This specific program was presented very briefly alongside all the other possibilities of studying abroad, and I was so excited about the wide range of Canadian universities I could apply to through the program. This was the beginning of my journey to learn more about UArctic, and eventually I decided to apply to the University of Saskatchewan as my first choice. On the day I received the letter of admission, I knew I was about to start one of the biggest journeys in my life.

Despite the scary idea of moving across the world, I was very excited and couldn’t wait for the day of my flights to Canada. At the end of August 2016, I finally arrived in Saskatoon and adapted surprisingly fast to my new hometown. The stereotype of Canadians being extremely polite was certainly true, and I felt very welcome as an international student.

Heidi Aarnio 2

So, what did I eventually learn during my exchange? The experience has influenced my life in many ways:

First, I made lifelong friendships with people from my school, fellow exchange students and others. Spending time with people from different cultural backgrounds taught me to understand different cultures. I think that also helped me understand my own culture even better by knowing how it differs from others. In my opinion, there is nothing better than having friends across the world.

Second, I developed as a person. I certainly took a massive leap out of my comfort zone, but it was totally worth it. During my exchange I improved my language skills, became more independent as well as open-minded, and gained great memories and stories to tell. An experience like this has overall influenced my personal view on the world. Being on exchange is an emotional rollercoaster where you will make some of the best memories of your life, and I certainly did.

Last, I gained valuable knowledge about the Arctic and Canada. At the university, I took courses on Political Science and Northern Studies. Throughout the courses, I learned a great deal about the complex issues surrounding the North. I had never really looked at the political and economic side of the North, I had always only thought about the climate and landscapes, affected inhabitants and how they lived their lives. But now I realize how politics, resources and climate change play a big role in their economies, and how it affected the past and affects the present and the future. Before attending this exchange program, it was evident I had a narrow perception of the North. After completing the courses, my perception of the circumpolar world has definitely changed, and my eyes have been opened to more issues going on in the North. Also, I believe this knowledge will have an influence in my further studies and in my future career.

By sharing my story, I would like to encourage other students to consider including a north2north exchange in their academic plans. For me, this experience was one of the most memorable times of my life. If you think about spending one or two semesters abroad, you should definitely do it! I promise you will never regret making a decision like that.