By Aaron Dyer, Aberdeen High School Intern
Jeran Paris is a sophomore at Aberdeen High School (AHS). Those who know Jeran know that he is no ordinary high school student. Jeran participates in seemingly every activity AHS has to offer, including cross country, swim and dive, track, jazz band, marching band, wind ensemble, Grays Harbor Symphony, and Renaissance Action Team (RAT), as well as off-campus groups like Foreign Exchange through Rotary. Jeran, with a full AP schedule, excels academically as well and is studious in spite of his many activities. For his upcoming junior year, Jeran has been offered the chance of a lifetime: a yearlong exchange across the pond in Finland.
Before even being offered the opportunity to study abroad for a year, Jeran had to put in many hours of work. He did research, created projects and even drove to Victoria, B.C. twice to be interviewed by a team of five people before the decision was made. After being accepted, Jeran patiently waited several months before being assigned to his destination: Finland.
Jeran says he’s most excited for the small side trips he plans on taking. “I get to go to St. Petersburg, which is in Russia, and I get to go into northern Finland to see the northern lights. I wanted to go to Finland because I was reading online about what the best schools in the world were, and that Finland was topping the charts in education. In Finland, you don’t even start school until you’re seven, and there are only about 20 kids in each class.”
While abroad, Jeran says he hopes to continue his many activities. “I want to continue music, for sure, and I want to do sports, but different sports that aren’t even feasible to do here, like indoor bandy. It’s kind of like hockey, only indoors. And ice hockey, too.”
Excited for the year ahead, Jeran says adjusting to a new culture can be challenging. “Here, if I’m hungry, I can go grab a corndog or something. In Finland, I don’t know what the food will be like, or when they eat.”
Jeran is also keenly aware of the language barrier. Ever since the confirmation of his location arrived, Jeran has been learning the Finnish language. Assisting him in this are Seppo and Pirjo Tuominen, Finnish natives who moved to America. Jeran is also is receiving help from some past members of the exchange who traveled from Finland to spend a year in the United States. “I don’t think you understand how hard Finnish is,” Jeran says. “I can count to 99 though!”
Jeran says foreign exchange programs aren’t for everyone, but explains, “There are some things in life that you’ll only get one chance at, and this is one of those things. If you can get the opportunity, then [yes], for sure, take it.”
In Jeran’s 16 years, he has already accomplished more in his high school career than many accomplish in a lifetime. Jeran’s peers will miss him in the coming year, and the many spaces he currently occupies on sports teams and in clubs will be hard to fill. Good luck and safe travels in the year ahead, Jeran.