Nina returns to second home
Wednesday, 22nd January, 2014
By Emily Roberts
A student exchange to Broken Hill, seven years ago, changed Nina Suomi’s life forever.
In 2006, Nina travelled from Finland to experience a 12-month student exchange.
During her time in the city, she lived with Greg and Sharon McMahon.
Their daughter Meg and Nina became fast friends.
“I left Australia in July 2007 and we have kept in contact ever since,” Nina said.
“Although Meg hasn’t been to Finland yet.”
After taking months to get accustomed to the Broken Hill lifestyle, Nina was sad to leave.
“When I came to Australia, I had quite a hard time with the language and the strong Aussie accent. Also I was living in the middle of the Outback,” she said.
“(When I left) I cried all the way to Sydney, it was really difficult to go back to a normal routine - it wasn’t normal anymore.
“I had to adjust back into high school life.”
The exchange was through South Rotary and Nina was living with another family before she came to stay with the McMahons.
“It wasn’t planned, we were all at a Rotary barbecue and Sharon originally told Greg that they weren’t having an exchange student,” Nina said.
“But we just clicked. I was supposed to go onto two other families but I stayed with the McMahons. Staying with them made my year.”
Meg said Nina became part of the family.
Since leaving Australia, Nina went home to finish her schooling education.
“I went back to high school, and then in 2009 I started university. I studied a Bachelor of Business Administration and Language (English, Spanish and Russian),” Nina said.
“I graduated in June 2013. I also completed a university exchange in Mexico and I loved it.”
Nina has also completed a number of internships.
“I came to Australia in December with my family and we spent some time on the east coast,” she said.
“Then we came to Broken Hill to celebrate Christmas, after that we travelled with the McMahons to Adelaide, Barossa Valley, Kangaroo Island and along the Great Ocean Road.”
Meg said her family has had a number of exchanges since Nina.
“We had another student from Finland and some smaller exchanges,” Meg said.
“I don’t think it was as big as it used to be. Rotary hasn’t had anyone for a while, I think AFS exchange has a few students.”
Nina said she would encourage student exchange to everyone.
“It changed my life, it was an amazing experience. At first I didn’t want to go to Broken Hill,” she said.
“I wanted to live by the beach, but it was the best experience of my life.
“I thought if I could survive a year here, I could survive anywhere.
“I recommend it to everybody; the people you meet, the things you learn about yourself and the cultures - it is amazing.”
Nina is in Broken Hill until Friday before she goes backpacking around South America for three months.