Old and new exchange memories

The 2013 group, left to right: Dylan, Luke, Michael, John, Marlo, Melissa, Sofia and Bonita.

Canadians preparing for the Kaledonistit/Hart House Finnish Exchange gathered last month at Hart House to introduce themselves to alumni and hear advice from over the decades.

Gordon West, who went to Finland in 1959, spoke about how he met his future wife during his time in the country’s east. Ken Mark, who spent the summer of 1968 working in the woods, said it was the most memorable summer of his life.  Linda MacRae said that Finland remains a fascinating place despite it changing drastically from her visit in 1967.

The alumni, members of the Finnish consulate and friends watched as each 2013 participant spoke about their studies, hobbies and goals over five-minute slideshows.

Bonita Leung started off by explaining her charity work and her passion for travelling the world. Bonita then touched on psychology and philosophy, her field of study, by explaining how she uses both sides of the brain — the analytical left side and the creative right side — in her research in neuromarketing, and in life.

Luke Spooner spoke about growing up a big, tight-knit family who happens to be quite athletic. He’s on the university water polo team and coaches children during the summer. As a pharmaceutical student, Luke has done research on how to ensure children take their medication.

Sofia Luu is enthusiastic about print media, whether in her role as a Book and Media student, an assistant publisher at Worn Fashion Journal or an editor at U of T campus newspaper The Varsity. Sofia’s also been organizing regular karaoke nights for the Helsinki-bound group of eight.


Dylan Robertson spoke about travelling, whether studying in France, backpacking through Morocco or visiting a friend in Turku. He tried lots of Finnish food and watched Finland beat Sweden during a World Junior hockey game. Dylan is at the end of his journalism studies and has been interning at the Toronto Star newspaper.

Marlo Forget is a big fan of Nordic cultures, and talked about how she taught herself Swedish to surprise an English-speaking pen-pal whom she later visited. When she’s not studying Finnish, Marlo attends Finnish movie nights and plays retro video games.

John Cherkas started his presentation by showing trees and Lego blocks; he talked about how different environments have formed the building blocks of his life. As a fashion model, John toured the runways of Paris, London and Milan. He’s looking forward to living in Finland and having months to explore the land and the culture.

Melissa Cederqvist spoke of her interests in history, science, social change and fitness. When she’s not biking, Melissa is dancing or reading. She wants to be a physician and has a passion for meeting new people and seeing new places, as she did spending a summer speaking only French in Chicoutimi, Quebec

Michael DeCola spoke of the similarities between Finland and Northern Ontario, where he was raised. Michael studies global public health and spends his summers relaxing with family and boating. He calls himself a small-town guy who still likes living in a big city.

At the end of the night, Hart House Finnish Exchange chair Tim Stephenson congratulated the participants and spoke of the lifelong relationships formed through the exchange program.


Photos by Sirke Sahranto and Dylan Robertson


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