In recent years, I have found new appreciation towards the nature of Finland (my home country) and Scandinavia. For my exchange, I wanted to go somewhere further, but still, the northern island and the most eastern city in North America felt familiar enough.
Even from the plane I saw that the nature felt similar and familiar to the northern Finland, but at the same time, a bit different in an exciting way. The culture, on the other hand, caused a slight shock even though I was expecting it. The biggest difference to Finland was how everything was so loud – people talked more, music had to be played at dining halls, and the traditions of the orientation days and later the parties included a lot of loud music and shouting. It was overwhelming at first, but I got used to it and of course the experience was relative to my previous (rather quiet) environment. But people – both locals and other international students – were very friendly and already during the first days I knew that I would not need to fear being left alone. Both students and professors alike were helpful and supportive, even when the courses were challenging, and the study schedule was intense.
Both importance of history and closeness of nature were visible in St. John’s and at MUN campus. I happened to stay at MUN during the 100th anniversary year of the ending of the First World War that was visible from the street banners, at the local museum The Rooms that has a lot of exhibitions focusing on cultural and natural history of Newfoundland, and of course at the various events at Memorial University that was founded for the Newfoundlanders who served and lost their lives at the First World War. Cultural history including the fishery and island identity were also visible in my course materials. Especially on a course about Canadian literature. The same course also acknowledged indigenous peoples’ culture as did the MUN at official events and student groups.
As history, nature is also close to many people in Newfoundland. There are multiple hiking trails along the coast and there are hiking groups within and outside of the university, and for some, the hike to see the sunrise on Signal Hill (a national historic site) is just a spontaneous idea. I was lucky and found a couple of other students that wanted to explore the coast and with them I went hiking almost every weekend until the amount of studies prevented me to have so much free time. The coast and the cliffs were unlike anything I had seen so far. The constant wind that you could almost lean against was almost as breathtaking as the massive waves, the vastness of the ocean and the steep cliffs. Even with the wind, the place felt peaceful and I fell in love with the coast of the northern island. As the island is located by the Atlantic Ocean, it is a home and a nesting place to multiple seabirds and the coast has numerous bird sanctuaries and reserves.
The exchange certainly changed my life. I found a new appreciation for my home university of Tampere, where I luckily have the chance to continue my literary studies about the Arctic with more deep understanding of the northern areas. The fall at Newfoundland deepened my love towards the northern nature and coasts and I will miss the cliffs and the ocean, but I think I will explore some other islands and coasts of the Arctic and Atlantic before returning to St, John’s.
Published in 2019.