My name is Marshall Blankenship, I am a former Erasmus mobility scholar who had the privilege of attending the University of Lapland in the spring semester of 2013. I am originally from Barrow, Alaska, a town which like Rovaniemi is perched on the upper latitudes of the world. I was able to live five years within the US Arctic before beginning my academic pursuits. These pursuits ultimately ended up within the field of international law which is a very hard degree to find almost anywhere in the world.
Anyone within the field of polar law knows the name of Timo Koivurova, and after sourcing his work in almost any assignment pertaining to the development of the high north, the desire to attend programs in the same institution were in my mind an irresistible opportunity.
Once I had done an ample amount of research into the University's Erasmus policies and I realized that the University of Lapland offered undergraduates the ability to take courses offered by the MCIL courses, I knew that there was no better way to spend an exchange as my stay would not only allow me to benefit from the cultural immersion to the Finnish people, but also present an unparalleled learning opportunity to study international law in an institution that prides itself as a bastion of polar legal thought.
It is hard for me to define a "best part" of the exchange, what I can say is that there was never a moment in which I was not thoroughly enjoying myself. As far as academics the University's courses made me regret not being born Finnish, it was amazing to see that the class model in Finland revolves around the goal of providing knowledge to students. The typical class day was low pressure, high quality, and dependent on you, the student, wanting more out of the time you set aside for class. Life outside school was also something to behold: the combination of Finnish hospitality, Rovaniemi's breathtaking natural beauty, and the academic culture present in the University allows the typical exchange student to flourish in a social environment that stretches the mind, body, and spirit.
My Erasmus experience was indeed life altering. With the level of knowledge that I was able to get from one semester of study, I was able to understand and interpret a field of law during my undergraduate study that is not readily accessible for most until their master’s or doctoral programs. In turn the classes and knowledge presented at the University of Lapland have helped me secure internships with both Arctic actors and non-governmental organizations, which both recognize the level of specialization I was exposed to while studying in Lapland. The knowledge and recognition of the University's academic and educational excellence is known worldwide, and the fact that I have studied in the University of Lapland has given me credibility in the field of circumpolar legal development.
Currently I am finishing my undergraduate degree in law and diplomacy, and I plan on enrolling in either the University of Tromsø or the University of Lapland in a law program which focuses on the Arctic. Upon attainment of a master’s degree it is my wish to return to Alaska and work for an Alaskan Native cooperation which promotes the sustainable development of Alaska's natural resources in the ever-changing Arctic scene.
My advice for someone wishing to go through an exchange at the University of Lapland is simple: prepare for the best educational experience of your life. The classes, people, and culture you are exposed to at the Uni will remain golden memories that are fun to remember, and be sure to apply yourself in study as proper application to the classes will increase what you learn, and finally prepare for life outside the University of Lapland. My final year in undergraduate study is not the same and I often find myself longing for the educational experience I had while in Finland.