Quest Exchange in Finland

The republic of Finland is perhaps best known for its peacefulness and beautiful nature, along with its vast forests, unique archipelago and over 187,000 lakes. In addition to its captivating northern nature, Finland is also a modern Nordic country with a high standard of living and advanced technology and economy.

The Finns are usually warm and genuine. Equality is very important and people have great respect for one another. Finland was the first country in Europe to give women the right to vote in 1902. Finns may seem a bit shy at first, but when better acquainted, they will prove to be loyal friends. Finns have a special sense of humor, or even craziness. The numerous festivals and events that are annually arranged throughout the country are good examples of this cultural trait. The craziest of them might be the “Wife Carrying World Championships”, “Swamp Soccer World Championships” and “Mosquito Swatting”.

Finnish cuisine is rather similar to other Nordic countries, but it still has its own specialties. Most Finnish specialties are made of salmon or reindeer, but vegetables and other meat are also commonly used. Clean, natural food is very important to Finns and most dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients. Of course, Finns sometimes like to go out for a pizza or grab a hamburger too.

Come visit the home of Santa Claus where you will be surrounded with Christmas coziness all year round!

3 Fun Facts
  • Further cementing the nation’s wonderfully off-beat sense of humor, Finland has an annual Day of Failure every October 13th. Started in 2010, the ceremony celebrates bad news and ill-fortune as a way of learning for the future.
  • There are a whopping 187,888 lakes within the territory of Finland – the most of any country in the world.
  • Finland is known as the “Land of the Midnight Sun” because during June and July, the sun never drops below the horizon in the northern part of the country.
2018-2019 Program Pricing

Year

Mid Aug – Mid June
$11,200

Semester

Mid Aug – Late Dec
Early Jan – Mid June
$10,200

SCHOOL LIFE

The Finnish school year runs from the middle of August to the middle of June. Fall semester runs from the middle of August to late December, and Spring semester runs from the beginning of January to the middle of June. During the school year there will be a few weeks of vacation: a short Fall break in October, one or two weeks over Christmas and New Year break, one week of Winter break in February/March and a few days for Easter.

The school day usually starts between 8-10 am and ends between 2-4 pm. Classes are held from Monday to Friday and weekends are free. Lunch break is approximately 45 minutes and the school lunch is free of charge for all students. The school year is divided into five or six periods. A separate schedule is given for each period concentrating on certain subjects. Each period ends with a “test week” wherein students are tested on the subjects studied during that particular period.

In Finland, school starts at the age of seven and continues through the 9th grade, after which students can decide between high school (upper secondary school) and vocational school. The high school students have a big exam at the end of their studies, which is called the matriculation exam. When students matriculate, they can choose to enter higher education at University or Polytechnic. High school (lukio) is voluntary in Finland and it consists of three grades. Nowadays, almost all high schools have a flexible “classless system”, meaning that students can finish school at their own speed in 2-4 years.

Finnish schools have no official dress code and the teachers are not very authoritarian as in some other countries. The relationship between teachers and students is more relaxed and open. Schools are very supportive about the language barrier, and they understand the problems exchange students may confront, especially in the beginning of their stay. Exchange students are advised to attend extra Finnish language courses outside of school.

FAMILY LIFE

The host families are looking forward to the exchange student’s arrival and they are eager to show their new family member the Finnish way of living. There are families all around Finland and most of them live in detached houses. Many Finnish families also own a summer cottage in the countryside.

Exchange students are expected to take part in the family activities and to help with chores. Curfews are not very strict in Finland. However, with this freedom comes a lot of responsibility. The parents trust their children to inform them of their plans and whereabouts, and to come home when promised. The families usually eat dinner together, spend their evenings together at home, or practice their hobbies. Families spend a lot of time outdoors. The activity depends on the season.

In Finnish families, roles are not clearly defined. In most families, both parents work and both take part in the household chores. The average number of children is 1–3. As in the States, about 50% of marriages end in divorce, so many families consist only of a mother with children or a father with children. Children are also treated equally regardless of their gender. They are expected to help with household chores, such as doing the dishes, keeping rooms tidy and shopping for daily groceries. Finnish families are usually quite busy with school, work and hobbies, so they don’t necessarily eat dinner together during the weekdays. But, on weekends, they do try to eat long meals like breakfast together. Finnish family members are usually quite straightforward and open towards each other. All kinds of subjects may be discussed. Finns maintain high ideals of loyalty and reliability. Promises and agreements are taken seriously, so remember to keep your promises.

Most Finns love sport and outdoor activities, which vary depending on the season. During the summer, most of the city people head for the countryside to their summer cottages by the lake. The weekends and holidays are spent relaxing, swimming, fishing and naturally by going to the sauna. Other popular activities are cycling, jogging, water sports and of course our national game “pesäpallo”, which is the Finnish version of baseball.

For many Finns, winter is the high season for sports. Cross-country and downhill skiing are possible almost everywhere in Finland. Ice-fishing or swimming in the ice cold water is becoming more and more popular, but the most popular sport of all is ice-hockey. All the bigger cities have their own team and the games are followed quite intensely. Exchange students are strongly advised to participate in extra-curricular activities, since Finnish schools seldom arrange any activities. An easy way to do this is to ask what hobbies schoolmates have and join them for practice. Most private teams, clubs, gyms, etc. give a free pass to try out the hobby. Popular activities are sports, clubs, social events, art, music and drama. This is also a good way to meet new friends.

Program EXTRAS

There are several optional add-on trips offered during the program. However, details vary by season and year, so please contact us for more information. These trips are not included in Quest program fees.

One of the trips that is consistently offered is the Soft Landing Camp in Copenhagen for 4 days and 3 nights. The cost of this orientation is approximately $625, which does not include flights. The orientation fees are not included in Quest program fees. The orientation is a great way for students arriving at the beginning of the Fall or Spring semesters to start their study abroad adventure. It allows students a chance to sightsee, enjoy typical activities in Denmark’s capital, and meet other exchange students who will live and study in Scandinavia with them! It is highly recommended as experience has shown that it helps students transition into the study abroad program regardless of which country they are studying in.

Program REQUIREMENTS

For Fall semester and year-long programs, students must be 15-18 years old. Additionally, 18-year old students are most likely placed in the same grade with students who are one year younger because the last grade of Finnish high school does not enroll exchange students. For Spring semester programs, students must be 16-18 years old at the time of arrival. If students turn 19 during the year of arrival, they are too old for the program.

All students must purchase mandatory medical insurance for this program, which is not included in Quest program fees. The approximate cost for this is as follows: $700 for a year, $400 for a semester, and $300 for 3 months. For more information on this, please contact us.

There is no official language requirement for previous knowledge of the Finnish language. However, all schools teach in the local language so an interest in learning Finnish is crucial for managing schoolwork, making friends and engaging with your host families. The Finnish language has a reputation for being difficult. Exchange students should therefore be prepared to struggle with the language barrier, especially in the beginning of their stay. We encourage all applicants to our program to start practicing the basics of the local language before arrival. The sooner students start listening to and understanding the local language, the easier they will adapt to their new environment.

Visas

For stays over 90 days, students will need a visa. Students and parents should research visa requirements through the Finnish consulate or embassy nearest to their home as soon as possible, as this is the most time-intensive component of the study abroad application process. It usually takes four to five weeks to obtain a Finnish visa. As the details of this process vary greatly by location, neither Quest nor our Finn partner office can confirm the exact requirements. For this reason, Quest is not able to assist with legal visa documents. It is the student’s responsibility to research the current visa requirements and to obtain and submit the visa application.

Will students have access to Internet/WiFi at their home and school?

Students will most likely have access to WiFi at home and school, but a lot of students buy their own access once in Finland.

Can students bring their own cell phones?

Yes, if students have an unlocked cell phone, they could try to use their personal phone with a Finnish carrier/SIM card. Though, this doesn’t always work, so the student needs to be open to buying a new phone when they arrive in Finland and with the help of the host family.

Can students travel without an adult chaperone if given permission?

This is determined on a case-by-case basis by the Finnish partner organization.

How much money should students have for spending money?

Students should budget around $300-$350/month for personal expenses, which include entertainment, personal hygiene items, long-distance calls, etc. Additional money should be budgeted for start-up school expenses, such as books and supplies. These fees are in addition to Quest program fees.

What are some cultural norms that describe a typical host family in Finland?

Generally speaking, Finns are quiet, hard-working people who respect authority figures. Young people are part of decision-making processes, and they are expected to be responsible members of the family and country. That said, Finnish family expectations, interactions and activities vary widely. So, students must be open-minded and ready to adapt to their new host family dynamics.

How are host families chosen?

Quest’s in-country partner is responsible for locating, screening and matching host families with our students. Host families go through a careful screening process, which typically involves in-person interviews, home inspections and references.

How do students apply for the visa and how long does it take?

For stays over 90 days, students will need a visa. Students and parents should research visa requirements through the Finnish consulate or embassy nearest to their home as soon as possible, as this is the most time-intensive component of the study abroad application process. It usually takes four to five weeks to obtain a Finnish visa. As the details of this process vary greatly by location, neither Quest nor our Finn partner office can confirm the exact requirements. For this reason, Quest is not able to assist with legal visa documents. It is the student’s responsibility to research the current visa requirements and to obtain and submit the visa application.

How will the student get to and from school?

Students will generally walk, bike or take public transportation, the latter of which would cost approximately $60/month. Transportation fees are the student’s responsibility and are not included in Quest program fees.

Is it possible for students to get tutors during their program?

Yes, tutors are available and prices vary based on the subject and duration of tutoring sessions. For student tutors through the school, the cost would be approximately $10-$20/hour.

Can students receive an official document with grades and completed classes after finishing their program? 

Exchange students in Finland do not generally receive grade reports, but they can if they are able to complete all assignments and exams in Finnish. Otherwise, schools will give students a certificate stating that they have attended classes and completed the specified duration of study in Finland. In order to receive either of these documents, students must proactively seek them out. Obtaining this documentation is the student’s responsibility before s/he leaves Finland.

Do schools offer different sports/activities? 

Schools do not offer such activities. Finnish teens participate in extracurricular activities outside of school for nominal fees.

THINK IT OVER

The rewards of life abroad are amazing and wonderful, but are you up for the unique challenges that come with this experience? You will be away from your friends, family and the lifestyle you are accustomed to. You will have to adapt to a new language, culture, school and family. You will have to make decisions on your own and make new friends. Think about it and do some research on the country you want to study in. There is a wealth of information on the Internet that can better prepare you for your adventure!

GET YOUR PARENT/LEGAL GUARDIAN ON BOARD

Your parent(s) or guardian(s) need to help you make your dream happen. The application process takes time and effort, so it is important, at this stage, to make sure your parents support your decision to study abroad and have given you approval to move forward. If they feel that you are prepared and understand what’s required from them, you are ready to move to the next step.

CHECK IN WITH YOUR SCHOOL

You may receive credit from your program, but it is your responsibility to make this happen. Only your U.S. school can decide which credits you can receive. You must approach your guidance counselor to determine if you can get the credits you are hoping to receive. Bring Quest’s Academic Guide with you, and be certain of what you will be responsible for.

CONTACT QUEST FOR PROGRAM INFORMATION AND PAPERWORK

Fill out our online information request form in order to receive important program information from Quest via email. This email will contain Quest’s Program Agreement and Program Guidelines for your review and signature. Carefully review all of this information with your parents and contact Quest if you have any questions. We are here to help guide you through the process so you can make decisions that fit your needs.

CONFIRM PROGRAM DETAILS

The Quest Program Coordinator will confirm with you the program details submitted on your original request form. If you’re unsure of your destination, we’ll help you narrow down your choices to the country and program season that works for you. We will speak with your parents and make sure that everybody feels informed and ready to proceed with the decisions made.

CONFIRM PAYMENT DETAILS

You and your parents will receive the online Payment Agreement, which states the total program price for your selected destination country and Quest’s payment process. Your parents will receive an invoice for the application deposit, which is due before you submit your student application.

COMPLETE YOUR APPLICATION

Quest will send you a full student application for the program you have chosen. This application can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to complete. Make sure you give yourself ample time prior to the application deadline to complete the application and supplemental documents.

SKYPE INTERVIEW

This is when you get to meet your Quest Program Coordinator and talk face to (virtual) face. During the interview, the Program Coordinator will assess your suitability for the Quest Study Abroad program. This call lasts 30-60 minutes. Parents will speak with us at the end of the call, but the first part of the interview questions must be answered by the student alone. There is no preparation needed other than to talk about yourself, your desire to participate in the program and why you feel you are ready.

WAITING FOR ACCEPTANCE

Your Quest Program Coordinator will review your application and interview documentation to determine acceptance. Our team members put a lot of thought into the decisions they make, and not all students are accepted into the program. In order to make our decision, Quest must review complete and accurate application materials. We choose students who are emotionally, socially and academically prepared for the study abroad program. We look at each student’s level of maturity, independence and ability to adapt to life in a foreign country.

ACCEPTANCE AND INVOICE

You will receive a letter of acceptance from Quest via email. Your parents will receive an invoice outlining the total cost with only the first 50% of the total due within 10 days. The final 50% of the remaining program fees are due within 30 days of the invoice date.

GET LEGAL – VISA AND IMMIGRATION

This is a very important step in the process and can be very time-intensive. We suggest that you get started researching the requirements as soon as possible with the nearest embassy or consulate for your destination country, as requirements vary by location. Because the process does vary considerably, Quest and our foreign partner office are not able to assist with legal visa documents. It is the student’s responsibility to research the current visa requirements and to obtain and submit the visa application. Start filling out all of the paperwork well in advance, as visa approval can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to obtain.

SCHOOL AND HOST FAMILY PLACEMENT

This is the hardest part: waiting for your school and host family placement information! Making quality placements takes time, and we will need your patience during this important step. Quest will notify you and your parents of a confirmed placement in a school and then again when you are placed with your host family. Write to your host family as soon as possible to introduce yourself, and let them know how excited you are to meet them.

BOOK YOUR FLIGHT

Working together with you and your parents, Quest will confirm your arrival date and book your roundtrip international flight to your placement area. We will also book your student travel and medical insurance for your trip, so you can rest easier while abroad!

PRE-DEPARTURE ORIENTATION

Your Quest Program Coordinator will help you get prepped for your trip with a pre-departure orientation prior to your departure. You’ll receive an agenda before the call. We encourage you to write all of your remaining questions down so that we can make you and your parents feel prepared for your trip abroad. We will go over the program rules, what to pack, what to do if you need support once you arrive, and more!

LIVE YOUR STUDY ABROAD DREAM!

Congratulate yourself and your family for making this happen. You are on your way to the study abroad adventure that you’ve earned!

Balance your time abroad — keep in touch with those back home, but remember that the point of studying abroad is to be present and active in your host country. Keep a blog or an online photo album so you can show all of the revelations you have had and the sights you have seen. On a rainy day, you’ll be happy to reflect on your growing experience abroad. Stay in touch with Local Coordinators and with Quest. We’d love to hear how you are doing!

Programs Available
  • Year
  • Semester
Application Deadline
  • Year/Fall Semester: April 1st
  • Spring Semester: October 1st
Apply Now

Quest International, a nonprofit organization, promoting international cultural awareness and compassion by providing educational programs for American and International students to live and learn together.