Johnstown-Monroe High School junior Ashley Abner is headed to Finland on June 16, thanks to a summer program offered through Youth for Understanding.
Abner, 16, said she gained inspiration to study abroad from her mother, Mary Abner, who proposed the idea after learning of her daughter’s desire to travel after graduation.
Youth for Understanding offers year, semester, summer and gap programs in more than 40 countries.
Abner said she originally chose to visit Sweden, simply because the country is 10 percent vegan, and she thought their overall culture would be a good fit for her.
“However, the program I was traveling with, Youth For Understanding, did not send vegan students to specific countries, one being Sweden,” she said. “They would send me to Finland instead, and I imagine that the countries are very similar and the experience will be amazing either way.”
Abner will stay with a family in southern Finland on an island called Kuusisto.
“The family consists of a mother working as a public health nurse, named Anna, a father named Jarno, who is an engineer, a 17-year-old sister named Sanni and 14-year-old twins named Anna and Venla,” she said. “They have one bichon frise named Sara.”
Abner said the family has played host to exchange students, and they share common interests with her, such as swimming, hiking, running and boating.
She said her long-term goal is to become a health and wellness coach.
“That is simply like a dietitian, nutritionist and fitness trainer all tangled into one,” Abner said. “I also would want to focus on the mental aspect of health, including eating disorders and other mental blocks such as that. In this profession, I wish to travel the world, teaching people about both physical and mental health.”
Abner said she wants to teach fitness classes and have clients online whom she could help as often as possible.
“I also want to incorporate social media into this plan, posting recipes and fitness videos on YouTube and reaching out to people on Instagram,” she said. “I believe social media can be used for a positive, productive purpose rather than as a mindless tool of distraction, as it has become.”
Principal Derick Busenburg said he has had the opportunity to work quite extensively with Abner as part of her work with the Licking County Youth Leadership Council.
“There is no doubt that she is one of the most caring, kind and thoughtful students at Johnstown High School,” he said. “I just recently learned about her six-week trip to Finland, and I am very excited for her. I’m sure that this will be a wonderful opportunity for Ashley to immerse herself in another culture, and I can’t think of a better student ambassador.”
Abner is scheduled to return home July 29.