It’s a bit weird having to remind myself and everyone I meet of the exceptional fact that 1, I am a vocational student and 2, I am in second grade. Not that it changes anything, but the situation is a bit special anyway.
The backstory for the confused ones. In Finland, most people attend a “free” secondary education. You’ve pretty much got two options that are mentioned by the student counselors. If your grades are good, you can go to General Upper Secondary, which is a three year version of high school excl. fun activities, ending with the enormous, prestige-filled, lethally scary national matriculation exam. The exam is supposed to test your maturity and knowledge in various fields. It used to be the only way to apply to further education but nowadays anyone who has graduated from secondary can apply anywhere, although the matriculation degree still looks quite good.
If your grades are bad-ish, the counselor will tell you to go to a vocational college, where you’ll get a vocational qualification in three years, depending on the field of studies and your own plans and abilities. The plan is that after 3 years, or 2 or 5, you will be able to work with the profession you’ve studied. To help you out with getting a job, you also have a couple of internships, the amount depending on your field of studies.
This is however not the whole truth. Some vocational schools and lines require very hard work, good grades, and 100 % focus on the education. And in some academic schools you can apparently go three years without writing a two page essay.
Despite quite various negative reactions, I decided not to go to the general upper secondary in my hometown Porvoo. There were many reasons to this, and I can’t say it was an easy decision, since most of my friends went there and that looked like the obvious choice. Because of a strong need of independence, new atmospheres and getting away from the shit-talking cliques that sadly makes up a big part of the population in that school, I put another school as my first alternative in the application.
Now I probably wouldn’t have made that decision if I’d had all the information that I have now. But on the other hand, I couldn’t say I regret my choice either. I chose to study audiovisual communication at Prakticum vocational college with the plan to go for a combined examination, so including a matriculation degree. The reason I would choose differently today is that I can’t find interest for a big part of what we work with, and some of the subjects are ridiculously lame in the sense that I don’t learn anything new.
But then again, the reason I can’t say I regret my choice is that that school introduced me to some very important friends of mine, and it and they gave me experiences and memories that I’ll never forget. It also gave me the opportunity to write most of my general upper secondary finals this spring, instead of next year. And I realised I would have hated a regular upper secondary school and all the traditions and the culture that comes with anyway. In addition, getting the view from the inside on both schools and systems has given me quite the head start on the education politics-field. How else could I be in an OBESSU working group, leaving for Strasbourg in less than two months?
Not to mention my two amazing internships and the amount of experience and happiness they’ve both brought! I’ve worked at two major media houses and I’ve actually been appreciated at both places, which doesn’t look too bad on a resumé.
So even though school’s been mentally extremely hard these past couple of weeks, finishing my maths matriculation exam today I couldn’t feel anything but happy. Studying might not be my thing as much as working and actually getting something meaningful done, but damn have I done a good job with these exams! I’m extremely proud, because this is the kind of thing that requires effort and I don’t usually do such things haha.