Amanda Phillips

Finland

Hometown: Winter Springs, Florida
School: Home Schooled
Sponsor District : District 6980
Sponsor Club: Winter Springs, Florida
Host District: 1410
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Loimaa

 

My Bio


Hei! Hej! My name is Amanda and I’m from Winter Springs, Florida. I’m sixteen years old and a junior at both Winter Springs High School and Circle Christian School. As of August, I’ll be leaving for a year abroad in Finland! This is by far the largest and greatest decision I've ever made. I live with my mom and dad, older sister, older brother, two exchange students, and two dogs. I am the third and final child from my family to go on an exchange. For the past five years, my family has been hosting Rotary exchange students and it has been a very eye-opening experience and has made the world feel much, much smaller. After watching so many people exchange all over the world and seeing the effects it had on them, I knew I had to go on an exchange as well. At school, I’m currently enrolled in an aeronautical program, in which we are building a RV-12 airplane, I am dual enrolled at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, and I am a member of the Interact club. When I have free time, I spend as much of it as I can with my friends. In only a few short months I’ll be leaving behind my family, friends, native language, and everything I've ever known, only to be greeted by a new family, culture, and language. I hope by next year to be calling people who are now strangers to me: my family. I hope to be able to speak a new language. I hope to gain and lose character traits. I hope to be able to share about America. Lastly, I hope to explore and learn as much as I can about Finland and its culture.

The lake where we camped out on the final night of our hike

The lake where we camped out on the final night of our hike

The lake at the summer cottage

The lake at the summer cottage

Orthodox Church in Tampere

Orthodox Church in Tampere

Hiking through the Tammela metsä

Hiking through the Tammela metsä

Tampere Keskustori

Tampere Keskustori

Visiting a summer cottage

Visiting a summer cottage

All of the Americans at Orientation

All of the Americans at Orientation

Reuniting at our first district meet-up

Reuniting at our first district meet-up

Enjoying the snow in Lapland

Enjoying the snow in Lapland

District 1410 in Pori

District 1410 in Pori

Meeting Santa in Santa's Village in Lapland

Meeting Santa in Santa's Village in Lapland

Feeding reindeer

Feeding reindeer

Christmastime in Tallinn, Estonia

Christmastime in Tallinn, Estonia

Skiing for the first time in Lapland

Skiing for the first time in Lapland

The first snow

The first snow

Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral

  • Amanda, outbound to Finland

    Five months. Almost one-half of my exchange has passed by, sooner than I could ever have imagined. While preparing for exchange, the length seemed never-ending, a year. Telling people about my future endeavors, they couldn’t believe I could leave home for a whole year; I couldn’t believe it myself. However after arriving, my first day became my first week, that soon becoming my first month, and in the blink of an eye, it’s been five months. I feel as if I’ve done more than I ever could have imagined, while simultaneously feeling as if I haven’t been doing enough. Exchange is filled with these contradictory feelings. As Perry (on exchange to Estonia) wrote in our group chat…

    “I feel anything but at home. I feel I’m not myself anymore. Both for the better and for worse. I feel sick some days and I feel alone some days but it’s so addicting to feel new and different. It’s amazing. I feel like a grown-up. I feel like a child. I feel like I can’t do anything. I feel like nothing is holding me back. I know I could just go somewhere in this country on my own and be back by dinner, yet I don’t know what to do/feel confident enough. I feel like I’m in a dream, but one that I could get hurt in. I feel special, yet so insignificant. I feel like I need a hug but no, lost the desire for one…and plus that’s not the culture. I feel like I have friends, but they aren’t real friends. I feel so patriotic. I feel like I have no home. I feel cold and on my own. Yet, then I see true friends and feel like I’m not alone. I’ll always have you guys (exchangers) and I’m thankful for that. I feel like I could cry every day. I feel like I have no tears. I feel like I’m messing up everything. I know I’m messing up everything, yet I feel like it doesn’t matter. Yet, I know this is the most important year of my life. I just feel different. Simple as that.”

    This quote sums up my emotions in totality. It’s the strangest feeling to love the give and take of exchange but it’s quite thrilling, and the good always overtakes the bad.

    Besides all of that, I have begun to settle. Life here is becoming my life. I have a semi-regular weekly routine; school, dance, guitar, and Finnish lessons. Throughout the past few months, I’ve done so, so much!!! I’ve gone multiple times to Helsinki with exchange friends, as well as, my host family. I went to Pori for our district camp. I experienced my first Finnish snowfall. I went on a Rotary trip to Lapland, where I skied for my first time(!!!), walked across the Finnish-Swedish border, met, pet, and fed reindeer, met (the very, very real) Santa in Santa’s Village, and went on both husky and reindeer sleigh rides! I went on a trip to the beautiful Tallinn, Estonia with my host family! I met up with all of the exchange students in District 1410 for a district meeting in Salo. I performed in a dance show with my dance studio. I spent my first Christmas away from home with my Finnish family. Then last week, I rang in the New Year with Finnish friend s and my friend, Emma (an exchange student from California), at a little cottage in typical Finnish fashion, with sauna and negative degree weather. Throughout my normal week, I still am experiencing new things; whether it’s picking mushrooms with my mom or going somewhere new with friends.

    Rotex always made settling seem like a bad part of exchange, because it’s no longer such a mystery anymore and while that’s true, I’ve found it quite nice to be able to know my way around town and be able to bike places without directions, to know how the train system works and be able to communicate with the ticket checker without needing English. It’s nice to have a favorite cafe in the city where the woman knows you, and to know where cities are when people refer to them. It’s refreshing not to be ((as)) confused in school and to know where my classrooms are. While I wish that new, mysterious feeling would stay prominent, settling makes it feel a bit more like home. Exchange isn’t meant to be a vacation or to feel like a tourist, but to live regularly among another culture so I’m glad it’s feeling more “normal” here.

    I’ve been trying to keep track of the things that are now normal to me that hadn’t been before, however now that I’ve been here so long and they’re becoming normal to me I can’t help to overlook them. Things such as tap water rather than filtered water from the fridge, drinks with no ice, sparkling water, low diversity rates, incredible (well to me, not so much to locals) transportation, wool socks, a jacket on top of everything, just about every student taking their academics seriously, and so many more things. Oh and for me, not understanding has become pretty normal to me, although I’m hoping that will change soon.

    To see my homepage and some photos click HERE 

     


  • Amanda, outbound to Finland

    I’ve been in Finland for nearly two months now! It’s crazy how the time has flown and how much has happened. It’s been quite the adventure so far and I have been busy non-stop in the best way possible. I’m starting to adjust and create a routine for myself here and it’s starting to feel more and more like home with every passing day.

    When arriving in Finland, I immediately went to orientation camp. I was a day late due to my flights but it gave me the opportunity to meet five other exchange students who were also arriving late, as well as, a boy from Finland who was on his way home from his exchange year in New York. The six of us who were late were brought to the train station and told where we needed to end up; the rest was for us to figure out. 6 teenagers, 13 bags of luggage, 5 different languages, and 2 train rides created quite an interesting first day in Finland, and a day I’ll always remember. Orientation was fantastic and took place in a beautiful place, Karkku. Over a hundred and twenty exchange students from around the world all meeting, learning Finnish, going to sauna, swimming, and exploring, I couldn’t imagine a better way to have started off my year in Finland.

    I’ve been in school now for over a month and it’s been really great. I like the dynamic of it much more than school back in the states. It’s much smaller than schools back home, the high school here has around 300 students total. It’s much easier to get to know the people around you since there are so few students. The schools here allow you to have much more freedom as well; you get to choose your classes and your schedule and there’s a 15 minute break between all of the classes in which you get to socialize. It seems a lot less rushed and stressful than at home and the students hold much more responsibility here. I’m taking six classes right now so I’m there from 8am to 2pm. Currently I’m in: two English classes, biology, math, music theory, and art.

    I’ve been trying new things and trying to fill my time with all types of different activities. Two weeks ago, I went on a three day hike through the Tammela forest which was incredibly beautiful and I’m really glad to have gotten the opportunity to go. We walked about 20km and the views were definitely worth it. Two weeks ago I also visited a car factory with my Rotary club and competed in a soccer tournament with my school. This past week, I started all of my after school activities. I started P.E., Finnish language lessons, guitar, and dance lessons. The Finnish lessons are really useful and I hope they help me more with my language skills. It’s really fun taking guitar and dance and trying new things that I’ve always wanted to do but have never had the opportunity to do before. Any free time I have is spent with my host family or my friends.

    Last weekend, we had our first Rotary district meet-up. We all met in Turku then took a bus to Ruissalo, an island in the Archipelago Sea, where we had a picnic and we shared food from our country. I spent the day before biking to the store and baking an apple pie from scratch to share. It was really great to be able to see everyone again since orientation and meet the Australians for the first time. This past weekend, Emma (an exchange student from California) and I took the bus up to Tampere for the day to visit another exchange student, McKenna, for the day. The transportation is great here and I love being able to travel around so much.

    So far everything has been so much better than I could have ever imagined and I’m really grateful for this opportunity. Leaving home sounded terrifying at first and it was harder than I expected but as soon as I left it didn’t feel so hard anymore. After you leave, you realize it’s finally happened, and the journey has begun. It’s crazy to think of leaving home and living in a new country for a year, but after you arrive in the country, then you just live and try to make the most of every second you’re away.

    To see my home page and some photos click HERE

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