SIGHT SEEKING: Alise gets to see some iconic Aussie places during her year in Australia.
SIGHT SEEKING: Alise gets to see some iconic Aussie places during her year in Australia. Contributed

From Finland to Rockhampton for young teen

ALISE Lang thought she was heading for the bright lights of Sydney, instead she found herself in a place she never heard of, Rockhampton.

The 17-year-old Finish exchange student is about to finish up her 12 month stay and will leave with a much different picture of Australia in her head than when she arrived.

Applying for the program, Alise's idea of Australia was pretty simple. Everyone lived next to the beach, everyone surfed and there were crocodiles, snakes and spiders everywhere.

So when she arrived in Rockhampton, she was taken by surprise. It was much smaller than she thought, public transport was scarce and while the beach wasn't too far away, she definitely wasn't right next to it.

Hailing from Helsinki, Alise wanted to immerse herself in another culture and brush up on her English after her friend came back from the same exchange program in Australia.

"I was really happy when I was chosen, I thought I would be going to Sydney or some big city so I was excited,” Alise said.

"Then I got Rockhampton and I didn't know where I was going.

"I thought it was bigger than it is but I like it here.”

The 17-year-old has stayed with three host families during her 12 month trip, living across Rockhampton, Yeppoon and Gracemere and has attended both Rockhampton Girls Grammar and Emmaus College.

Alise said she found there were a lot of differences in the schooling systems including girls only schools, uniforms and lunches.

"Back home we have breaks after every lesson at school so we have more time to hang around with friends,” she said.

"We make our own timetables so it's really flexible. If we don't have classes that start at 8am we don't have to be there and sometimes we finish at 12pm.”

Alise said at her school back home they didn't wear uniforms either and had far more subjects to cover.

"At my school in Finland we don't have uniforms and we have free lunch but here I have to bring my lunch box so that's a big difference,” she explained.

"In Finland we do 18 different subjects whereas here it is five or six so school is much easier here and in my first six months I went to Girls Grammar which was different because we don't have only girls schools back home.”

Alise, who still has two years of school to complete when she returns home, said friends were easily made through school as everyone was curious as to what it was like in Finland.

"They ask what language I spoke back home and I've been asked if we have cars and do we have internet,” Alise laughed.

The young exchange student said spending time with friends proved more difficult here than back home as they all worked.

"Here everyone is working and in Finland we can't really work under 18 so my friends here are really busy with work and school,” she said.

When asked what her most memorable experience was in Australia, Alise said it would have to be her three week trip around Australia.

"We had a big trip with all the other exchange students and we went to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Uluru, Cairns and Airlie Beach,” she said.

"We got to see Uluru, it was so cool to be in the middle of nowhere, it was amazing.”

As for her opinion on Vegemite, Alise said she's not a fan.

And although she won't miss the Vegemite, she said she would miss Rockhampton a lot.

"I go home in July but I don't want to go yet because I've just made my own friends and family and it feels like home,” she said.

"I will keep in touch with every body and I really want to come back here, I have two more years at school in Finland and then maybe I can come back after that.”



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