Eppu Kaijanto made the most of his short time as a Central athlete

Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 11:58 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - 4,860 miles.

That is roughly how far Eppu Kaijanto traveled from his hometown of Klaukkala, Finland to study as an exchange student at Central High School this past year.

Moving to a brand new place with brand new people is difficult for anyone, but through sports, he was able to quickly build relationships with his peers. Kaijanto comes from a background of basketball, and its popularity in America played a big role in his decision to study abroad.

“I love basketball. That was one of my main reasons to come to the States, because the basketball is different here... I started when I was four, so I’ve been playing it now for 14 years, every year. In Finland sports are in clubs, so all I do is basketball all year long,” Kaijanto said.

Eppu arrived in Cheyenne last August, so he would’ve had to wait about four months until the season if he was solely focused on the hardwood. Instead, he chose to dive headfirst into a brand new sport.

“Football I was thinking I get more physical, and I’ll probably get stronger too. So once I go back to playing center in Finland, I’m able to push more on my defensive guy. And just to experience a new sport, stay in shape for basketball, learn new stuff, and make new friends. Because sports is a great way to make new friends,” Kaijanto said.

As if learning one new sport on the fly wasn’t enough, Eppu went and took on another athletic challenge after the basketball season ended.

“With soccer, at first I didn’t even know how to kick the ball. I decided because I’m tall and I played basketball, I thought I have decent hands, so I probably should be a goalie. So I tried for goalie, and it was pretty fun. At first it was hard to know how to dive correctly so I don’t get turf burned, and how to do saves and react to the ball. The way I’m supposed to be in the goal when the shot is coming [too], but once I got that I was pretty good because as I said I have good hands already,” Kaijanto said.

Eppu made the most of the time he had in the Cowboy State-- both academically and athletically-- and he’s proud of himself for stepping out of his comfort zone to make memories that will stay with him forever.

“[I’m proud of] graduating from high school, even though it didn’t really [count], but still being able to pass all of my classes in a different language with different teachers and a different school system,” Kaijanto said. “Then just being around the varsity teams in all three sports, even though it’s a different country, kind of different way you play, and two new sports, so I would say that’s a pretty good accomplishment I did. And just making a bunch of friends that probably will last lifelong, so that’s also I would say a pretty good accomplishment.”

Later this summer Eppu will head back to Finland, and he plans on continuing to play basketball there next year.