My path on north2north studies started with the UArctic Circumpolar Studies online courses. I am passionate about the Arctic environments, peoples, and northern societies, and I wanted to experience living in the north away from Finland. I was beyond excited when I finally got the chance for an exchange semester after all the Covid-19 restrictions had eased up.

My background is in social sciences, and I have only recently changed my major to regional studies and environmental policy. I found studying at Yukon University fit perfectly both my previous studies and future goals on the environmental field. Yukon University has a strong Indigenous presence and recognition of the Indigenous peoples of Yukon. On the other hand, the courses I took were very environmentally focused, and I got to dive into the land management questions and contemporary issues of the Canadian north. I hope to bring to my future career the level of inclusiveness I experienced in terms of Indigenous rights and participation. Even if not having to do with Indigenous aspects, empowering local communities and finding new ways of seeing management are valuable goals. Based on my experience, I could recommend Yukon University for students interested in cultures, human dimensions, or environmental questions. Compared to my studies in Finland, the courses in Yukon were less theoretical and lighter in terms of reading, while heavier in small assignments and constant evaluation.

Kaisa Pajunen 4

Living in Whitehorse was strangely a mix of feeling like home and the next moment coming across something very Canadian. I feel like Yukoners have a strong connection to nature and their environment – something that is often described as part of the Finnish character as well, which perhaps made it easy to fit in. But even though I have lived in the northern Finland, everything “northern” seemed to be on another level in the Yukon. The distances are greater, the cold is colder, the wilderness is wilder, the mountains are higher, and the remoteness truly means inaccessibility. The winter of 2023 happened to be a warm one in the Yukon, so I didn’t experience the Arctic winter I was expecting, but rather a Finnish winter. I didn’t mind, as it allowed me to explore the trails around Whitehorse without fear of frostbites. Trails and being outdoors indeed were the essence of living in Whitehorse. Almost all the locals seemed to be into some sort of outdoor activity and considered the wilderness their backyard.

Kaisa Pajunen 3

Finally, despite the amazing setting of the wilderness, eventually it is the people that shape the exchange experience. Before arriving, I had been a little bit worried about finding my place at the university, because I am changing careers and finding my direction has taken a few tries. I was pleased to find that Yukon University had students of all ages and the university community was very diverse. I was also lucky to meet and share experiences with Yukon University students who had returned from the north2north exchanges in Europe. I hope that such opportunities for connecting with peers will be cherished in the UArctic network and north2north program.