July 12, 2024

Youth For Understanding student returns to Mt. Pleasant for a visit

By Curt Swarm

In 1978 Mike and Marilyn Vincent of Mt. Pleasant welcomed their second-of-five Youth For Understanding students (Foreign Exchange Students). This one from Finland. Her name is Outi (pronounced “Otie”) Svinhufvud. She was 17 and a senior in high school. Mike and Marilyn’s only disappointment was that Outi had black hair. They had pictured a Scandinavian blonde. But Outi soon warmed their hearts. She was outgoing, smart and had a deep, resonating voice — but it’s easy to understand, even when she whispers. She’s been told her hertz, or voice wave length in cycles per second, is ideal for hearing. Outi would spend the year with the Vincents and graduate from Mt. Pleasant. She would then return to Finland for a second graduation. Her mother had wanted Outi to be in the Youth for Understanding program so that she would learn to speak English. Although extremely smart in mathematics, physics and chemistry, Outi struggled with foreign languages.

As luck, or Divine Providence, would have it, Marilyn just happened to be a high school English and speech teacher. Much to Outi’s terror, Marilyn pushed Outi to take speech. In Finland, there was no such course. Marilyn was patient and taught Outi composure, eye contact and tricks to overcome nervousness, like deep breathing. Most importantly, Marilyn taught Outi how to make each individual in the audience feel like she was talking directly to them.

Outi credits the speech training she received at Mt. Pleasant Community High School as a key ingredient for the successful career she would have. She went on to earn a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Technology in Finland, and worked in computer sales, and international banking management, positions that required much public speaking.

Why is Outi back in the U.S.? Her 28-year old son, Öjvind (pronounced “Ovind”), is a world class Pokemon Cards player. The North American Championship for Pokemon Cards is being held in New Orleans. He has played in 11 World Championships. Outi and Öjvind decided that since they were coming to the United States anyway, they would drop by Mt. Pleasant to visit with Mike and Marilyn Vincent. They all have such fond memories of the year they spent together. The Vincents had no other children at the time, so Outi had the Vincents and their home all to herself.

Outi comes from some royalty. Her Great Grandfather was the third president of Finland from 1931 - 1937. His name was Pehr Evind Svinhufvud, and was known by friends and family as Ukko-Pekka, which translates to “Friendly Old Man” or just plain “Friendly Dude.” According to Outi, her son, Öjvind looks a lot like her Great Grandfather.

BTW: Finland is known as the happiest country in the world. They received their independence from Russia in 1917 during the Russian Revolution. According to Öjvind, Russia was too busy with the Revolution to worry about Finland. Finland joined NATO after Russia attacked Ukraine, because Finland has an 800-mile border with Russia. All males in Finland are required to serve in the military, with nearly half of its population of five-million people involved with the military.

From Tuusula, Finland, both Outi and Öjvind say that compared to the United States, the politics in Finland is boring. Big news in Finland might be what the President had for breakfast. Outi says that when she was here in 1978, the United States was much more united. She sees a lot of division now and what she calls, “nonsense news.”

Contact Curt Swarm at curtswarm@yahoo.com