Japanese students lock onto Finnish homestay experience

Paula Toledo, operations manager at Home Language International – which specialises in tailored homestays with language teachers for one-on-one tutoring experience in various languages – said that Japanese students had locked onto the Nordics post-pandemic.

“We started seeing an increase in the number of Japanese students requesting Scandinavia, and especially Finland,” said Toledo.

“Obviously we were curious why this was happening – and it’s become more and more and more [popular].”

Upon further inspection, it was around 2023 that the latest iteration of MEXT’s Tobitate scholarships, bolstering study abroad opportunities, was put into motion. And it seems that an increasing number of students partaking in the scholarship wanted to learn Finnish – in Finland.

“Japan and Finland… these are two very difficult languages,” Toledo said, while wondering where the rise in interest had come from.

As part of their experience, Japanese students live with their Finnish teacher and learn in-house, as well as being given the opportunity to visit local schools so they can see how classrooms function – generally the programs last around two weeks, but with one-on-one tutoring, the intensive learning breeds good results.

“It’s a cultural experience more than anything. And at the end of the day, Finland is supposed to be one of the happiest countries in the world,” Toledo added.  

Students are also able to do cultural excursions, and “do get to learn a lot about the country they’re in”. One program, Toledo noted, is being run in Finnish Lapland.

At the end of the day, Finland is supposed to be one of the happiest countries in the world

Paula Toledo, Home Language International

“They stay in Ivalo, where they’ll have their own chalet with a sauna, and the teacher lives practically opposite – so they get their lessons and get to see a bit of their surroundings, as well as the opportunity to see the Northern Lights, so that’s great,” she explained.

“Although there’s no hot running water there, it’s that real middle-of-the-forest experience, which is what they love.”

Toledo also said that the majority of the Japanese students HLI deals with end up going to somewhere in the Nordics – even though some of them will ask for English tutoring.

“They still want to be in Scandinavia. But the majority – I would say 99.9% – are going specifically to Finland,” she added.

Toledo believes that won’t wane any time soon.

“I think [interest going to keep rising], yes – for as long as the program continues, I believe.”


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