I had already found the north2north program on the websites of my university, so it was clear how to educate yourself and have fun at the same time: studying in the Arctic State Institute of Arts and Culture in arctic Siberia, would at the same time provide qualified education in visual arts, studies in Russian language and learning the Arctic culture. All of these are to be used in the future, especially since the Arctic issues are constantly getting more actual in all fields of study, such as politics and environmental sciences.
Arriving in Yakutsk surprised me. In an area that people usually consider as empty and peripheral lived a traditionally rich, multicultural and vivid city having all from film theatres to sushi restaurants. Before arrival I had heard the climate in Yakutsk to be harsh, and during winter the temperature might sometimes be as low as -50 °C. So at the same time I was fascinated to see how people manage to live through such a cold weather but also seriously worried for my own survival. When the winter came, good and warm clothes were needed, but in fact, although they told that particular winter was colder than usual, I preferred to walk from place to place through the whole winter. For those loving public transportation there are cute and nice buses that go very often, so no one need to wait for long at the bus stop. Curiously, inside the buildings it is very warm, it's not an exception to wear a t-shirt.
The studies were offered in Russian language which offered an excellent possibility to learn the language in authentic everyday life. Although I had studied Russian already in Finland, practically all I could say was very rudimental. So I started with practical courses (especially the Arctic State Institute of Arts and Culture has plenty of them) and kept on with more theoretical ones later on when my language skills became better. Since the studying groups are small, teachers have time to advice anyone who is in need of help. If you wish, you can also take courses in Russian language to boost your learning.
The whole exchange period has been filled with helpful and warm-hearted people as kindness and generosity are here a deep-rooted tradition. I have fallen in love with Yakutia, with its nature, landscapes, people and various ways of life. An exchange period in Yakutsk is a spectacular possibility to see how strong, robust and treasured traditions connect with phenomena of the global world.
Published in 2014.