Stay in US comes to a bittersweet end

This story was originally published in the sixth edition of The Lion’s Tale (May 5, 2021).

With only a month left in the United States, my emotions are all over the place. This is not just finishing my exchange year. I am saying goodbye to Oviedo High School. For the whole school year I have been attending classes on campus and experiencing American high school life during one of the most special years.

I remember getting my placement information in July last year and finding out that I would be going to school at Oviedo. I looked up the school and was shocked when I found out how big it is. I remember being so excited when I saw the orange and black logo and the lion mascot. Now looking back at the year, I cannot believe how fast it has gone.

The advantage of being a foreign exchange student is being able to take almost any classes I want. English and US history are required, but my other classes I chose for myself. I am interested in arts, so naturally I chose photography, pottery, and art history. I was lucky to have Mrs. Pope on her last year here at Oviedo. I think she is a big part of the Oviedo spirit and I am sure she will be missed.

My favorite class I took this year was psychology. Mr. Densberger inspired me to pursue psychology as a career in the future and his class had some really interesting discussions over the year. Even though that class had the smallest workload, I can – with certainty – say that I learned the most in it. Of course I also loved working on The Lion’s Tale newspaper team. The energy and ambition in the class and Mr. Langevin’s passion for journalism were so inspiring!

The most important and memorable part of coming here for me was making such good friends. Some of my closest friends that I have now I met on my first day and others I got to know later in the year. In most of my classes I was greeted with excitement and interest and, especially on the Newspaper team, I felt like the classroom atmosphere was amazing.

It was also so fun having the experience of being on the weightlifting team. It was cool seeing how sports teams at school work. Being able to practice after school, compete in a meet and go to the banquet at the end of the season were unique experiences for me, especially since I am usually not that into sports. I will now have a varsity letter from weightlifting to take with me as a memory of my time on the team.

After nine months away from home there are a lot of things I am looking forward to when it’s time to return. I have missed my friends and family and it will be amazing to see them again. I am looking forward to a wonderful summer with my friends in Finland before school starts again in August. I have missed my neighborhood and the practicality of public transport. I have missed our long breaks between classes and the additional freedom that we have back home in high school. Still, there is so much that I will miss from Oviedo – my friends, the easy and interesting classes, weightlifting, and the school spirit. I will miss the painted ceiling tiles in the classrooms and sitting outside in the sun for lunch.

Looking back at my year, I am so grateful and happy over my choice to come here this year. Even though the pandemic has caused many problems, things could not have turned out better for me. Being lucky enough to be able to go to school all year and experience so much of Florida and the United States has been amazing, and I will have so many good memories to look back on when I go back to my life in Finland.