ESCANABA — Students in Phil Lynch’s government class at the Escanaba High School started today like they do every day, reciting the National Anthem.
But today was different for an exchange student from Finland seated in the center of the classroom. 17-year-old Lari Nuutinen found himself in America as his home country was celebrating the 100th anniversary of Finland’s Independence.
“It’s fun seeing it from the outside,” he said. “I kept in contact with my family, with my friends and they’ve done a lot of fun stuff back home.”
His classmates unfurled a white and blue Finnish flag and played the Finnish National Anthem to honor Finland’s 100 years. Wearing a U.P. Finn t-shirt and a scarf from Finland’s National hockey team, Lari sang along to the music, in Finnish of course.
“We don’t do that back in Finland. It’s more American,” he said. “But it was fun.”
Lari says Independence Day is a bit different in Finland. There’s usually not a lot of fuss.
“Usually we put the flag up. We would watch the big celebration on TV.”
But then today is Finland’s 100th anniversary so Lari handed out cupcakes with Finnish flags on top to the class.
“Cupcakes are fun,” he declared.
He appreciated the attention today, especially in the Upper Peninsula where the Finnish heritage is such an important part of the culture. He told the class how Finland gained its independence and Skyed his sister back in Finland to talk with the Yooper students. It brought a little bit of Finland to the U.P.
“Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää,” he said.