Memory Lane: March 7, 1983


From the March 7, 1983 edition of The Wayne Herald

Foreign Exchange students enjoy U.S.

"I came to the United States because it's a big experience for me and it's nice to see what it is like here," says 17-year-old Heikki Osmonen of Finland.

"I am interested in a lot of different countries and their cultures, and America is a very popular country," smiles Tomoko Ozakaki , a 17-year-old student from Japan.

Both teenagers are studying this year at Allen High School through a program entitled Youth for Understanding, one if the largest teenage exchange programs with headquarters in Washington D.C.

Heikki's home is in Rauma, located on the west coast of Finland. Tomoko's home in Tsukaba Japan, is about an hour's drive north of Tokyo.

"Here, in Allen, we know everybody," smiles Tomoko, her dark eyes gleaming.

"Sometimes I miss the big city, but I like it here too very much," adds Heikki.

"I miss my friends the most and my dog," he smiles.

"I am not very homesick, but in Japan I go to the sea and wind surf all the time. I miss that really bad," says Tomoko.

This year at Allen marks Tomoko's second stay in the United States. At the age of three she resided in Baton Rouge, La. for a year and a half, where her father was an instructor at Louisiana State University through an exchange program for instructors.

"But I don't remember it," she laughs.

Today Tomoko's father teaches physics at the University of Tsukuba, a college of about 10,000 students. Her mother teachers violin. "I used to play but I hate it," Tamoko smiles. Her brother, 10-year-old, Yoichi is a fourth-grader in Japan.

Heikki has one brother, Anitti, 20, who attends business school in Finland and a sister, 12-year-old Anu.

His father who designs kitchens, is the owner of a factory that produces kitchen cabinets. He also owns a business that sells cabinets, along with other kitchen furnishings.

Heikki's mother, Safu, works as a hairdresser.

When Heikki returns to Finland he will complete his final two years of gymnasium school.

It's not a school that teaches gymnastics," he smiles. "It's like your high school, but its optional," he adds.

Heikki said Finnish youngsters start school at age seven and complete nine years of compulsory education.

From there, they can attend gymnasium school if their grades are good enough. "You have to be at least an average student to attend gymnasium," says Heikki.

Heikki said students who choose not to attend gymnasium can opt to attend a school similar to the vocational technical colleges in the United States. There they prepare for a job.

Heikki says Finnish schools are quite different than schools in the United States and much more difficult, "except for English of course."

The Finnish school year is divided into six periods. During each period, students study only certain subjects day after day. Finnish students in Finland have just two hours of sports each week with no competition.

After completing gymnasium school Heikki plans to attend college "maybe in the United States," to study to be a veterinary surgeon.

Recently, Heikki spent a day at the Wayne Veterinary clinic. "If I don't get to do that, then I would like to be an English teacher," he says.

Since attending school in the United States, Tomoko too has observed many differences from the school she attended in Japan.

"We have alot of rules." says Tomoko. "We must wear matching uniforms, shoes and bags, and we must bow to our teachers whenever we meet them."

Tomoko says the Japanese school year begins in April and is much longer, with only a one month vacation. After completing nine years of compulsory education, Japanese students must take an examination before entering high school. Then the students attend a level of school based on the scores they received on the examination.

Tomoko will have one and a half years of high school to complete when she returns home.I think I'm in a 'good' school," she laughs.