Studying abroad for most students is about personal growth. Many of Asia Exchange students decide to also volunteer for a good cause, while on exchange. Meet Joni Korpinen who besides studying in Bali, surfing and skateboarding, also volunteers teaching English at a local orphanage.
Hello Joni! Let’s start by you telling our readers who you are?
Hi! Well I’m a positive 25-year-old man and I’m originally from Helsinki, the capital city of Finland. I have a broad background in different kinds of sports, and for the past four and a half years I’ve lived in Turku, studying law. I’m on the verge of becoming a lawyer and I will graduate from my home university soon.
Alright! What kind of sports have you been into?
I was playing ice hockey and soccer for 14 years. I’ve also played American football for seven years and I actually got to play in the national team and in the first league in Finland. Unfortunately, I had to quit because of injuries. I have had three shoulders surgeries and one knee surgery. When I decided to leave American Football, I was devastated and felt a bit lost. All my dreams had something to do with sports but after I quit, I decided to go on and pursuit an academic career. I found excitement in law and I got into law school. Now I find my purpose to be help people instead of being a professional athlete.
So how come you ended up in Bali?
I’m here first of all to experience a totally different culture. I also want to find different aspects of myself and also to challenge myself, and I feel that studying abroad with Asia Exchange is a great chance to do this. For me, being totally alone is a new thing. This is likely to be my last trip before adulthood, so it’s nice how I can combine studying with being in a different environment. Second of all, I’m here to teach myself to take responsibility, to enjoy life, and to find peace. Lastly, I love surfing, skateboarding and volunteering! So, I guess surf, skate and volunteering are the three reasons why I chose Bali for studying.
I see. Do you have any experience of those three things from before?
Yes, I do have some experience of surfing and skate boarding from before. The passion for skating started in summer of 2015. I have always been extremely talented in sports but one thing that I’ve never been so good at is skating. To get better at skate boarding is a huge challenge, and it is one of the rare things that takes my mind out of all the daily worries. It is so hard for me and I really need to concentrate because it is very dangerous and, like I mentioned, I’m not naturally talented in it. Also, skating requires so many different abilities, physical mostly. To be able to control your body and the board is overwhelming to me. More over, it requires mental strength to be able to get up and continue after multiple falls.
So, I think skateboarding also has a deeper meaning: it is not about how many times you fall, but it is about how many times you get up!
I’ve been surfing for three years and surfing is not as hard as skating for me but I’m not saying that surfing would be easy either. The lifestyle related to surfing fascinates me. I’ve always been the type of person who stresses and worries too much. I cannot stand uncertain things, and for that reason surfing helps me to live in the moment and give up trying to have control over everything in life. For example, you cannot control the waves; you just have to paddle out and do the best you can with the circumstances at hand. Also, I love the sun, beaches and the ocean, and surfing obviously combines all of these elements.
What about volunteering?
I didn’t have any previous experience of voluntary work. I’ve always wanted to do it though. I’ve been thinking about volunteering for a while, so now that I have time and a chance to finally do some voluntary work, I’m happy that I can focus some of my time and effort on helping others. I started teaching English at an orphanage soon after I got to Bali.
But why did you choose to volunteer at an orphanage?
I’ve been extremely privileged living in Finland, and I honestly feel that if every person would give a little bit of their time to help or give something to others, this world would be a better place. I’m at that age where I’m able to give something, hopefully something positive, to other people. English is kind of my second mother’s tongue, and therefore I felt that I could teach someone else a little bit. I feel that I’m an example of the phrase hard work pays off.
I was never very good at school. Nobody, including myself, thought I would even get into a University. But I did, and now I want to show these kids that no matter where you come from, you always have the ability to improve yourself!
I guess I volunteer because of two things; to teach English and bring a positive perspective into someone’s life, and the fact that if everyone would give a little bit of their time to help others, we would go a long way.
How did you get in contact with the orphanage?
Before I came to Bali, I tried contacting a few voluntary organizations without any results. First day at University in Bali, we had a Campus Chill Out Day where different organizations introduced themselves. There was Thai boxing, an animal shelter, there was an environmental welfare organization and also the orphanage where I work for now. I met the head of the orphanage Putu, and Isabelle who is an intern at Udayana University, and also a long term volunteer at the orphanage. I asked if they needed an English teacher and luckily that was exactly what they needed. Ever since that day I’ve been working there. Thanks for Asia Exchange for the Chill Out Day thus it enabled me to find voluntary work with Bali Street Kids Project !
What do you get out of volunteering?
Honestly, I thought that I would feel good, like a better person after each day but frankly it sometimes makes me frustrated. The fact that I’m not immediately able to solve a problem or better children’s life upsets me. It also opened my eyes for the reality of our world that we live in. On the other hand, small steps eventually lead to bigger accomplishments so you always have to start from somewhere. The kids are amazing, talented, and positive, even though they have been dealt a bad hand in this game called life. So, to my surprise, I’m really the one learning from the kids and I hope I can bring their positivity and their attitude back home.
And where does your motivation for volunteering come from?
First of all I would say it comes from my family – I’ve been raised to perfect myself every chance I get and also to appreciate what I have and to be happy for what I have. Secondly, my parents also taught me to travel and learn about life from different people and different perspectives.
My parents also showed me that if you have the ability to help, then you should help.
There is no specific motivation except for how I was brought up, although I must admit that I also think I will benefit from volunteering on a more personal level. Through volunteering, skateboarding, and surfing, I’m trying to teach myself to live in the moment rather than too much in the future or in the past. Back home it is almost impossible to really live in the moment, and that for me is one of the worst parts living in Scandinavia compared to living in Bali.
We love to see our students giving back to the local communities, whether it is by volunteering or donations. Thank you Joni for the interview, and inspiring more students to volunteer on the side of their studies! If you would like to learn more about our study abroad programs in Bali, please click here