Tri-Village News

German, Finnish visitors excited about year in U.S.

Traveling, football await Grandview exchange students

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JOSHUA A. BICKEL/THISWEEKNEWS
Exchange students Leoni Axmann (left), 16, of Osnabruck, Germany, and Marikki Heikkinen, 17, of Espoo, Finland, pose for a portrait Friday, Aug. 29, at Grandview Heights High School. The pair will study in Ohio through the school year and will return home next summer.
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It didn't take long for the two foreign-exchange students spending the year at Grandview Heights High School to notice some big differences between schools in the United States and their home counties.

"In our school, there are much longer breaks between classes -- 15 minutes," said Marikki Heikkinen of Espoo, Finland. "Here, there's hardly any time between classes. That was probably the biggest surprise to me.

"Our school day lasts longer in Finland because of the long breaks."

For Leoni Axmann of Osnabruck, Germany, it's not so much the breaks between classes as who is doing the moving.

"In Germany, we are assigned to large groups and it's the teachers who go class to class," she said. "Our classes are also held in longer blocks."

Both girls are visiting the United States for the first time.

"I want to learn to speak better English and see all the culture here," said Heikkinen, a 17-year-old junior. "And I want to meet as many people as I can and make new friends.

"I just want to see how life is here in America."

Grandview is one of central Ohio's smallest school districts and the high school is considered to be a small school -- but it's large enough for Heikkinen.

"The biggest school I've ever attended in Finland had probably about 600 students," she said, "so this seems like a pretty big school to me."

She said she is looking forward to attending her first football game.

"Ice hockey is the big sport in Finland," Heikkinen said.

Axmann, 16, is attending school as a sophomore.

"I've really been surprised at how friendly everybody is. Everybody is so nice and eager to help you," she said. "People in Germany are nice, but they're not as outgoing."

Before her year in the United States is over, Axmann said she wants to do a lot of traveling.

"I'm looking forward to seeing as many places in the U.S. as I can," she said.

She said she is looking forward to the trip to New York City she will take as a member of the concert choir.

"I love to sing and I'm really happy that choir is an actual class here," Axmann said. "Back home, choir is just an after-school activity, but I'm excited to be able to practice my singing every day."

While Heikkinen and Axmann will surely learn a lot about American culture during their exchange year, Grandview students are also profiting, guidance counselor Bryan Stork said.

"This is a great opportunity for our kids to experience more diversity and learn about new cultures," he said. "With so much focus on global learning these days, there's no better way for them to experience that than by meeting and getting to know our exchange students."

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