continue playing when I go home. If they asked me the best advice for the next years’ exchange students, I would say that they should join to a sport team, it’s so easy, and you will make a bunch of friends!

My year here has been awesome, it’s hard to imagine that I’ll be back home in just couple weeks. I think that during this year I’ve learned more about myself and grown a lot as a person. I will never forget my year over here and I think this year has been one of the best years of my life.

To see the complete photo gallery of Emilia from Finland’s year in Washington, click here