Hei Phelps County! That means “Hello” in Finnish. I'm Jalyn Alford, daughter of Scott and Mary Alford, of rural St. James and I wanted to tell you about my trip to Finland from June 18 to July 18.

Hei Phelps County!  That means “Hello” in Finnish.  I’m Jalyn Alford, daughter of Scott and Mary Alford, of rural St. James and I wanted to tell you about my trip to Finland from June 18 to July 18.  I was hosted by the Kosonen family who live in their rural farm house in Vartiamäentie, Finland.

This visit was put together by Missouri 4-H, the University of Missouri Extension, and the Missouri State 4-H.   One of the main goals of this program is to promote world peace and mutual understanding among different cultural exchanges.  This program began at the end of World War II.  There are now thousands of young people from all over the world who have lived and worked on farms, in towns and cities of other countries, sharing these unique experiences.  

This 2016-2017 year, the countries open to American youth were: Costa Rica, Finland, Japan,  and South Korea.  The student delegates came from all over the U.S..  There were 4 delegates from Missouri: two went to Japan, one went to Costa Rica, and I was able to visit Finland.  Along with 19 other delegates and a chaperone, we traveled together, there and back.  While living with my Finish family, my room and board were covered and much of the trip  was paid for by scholarships and donations.

I left Missouri June 18th from Springfield, Mo. and met up with the other delegates and the chaperone in Chicago. We stayed overnight and then departed for Finland via Germany. Our group stayed together several days in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, where we visited open markets, rode trams, historical sites, and later, traveled to Suomenlinna Island, and tried new foods.  

After this, we scattered to different families all around Finland. I went to stay with the Kosonen Family.  They farm peat as a heating fuel, have about two dozen head of cattle and rent out two cabins to summer visitors because their property backs onto national forest land. This family of nine were gracious hosts.  Only Mom, Marianne, Dad, Matti, and the three youngest children were at home full-time.

The other children visited with me off and on as they could.  I spent my time at home cooking, eating, using the sauna, playing games, and just hanging out with her Finnish siblings. I took peanut butter and showed them how to make fudge, and also shared books about Missouri and the U.S. with them. Communication was not too difficult as most of the family spoke English.  Outside of the house my host family and I enjoyed biking in the forest, swimming in nearby lakes, visiting a church/4H camp, and a chocolate factory.  I also enjoyed Finnish concerts, a high ropes course, beautiful scenery, and of course, more shopping at the open markets and stores.

After visiting for three and a half weeks with them, the delegates and I traveled back to Helsinki. We boarded a ferry to cross over to the country of Estonia. We were then able to spend a day in Tallinn, Estonia and began the day with a guided tour followed by several hours exploring the ancient city on our own.  Finally, our group boarded the ferry back to Helsinki to begin the long trek back to the U.S..

I learned many things about myself and others. I traveled alone for the first time, if only for a short while and had marvelous adventures that made wonderful memories. I now has new friends for life!  

Today, 4-H related programs exist in more than 80 countries.  The Alford’s have hosted three Japanese students in the past and their oldest son was able to visit Australia, back in 2008. The Missouri state 4-H program is one of many ways 4-Hers can achieve the goal of “Making the Best, Better.”

If anyone is interested in local 4-H clubs or programs offered by the University of Missouri extension, contact Laura at (573) 458-6260.