Do you remember all those American movies and series you maybe watched when you were a teenager? I do. And now I’m watching one again. It is all here; yellow school busses, mail boxes with flags that mailmen raise when there is mail, small churches in every village, names for every school sports teams, cheerleaders, matching sports uniforms and those letter jackets, high school and university campus areas with palm trees and of course houses with US flags in front.
It is funny how you get to know the society so much more when you actually spend your time outside your normal area. My work visits are usually so busy that I see the university campus, few dining restaurants and maybe one or two tourist attractions. Then on holiday, I just relax and maybe do some touristic things. Now, during my longer stay in Gainesville, Florida, thanks to Fulbright Finland and my employer JAMK University, I have had a chance to get to know the American society much better. Obviously, my time here was even more interesting since I had a chance to spend this spring here together my daughter who attended local public high school. All the parents and sports coaches I learned to know made my stay so much more pleasant!
I was told beforehand that I should definitely put my daughter in a private school here, since that would be so much better and less diversity among students. I decided not to do that. I thought that my daughter has traveled so much that she’ll survive in public school. After being involved in Gainesville High School’s operations this during our stay, I am so happy I decided to put my daughter there. She has made friends coming from South America, Jamaica, Norway, Africa, USA… I don’t even know from where. All these kids coming from very different families and backgrounds have given my daughter wonderful opportunity to learn about different cultures and to understand how privileged we in Finland are. And, the education in public school is free, just like in Finland.
I think it was her first week of school when the police arrested one female student at school, and that made me wonder a bit about the school but that was the only time I had any doubts. That was just normal procedure since the students were fighting. Here students get easily suspended, police presence is normal on campus and regulations are tight. If I wish to get my daughter out of school in the middle of the school day, I need to go there in person and sign her out. Then they announce in loudspeakers that she needs to come to the front office, and then we can go. I wonder how this would fit in Finnish High School?
Here she often rides home with the yellow school bus. Those are just so cute! They are also very much respected here, traffic regulations obligate you to stop whenever a school bus stops, no matter which direction you are going. People do obey that here, although, I could say that otherwise some of the drivers probably do not have a driver’s license or they got it as a Christmas present.
Working life here at the university is quite similar to ours, all the staff seem to be busy, running from meeting to another. I have really enjoyed working with my friend and colleague here and students have been great. Teaching is now over and time to start working on other things before wrapping up and heading back home.