e-pal: finland

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 March, 2008, 12:00am

Connecting with teens around the world

Name Niina Ojanen

Age 17

City Helsinki

Star sign Aquarius

Helsinki is the capital of and the largest city in Finland. But it's quite village-like, as there are no skyscrapers - the tallest building in Finland is about 90 metres tall. It's also a seaside town, located by the Gulf of Finland.

I study many subjects: Finnish, Swedish, English, maths, history, biology, geography, psychology, philosophy and PE are compulsory. There are other electives, such as music, drawing, physics and chemistry. I study German at the moment but would also like to study French.

In spite all the subjects, classes are very easy-going. Being at school is just like spending time with my friends. The real work begins with all the homework!

My first language is Finnish, but since Swedish is Finland's other official language, I speak that too. I can also speak English, but not that well.

My friends and I hang out at each other's houses to watch movies and chat. We also go shopping, to the movies and on picnics.

Sometimes I play badminton with my parents or go shooting with my dad and brother. My favourite sports are swimming and shooting. Both are great ways to relieve stress.

I like all kinds of music. What matters to me is the melody. My favourite movie genre is horror.

What I like most about Finland is the nature. More than 70 per cent of the country is covered in forests and there are about 180,000 lakes.

Finnish teenagers know who they are, and are quite independent. They do well in school and, like the whole Finnish community, know the importance of education.

My future is a riddle to me. I only know that I don't want do things just because I'm supposed to, like having children and a good job.

I want to enjoy my life and explore the world.

The most important festival is Juhannus, the Midsummer fest. This is when the days are long and the sun doesn't go down at all.

Like most Finns, we leave the city and go to our summerhouse, have saunas and barbeques and spend time with our relatives.

During the holidays, we usually go to our summerhouse in South Karelia.

We don't often go abroad, except sometimes to other parts of Europe.

I've been to the Canary Islands a couple of times, and Sweden and Estonia, since they are Finland's neighbours and are easy to visit by ship. I've also been to Amsterdam, Prague and Budapest.

I'd never been to Hong Kong or anywhere in Asia before. It's good to see different places and the different lifestyles.

I'm currently living with an AFS host family in Lam Tin and really enjoying myself.