My Oulu: Turtles, beaches and waterfalls – life as an exchange student in Réunion

Noora Sarenius had a lovely time as an exhange student in Réunion Island.


Julkaistu: Kirjoittaja: Pasi Rytinki

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In November we told about the experiences of the exchange students from tropical Réunion Island when they were in Oulu. Soon after that students from Oulu traveled to Réunion, Noora Sarenius from Laanila high school among them. Here’s her diary:

“On Tuesday morning, November 15, I woke up early to go to the airport. The exchange students from Réunion Island who had been in Oulu left for Helsinki on an earlier plane. When it was time to leave for the security check and the parents left, it was quite difficult to hold back the tears.

After the wait, the flight to Helsinki went fast. At Paris airport, it felt really strange to take a bus to another terminal.

When we started to board the plane for Réunion, I was shocked at how many people were going in. The plane was huge! Fortunately, I got to sit between my friends.

I’d never even been on a flight longer than four hours before and this took almost twelve hours! Breakfast was also provided on the plane, which was a couple of croissants. Then it started to be time to land. Oh, that feeling when it was already t-shirt weather inside the airport! The woolen coat that I carried the whole way started to feel more and more useless. And oh, what landscapes there were when we stepped out of the airport! Real palm trees! Mountains! Sun! And those landscapes on the bus ride from Saint-Denis to Les Avirons. I’ve never seen landscapes like that, the ocean looked so big! 

Like celebrities

Our host families were wonderful. There were seven children in my host family, which is quite different, because I don’t have any siblings in Finland.

On the first day, we just ate and my host sister and I slept the whole evening. The next day was the first day of school at our Reunionese school. The big difference between my own school and the Reunionese school is that there at school we were greeted and people were interested in us. Just as if we were celebrities! Unfortunately, Finland was not quite like this for the Reunionese students, at least from what I saw.

It was also strange that you can only leave the school grounds at certain times, even if you have finished school. However, we were given an exception to leave and go inside at any time. Also, when going to the canteen, we had to show the tag to the canteen supervisor. 

The food was good, there was almost always rice and some meat. The rice in Reunion is better than in Finland. After school, we went to see the turtles. The sun was really hot, we were all afraid of getting sunburned, although in the end I didn’t get burned once during the trip.

Fast sunsets

After the turtle farm, we went to one of our hosts to swim in the pool. We spent quite a lot of time there during the trip.

Meline’s lovely mother also took us to the beach to watch the sunset. L’Étang Salé beach has black sand, which is extremely hot during daytime. Now it had already cooled down a bit. The sun sets fast in Réunion, which is extraordinary.

Beach life with friends.

The next day at school we were introduced to the school garden. We went to a kiosk next to the school many times every day. On Friday, the same pattern was repeated, i.e. after school we went to our friend’s place and from there to the beach. It was the best!

The nicest were the evenings when you came home with your skin and hair completely salty, sand between your toes.

On Saturday, we went to the gym with my friend and his host mother. It was a special experience. The gym didn’t have bars or barbells at all. There were only devices. Perhaps the worst thing was that the gym had separate equipment for women.

After the gym, we went to the local shopping center with my friend. I loved shopping in Réunion because all the stores there had my style of clothes and jewelry. Réunion also has a wider selection of shops compared to Finland.

Karaoke in Finnish

In the evening, the highlight of the day began, i.e. my host father’s birthday! I LOVE parties in Réunion! Good music is playing and everyone is dancing all the time. There is casual twerking and rocking of the hips. It’s weird in Réunion if you don’t dance. And dancing will continue until three in the morning. It is the best!

Kyllikki was quite a culture shock for the locals…

After that we sang karaoke and I sang Leevi and the Leavings’ Kyllikki and ABBA songs. Kyllikki was quite a culture shock for the locals…

In the morning it was time to go to the beach of Grande-Anse with the whole group. It was a really long beach with a lot of people relaxing in the sun.

We didn’t have time to be on the beach for long when we already started driving to the waterfalls. The roads in Réunion are really winding, but now that we started driving up, the roads were even steeper and more winding. The waterfalls were super cool! You could also swim there. The water was quite cold and clear.

We saw that some people jumped from the top of the waterfall into the pool and I wanted to jump too. Our Reunionese teacher showed us how to do it. After Simon, I jumped into the water too! It was so cool! I got the others to jump out of there too. It was great.

After that we went back to the beach for a picnic. In Réunion, Sunday is a picnic day and the local picnics are slightly larger than the picnics we are used to in Finland. There, all the tables and chairs are brought to the beach as well as warm food and cooking pots. Well, I’m not complaining, it’s nice to eat.

After eating, we went snorkeling. At least I saw many colorful fish, sea urchins and corals. After that, it was time to go home and we also saw our Finnish teachers for the last time. From then on, we had to make the three weeks on our own. We managed well!”

Noora Sarenius is an Erasmus+ exchange student from Laanila High School