Finnish student fitting in at BG High School
Written by KEVIN GORDON Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor
Saturday, 26 January 2013 08:56
Oskari Kurki is quickly learning about the United States and life in a small town.
|Oscar, an exchange student from Finland and member of the BGHS hockey team, inside the BGSU Hockey Arena. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
The native of Helsinki, Finland, is an exchange student at Bowling Green High School this year.
Helsinki, the capital of Finland, has a population of approximately 604,000
“I’ve enjoyed everything. It’s a lot different here than at home in terms of the size and everything,” said Kurki, known as Oscar at the high school.
The 17-year-old has been busy experiencing as many activities as possible at the high school and in the community, although most of his time has been spent as a member of the Bobcat hockey and football teams.
Kurki plans to play on the lacrosse team in the spring.
“The people here so are nice,” Kurki said. “They’re interested in me and what I’m doing, where I’m from. It’s been a great experience. I’ve met a lot of new people, made some good friends, while having chance to live in a different country and learn about a difficult culture.”
Kurki’s class schedule included biology, history, English, math, geography and public speaking.
“I’m not a big fan of school, but the classes have been fun,” he said.
Kurki has two more years of high school once he returns home. His plans beyond high school are undecided, although he could work in the family business which makes ties and scarves.
Kurki is one of the hockey team’s leading scorers.
“He’s been a good fit for the team,” Bobcat hockey coach Dan DeWitt said. “The players are enjoying their time with him.”
“Because of his quiet demeanor, I was surprised to see how competitive he is,” DeWitt added. “He does not like losing and has a big compete level. He has emerged as a leader both on the ice and in the locker room.”
A kicker on the football team, Kurki plays soccer and hockey back home.
He’ll be here through the end of June. A trip to Cedar Point also could be in the works later this year.
“He’s a lot fun to be around and you’re always getting a good laugh from him. He’s like a brother to us,” said Ryan Emans, a sophomore teammate of Kurki’s in football and hockey. “We’re going to stay in contact even after he leaves. He’s a good guy and a good teammate. It’s been interesting learning about him, his background, his country.”
“We’re just trying to get him involved in as much as we can and give him a great experience,” said Phillip Rich, a junior on the hockey team. “He’s really fit in well. You don’t notice that he’s from Finland 90 percent of the time. He’s just one of us. Everybody likes him. We’ve learned just as much about Finland and Europe from him and he’s learned about us.”
Kurki and his teammates have enjoyed some good-natured ribbing in the locker room.
Before one hockey practice, Rich and sophomore Aaron Crawford decorated the locker room with Swedish flags and had the Swedish national anthem playing when Kurki walked in. Sweden and Finland are big rivals in hockey.
“Playing hockey and being a part of all the team activities, it’s just a lot of fun being with the team, the team dinners, the practices, everything,” Kurki said.
“He adjusted really quickly to being here, outside a few differences in the language,” Emans said. “But he’s picked that up, too.”
Kurki decided to become an exchange student at the encouragement of his father, who had a similar experience in high school. Oscar learned last spring he’d be coming to Ohio, but didn’t know he was headed to BG until a week before he arrived in early August.
“Until then, it could have been anywhere from Florida to Alaska, so once I learned I was coming to Ohio and BG, I did as much research as I could,” Kurki said. “It’s kind of hard not knowing where, but I felt comfortable here right away and I was able to fit in pretty quickly with football and school starting. It’s been a great experience.”