The North Star Project, Summer Report Number Four, Huitennen, Finland By Kaia Lawton Huitennen, Finland Report #1


The North Star Project, Summer Report Number Four, Huitennen, Finland By Kaia Lawton Huitennen, Finland Report #1

I will preface this with the fact that I am using an iPad on this trip and it doesn’t have Word on it so I cannot attach anything in a word doument. I will have to just type everything in the email. I hope that is okay.

I am in Finland for the next two and a half to three months to teach English to Russian speaking students. They are brought over from Russia on a program that lasts two weeks at a time, so we will be teaching six different sections of kids. Their ages will range anywhere from 8 to 18, and they will get older as the summer goes on. Right now I have a class of 11 and they are all 8 to 11 years old. They are at an elementary level of English. I do speak a little Russian, though I am very rusty, and they don’t always understand my accent. The language barrier can be tough sometimes, but gestures and drawing helps, as do dictionaries.

As for my surroundings, Finland is beautiful. Everyone seems to know only about Helsinki, the capitol, but I am about three and a half hours north west of the capitol, in Huitennen at the Lansi-Soumen Opisto. Huitennen looks just like Minnesota, just without all of the hillls as it is very flat here. My first day I walked outside and found Lilacs, which remind me of home because we have them growing in our backyard in St. Paul. It’s very green here, lots of trees, there is a river out behind the school, and the sky is almost always blue. Of all of the places I have traveled, 11 countries in total, this one feels the most like home. There are some differences. The teachers live in the school, our rooms being through the classroom, in the back, behind a little door that always remains locked, and there is a sauna near the river that we can use any time. Class can only last 45 minutes before the kids get ten to fifteen minute breaks. It’s been a while since I was in grade school, so I’m not sure if that is true for the US as well.
For all of the North Star Project 2013-2014 Reports, see
For all of the North Star Project 2013 Summer Reports, see

The North Star Project 2013-2014 School Year Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School, Dodge Middle School and other schools around the world to the North Star Project. The North Star Project has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see recent articles in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. We have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star Project students and teachers.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2013-present The Middle Ground Journal. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.


Filed under Professor Hong-Ming Liang

7 responses to “The North Star Project, Summer Report Number Four, Huitennen, Finland By Kaia Lawton Huitennen, Finland Report #1

  1. Maddie Kust

    This school sounds like a fascinating medium for the sharing of language and culture. Despite the initial flurry of unfamiliar languages and cultures, its nice to know that a place can feel like home. It’s amazing that the subtlest of details, like the presence of lilacs, can transform an experience.

  2. I wonder if the “feels like home” emotion is what made Minnesota such a comfortable home for so many Scandinavian immigrants. At the local level, my dad lived for several years in Duluth as a child before spending ages 8-22 in South Dakota. After college, he longed to return to a setting similiar to that of Duluth, eventually settling in Northfield, MN.

  3. The interesting part of your report is that Finland plays host to a U.S citizen and Russian citizens with one common denominator, learn/teach the English language. I wonder whether these Russian students are part of a program that also is located in the United States or Great Britain. On another note, I find it fascinating that traveling seems mainstream in today’s world. I can’t imagine whether anybody’s bucket list doesn’t include the word, travel. But no matter where life takes us, home is where we all seek within the places we stay.

  4. Brandon Torres

    It sounds like your time in Finland has been pretty fantastic, Kaia. No, I do not believe elementary school classrooms necessarily get the same breaks that your students are blessed with. Finland is supposed to have one of the best school systems in the world, and I’d venture to say those breaks contribute to that. I applaud you for maintaining their attention!

  5. Katy Goerke

    Your description of the lilacs reminded me of a time when riding my bike around my home neighborhood, I couldn’t pass more than three houses without passing a lilac bush. My house in St. Paul has lilacs growing on both sides, which not only are beautiful in the spring but also serve as the good fences that make good neighbors.

  6. Johanna Jurgens

    Having a language barrier usually is seen as a problem, however I have had that a couple of times in my life and still we found a way to communicate. In the end it ends up being extremely fun, but sometimes frustrating.

  7. Ashley Svihel

    It is very interesting that the teachers stay at the school. Does it feel different or awkward staying at the place that you work everyday? As for the scenery it sounds beautiful and I love what you are doing for them!

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