Competition for exchange student places tempts some applicants to cheat
Smoking and drinking habits tend to be forgotten on application forms
The competition for the most popular exchange student places is so intense that some young people are tempted to make their applications look better.
Risto Muinonen, the chairman of the Finnish Rotary Youth Exchange multidistrict organisation, reported on a young girl who wished to come to Finland as an exchange student. Her application had contained some false details on the basis of which she knew she would qualify. However, the girl wanted to go back home after having been in the country for only two weeks. The selection had gone wrong.
Muinonen does not know precisely how much people take liberties with the truth in their applications, but claims that it must be a marginal phenomenon.
”After all, people try their very best even when completing job applications”, he notes.
As the information given cannot be checked, deceptions do occur.
About a hundred young persons who have been selected by the Rotary Youth Exchange organisation as exchange students to Finland and Estonia were studying the Finnish language and Finnish customs in the Karkku evangelical college in Vammala, some 50 km southwest of Tampere . Exchange students normally participate in a one-week orientation camp before joining their host families.
”These young people have already learned the Finnish punctuality”, says college secretary Kaija Tomperi contentedly.
Mexican Mariandrea Enriquez Estrada will spend her exchange year in Tartu, the second-largest city of Estonia. She looks happy, even though Tartu was not one of her preferences in the application.
”The competition is tough. If one has good marks, one can get to the country one wants”, she says.
Mariandrea and her friends had been honest when completing their applications, but they know that some cheating occurs.
”One of my friends wrote in his application that he does not smoke, but actually, he smokes a packet of cigarettes a day. Now he will have to stop smoking”, reported Brittany Ehrhardt from the USA.
”Many applicants tell fibs about smoking and their use of alcohol”, Estonian Sille Lukk knows to tell. She has already finished her exchange year and is now tutoring the newcomers.
German Hinrich Schwarze says that he understands why people are tempted to cheat.
”An exchange student year is a major opportunity. Some applicants tell lies as they want to get this opportunity at all costs”, Hinrich notes.
According to chairman Muinonen, school marks are important, but above all, the selected students should be mature young people who can cope with the exchange year.
Ulla Silvasti, the programme manager of the AFS Intercultural Programs Finland, agrees.
More important than good marks is motivation, she notes, adding that cheating will be revealed during the application process.
”Some details can certainly be embellished, but usually it is nothing so significant that it would cause any disturbance to the exchange year. In any case, during the interview process, young people are open and honest”, Silvasti concluded.
Most Finnish upper secondary school students would like to go to Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. In the United States, students would prefer France, while in Mexico the first choice would be Germany.
Around 1,000 Finnish upper secondary school students participate in one of the youth exchange programmes annually.
Only a few per cent of these young people come back prematurely.
The most common reason for an early return is the fact that the student cannot adjust himself or herself to a new culture. Every year a few students are sent home as a consequence of rule transgressions.
All organisations have their own rules.
For example the Youth For Understanding (YFU) programme forbids minors to drink alcohol, while the Rotary Youth Exchange organisation would allow them to have a glass of wine with the host family.
Finnish Rotary Youth Exchange multidistrict organization
AFS Intercultural Programs Finland