IT was an opportunity to travel to another country, somewhere totally different to where she grew up. The new country was Australia, the city where she would stay was Shepparton.
Emma Lahtinen comes from Finland and is eight months through a 12 month stay in Shepparton as a rotary exchange student.
When first accepted by rotary in Finland, she was offered a choice of Brazil or Australia. Her mother had been to Australia and told her so much about this country that Emma decided this was the place to be.
Emma has found Shepparton to be so multicultural and she has fitted right into Shepparton High School.
Back in Finland at the moment it is snowing and the temperature gets down to minus 35ºC, a far cry from the 40ºC plus weather she has experienced here, but Emma says she just loves the hot weather just as long as it’s not humid.
At home she would be skiing, ice-skating or playing ice hockey but here a good swim is the order of the day.
Shepparton is good for shopping, but she has also been to Melbourne and Sydney and loved Phillip Island and its penguins.
Emma, along with eight other exchange students, joined a group of 22 young people to experience a back-to-nature week in the mountains of Glen Valley on the upper Mitta Mitta River Omeo.
It is known as Mittagundi and founded in 1978 by Ian Stapleton, who was Hike Master at Geelong Grammar’s Timbertop campus.
The idea was to provide an environment where young people could get away from everyday life, so Mittagundi was born to provide a simple way of living where people could get back to nature and hike the mountains.
In the early days, a lot of people backed the idea and from its slow start under canvas, Mittagundi has grown to provide log hut accommodation in a farm setting.
Emma really enjoyed her 10 days at Mittagundi and made some good friends among those attending.
Very soon her mum and two brothers are coming out from Finland to join her in Shepparton. After seeing this area, Emma has arranged to take her family to Phillip Island. It should be fun to see Australia’s penguins and spend some time relaxing by the sea.
Emma is due to return to Finland in July, just in time to resume year 11 in August, but she will miss her home here in Shepparton and the wonderful people she has made friends with. She would also like to thank rotary for the opportunity to travel and advises any young person who gets the opportunity to visit and live in another country, to jump on the offer.
As for her future, Emma has been bitten by the travel bug and now wants to travel the world. Go Emma go.
Until next time,