I study traditional handicrafts at Sámi Education Institute in Inari, Finland. I wanted to complete my studies with an exchange abroad, and to learn more about northern cultures and indigenous people. I was sure I wanted to use this opportunity, but had no idea where to go – my only condition was that I wanted to go outside of Europe.
My friend Solja went to see our teacher who knows about these things, and came up with the idea to go on a north2north exchange to Siberia, Yakutia, to Arctic State Institute of Culture and Arts. Since I had no better idea, I asked if she would mind if I applied too.
I had quite an open mind, and I knew almost nothing about the place before I arrived in Yakutsk, except a bit about the weather and a few other things that we had heard from friends and teachers. The size of the city took me by surprise. It was much bigger than I expected, with many institutes, universities, museums, bars, cafés and people from all paths of life. The city is growing fast and new buildings are appearing all around.
AGIKI is a very high-standard institute of art and culture. I mostly had art studies, since my Russian skills didn't allow me to take theoretical studies. I learned so much about the culture, arts, handicrafts, and many other things. Teachers were very willing to help and understand, even though we didn't share any common language with some of them. It was surprising how much I was able to deduce just by listening and watching.
People in Yakutia are so friendly and humble! I never felt unwanted for not I speaking good Russian or Sakha. I felt very safe during the whole time walking around, going places and meeting new people. At the institute, the students were really warm-hearted and welcoming, which made it so easy to be there.
I wanted to go on an exchange to some place that was unfamiliar and new to me. I had never visited Russia or even dreamt of going to Siberia, so the possibility was very exciting for me.
The three months at the art institute in Yakutsk were an inspiring experience. I really had no expectations about the whole trip, so everything was one big bonus for me. The people were kind, and the school had great teachers and subjects to study. I found new inspiration and excitement through my studies. I learned new techniques and skills, and most of all, I learned to believe in myself and in my ability to learn and create.
The experience did change my perspective on life for good. I’m so happy that I took the opportunity, and grateful that the experience was made possible for me.