Our time to go home came quickly. Three weeks sounds very long time but when you have something new to see everyday it’s very short time. On Thursday we did the last activity with almost everyone in our group (we finnish exchange students and our host sisters). That was eating first in Noodles and then bowling which were both lots of fun. After bowling we crossed a street to get icecream from Culver’s.
Friday night we all spent backing our packs. On Saturday our hosts gave us a ride to Madison where the bus, which took us to the airport, left. It was raining heavily when we left, as if the sky would have been sad seeing as leaving. We were sad too to leave our host families but also happy to know that we would see our own families in 24 hours. We did some shopping in the airport before our flight and we managed to get to the plain. During our 8 hour flight to Stocholm we slept, watched movies and ate. And then just one hour flight to Helsinki where our families were waiting for us, happy to take us back home.
Suffering a little jetlag, we went to our ”internship” on Monday. Essi and Saara went to English Playschool/Preschool to help the kids there. The rest of us (me, Anni, Essi and Elsa) went to a school where they have English speaking classes through first grade to sixth grade.
PS. Thank you all of our hosts. We miss you already and we wish you can come and visit us some day soon.
On Saturday we spent our day in Madison, the capital of Wisconsin. First we went to the Farmer’s market, where they had dozens of stands selling different kinds of foods.
After that, we walked through Madison and shopped a little bit. The streets were really pretty and unique. There weren´t very many chain stores or restaurants, most were boutique kind of shops. Some of us had food at a burger place and some chose to eat a salad (probably the first and the last healthy restaurant meal on the whole trip).
We found some new cool stores and also some pretty familiar stuff.
We also checked out to see the capitol of Madison, which is a gorgeous building in the middle of the city. The on the right has the view from a balcony of the building.
Later that night, all of us went to Saara´s host Becca´s house, where her parents had cooked us some really good food. Unfortunately we don´t have any pictures from that part of the day, but we had a lot of fun and went home with a full, happy stomach.
Essi K: McFarland is a cute small town. Here lives about 7.8 thousand people. The village is 20 minutes drive from Madison, which is the capital of Wisconsin. There is also a lake, Waubesa, in the town.
Basically the distances between everything inside the town are only 1-2 kilometres, but people still uses cars to move around.
Town has it own schools. There are different buildings for high school, primary school and kindergarten. It also has a lot of restaurants, a big grocery store, a bank, an pharmacy, many sport fields and the McFarland house (a local coffee shop that we are very familiar with) .
The neighborhoods could be from American movies. Roads are wide and every house is different. They also have those old fashioned mail boxes that are very cute!
Elsa: These last couple days have been sunny and warm. Being outside in the warm was ideal day for us all. We started Sunday by hiking. We drove to city of Baraboo where we found Devil’s Lake and around it was huge state park. Essi K’s host sister Kara and my host sister Molly had been to Devil’s Lake before. We decided to go around the whole lake, which was a total of about 3 miles. The lake was between two huge hills. We climbed on top of them and back down. The view was so beautiful. The whole hike took us about three or four hours. It was so nice to be outside while it was sunny and warm.
Rebekka and her host sister, Rhetta, went swimming at the Kalahari instead of joining us on the hike. This is one of the biggest waterparks in the Wisconsin Dells, which is often called the Waterpark Capital of the World. They spent about four hours there.
Everybody spent the evening with their host family’s on their own ways. Happy Mother’s Day!
Essi K: The 10th of May. We had a day off from school, because freshmen and sophomores had exams all day. So we had plenty of time to do everything!
The morning was relaxed, I woke up late and ate some cereal. Around noon we went to a farm, to see some of Rhetta’s horses. Then we had an opportunity to try horseback riding. First we brushed the horses and then we tried riding. After I got over my fear of the big horses, my riding started to get better. I loved it! Some of us even tried trotting. There were only three horses, so while others were riding, we were watching and petting the cats, who lived in the farm.
After horseback riding we drove to local natural park. We were meant to hike for a while, but then it started raining. So we just walked for a little while, past a field with cows to a little lake and back.
Because we all were completely wet after walking in the rain (I mean it was warm weather but still) we went to our homes to shower and change clothes.
Around six I went to a Japan noodle restaurant with my host family (it was delicious!!) . At 7:30 pm started Cabaret (school’s choirs performance) that we all went to watch. It was so amazing experience, and the youngsters were super talented! They performed songs from musicals and also old choir songs.
The whole day was so much fun and left many memories for all of us. Even I was extra tired in the evening the day still gave energy for the next school days.
The six exchange students of Schildt Upper secondary School were accompanied for the first week of this exchange by two teachers, Satu and Ulla. Observing the school life in an American high school gave many new ideas and perpectives to our work back in Finland.
The Finnish teachers In Madison
We were lucky to be hosted by two teachers of McFarland High School – getting to stay in a family and participating in everyday life is a great bonus when travelling. The impersonal hotels – been there, done that! One of the teachers, Audrey, worked in Jyväskylä two years ago as Fulbríght teacher. That good working contact is in fact the reason for us realizing this exchange between Schildt Upper Secondary School and McFarland High School.
The most significant difference in teachers’ way of working was the schedule: all teachers came to school around 7 or 8 am and left around 4 pm. The school day was not always filled with lessons – very often there were individual students making up their exams while teachers were preparing their own lessons beside. The teachers had their own classroom they had made very cosy and welcoming. That is something we could adopt to our high schools as well. We in Finland have classrooms like that only for smaller kids in elementary schools. Maybe we should have it in High Schools as well?
A Peaceful Working Session
The breaks between the lessons are much shorter than in Finland. Another difference is the must to wait for the ringing bell before leaving classroom – during the lessons you need to wear a hall pass in order to leave the classroom during a lesson.
We had our first day of american high school on Monday, 1st of May. We’ve definitely noticed some things that are done differently in American schools (or at least in McFarland) than in Finnish school.
Everyone has been really welcoming at the school. Especially during the first week, people seemed genuinely interested in us and why we’re here. I think people are definitely a little more outgoing here especially towards exchange students than in Finland.
The school days are a little different too. We have A days and B days every other day. We have different subjects on each days. A days some of as have for example US History and Study Hall (a class where you can work on your homework, we do our blog stuff during this hour), and then again on B days we have Lifetime Fitness and Photography.
A picture from the school´s art hallway
One of the differences between the high school here and school in Finland is the freedom. Over here the bell tells you when the class starts and ends. Even if you’re done with your work 5 minutes before the end of class, you have to wait for the bell until you leave the class room. Also, in some classes you need to ask for a specific restroom pass in order to be able to go to the bathroom.
Then obviously the food. The food options change from day to day, sometimes there is pizza, sometimes burgers or cheese sticks. There are also some salad meals you can buy. Most of us bring our own lunch to school because the lunch at the school costs money.
On the left Anni´s lunch from the school and on the right Essi´s lunch brought from home. :))
Just like in Finland, the way of teaching differs depending on the teacher. Some teachers have more lecture type classes, some have the students more involved. But something interesting that we’ve noticed is that the teachers and students (or ”kids”) talk to each other like friends. There are often also more than one teacher in the classroom, especially in freshmen classes.
Also something that we´ve noticed is that kids don´t really bother to dress up nicely to school. They mostly come in sweatpants and t-shirts. Jeans and a nicer shirt are considered as a pretty fancy outfit over here.
Essi H: On Saturday 6th we had Prom at our school. Prom is a school dance, where juniors and seniors have formal dresses and suits on and they reveal Prom King and Queen.
In the Saturday morning I went to get my hair done to Madison city with my host sister Kara. After that we went home to get ready and in the afternoon we met with our group of friends that we went to have a dinner with. There were about 30 people in our group, and we had so much fun! I got to know many new people and they were very interested in Finland.
After dinner we went to a big garden, where we took a lot of pictures.
In the evening we went to the school, which was decorated as a romantic barn. Teachers were dressed as cowboys and they performed us a dance. The Prom King and Queen were revealed, and some couples were introduced. After that the DJ started to play dance songs and people started to dance until 11.30 pm.
After Prom we Finns went to Saara’s host family’s place and had a fun sleepover with good snacks.
The dance in Finland (Wanhat) is more formal dance than American Prom, because we really practice the old dances for a long time to perform them to a big audience. We all had a really nice day and taking part to American Prom was a once in a lifetime experience!
Saara: Last Friday (5.5) we all went to meet this lady called Maija Mäki-Laurila . We met her in her house in Madison. Maija is immigrant from Finland and she has been living here since 70’s. We had a bunch of questions for her and we were chatting with her about two hours.
Her story was very interesting. Originally she came here to study in university. She wanted to go back to Finland but I think she didn’t have enough money to go back so she stayed here. She works with Finnish immigrants in Suomi seura nowadays.
She has American citizenship and she thinks that her home is in America. She has visited often in Finland to meet her friends and family and she has decorated her home with Finnish things. It was very nice to meet her and heard about her interesting story.
Rebekka: We started the day at school where the school bus picked us up. Then we went to the kindergarten to get the children to the bus. The children were loud and excited about going to the farm. The bus drive took about 20 minutes and then we saw some silos that the farmer was really excited about. We went on a hayride for a few meters.
During that ride we were told that the cows eat candy. The farmer sad it was because the cows needed some fat and sugar that their milk would have more fat.
Then we walked to feed goats and see chickens. There were also a few chicks which were very cute. On our way to milk a cow, we pet a cat and fed goat kids. After seeing all these animals we were given some crackers and a fantastic coloring book. Our schoolday continued with our normal classes. The day was fun with all those animals.