Lancaster Park student off to Finland with Rotary

by Lucie Roy

While everyone was out enjoying the long weekend Victoria Kentfield of Lancaster was busy packing her suitcases.

Kentfield left Saturday for Oulu, Finland where she will be spending a year as part of a Rotary Club Youth Exchange Program. Oulu is the place of her host family and is a city and municipality in the region of Northern Ostrobothnia.

Her Mother Kerry was at the Rotary Club of Morinville meeting held Aug. 2 to hear the presentation her daughter will be making to the Rotary Club of Finland. Kentfield included pictures of her father, mother, two brothers and one sister, friends, school, whale watching, her dogs and added a few Finish words – Koira for dog and Koulu for school.

We interviewed Kentfield on why Finland?

“When I began my exchange journey, I wanted to be placed into a Western European country, but as all exchange students, I was excited for whichever country was chosen for me,” Kentfield said. “In the interview that decided my host country I talked the most about how important my education is to me. The main thing that had lead me to be unsure about going on exchange was having to come back to Canada and do an extra year of school. I had soon realized that this extra year was worth the experience, I would have. I also talked about how everything that is done in a country should be done to benefit the most amount of people and do what is best for the majority.”

With all of that in mind, Kentfield received a country that she says holds many of the same values she does, a country she brushed over without knowing much about it.

“Now I have learned that Finland has one of the best school systems in the world, almost tied with China,” she said. “Finland is the happiest country in the world. I have also learned that Finland is considered one of the safest places to live.

“Finnish people pass the winter by sitting in a sauna, then jumping into the frozen river, and then they do it all over again. I’ve learned so much about Finland because the people doing my interview saw the potential for me to love the country.”


Part of Kentfield’s exchange is learning a new language.

“Teaching yourself a language without anyone around who also speaks the language is hard, not impossible but definitely hard,” she said. “I have so far learned basic greetings and how to say goodbye. I know a few colours, a few emotions, and how to confidently ask where the washroom is. I am building a language foundation. I know my host families will help me to be able to speak Finnish in proper sentences. There are enough of them that I potentially have a tutor at all hours.”

Host families

Kentfield’s first host family has eight children with only three living at home while she is there. The second family has seven children, all at home.

“As most Finnish people, they both enjoy the outdoors and visiting their cabins up in Lapland,” Kentfield said. “My second host family goes salmon fishing each spring, and my first host family goes on hikes on the weekends. They both seem like nice people who are going to be incredibly helpful during my year abroad.”

A year away

When Kentfield first came home and said she wanted to live in another country for a year, everyone thought she was joking. At dinner she told her mom about the research into the idea and that doing the trip with Rotary was the most cost effective way.

Kentfield learned about the exchange program from Denisa Rajka, the Rotary Club of Morinville inbound student from the Czech Republic that attended Sturgeon Composite High School.

“I made my case, and my older brother thought it would be really cool; my mom was hesitant, and my dad saw the possibility,” Kentfield recalled. “As time went on, everyone soon realized I was not joking. This was something I wanted. I told my parents I would pay for it. The conclusion was if I could afford the exchange I could go.”

Kentfield said everyone who has heard about her exchange had been fascinated and encouraging.

“I never thought something like this would be possible, but it is, and I’m going to live in Finland for a whole year, all thanks to the Rotary and my family,” she said.

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