I grew up in Bakersfield, CA, a town that was once a fetid swamp turned into a parched desert by agricultural activity and oil prospecting. In that light perhaps it’s not strange! I came from one region changed by human activity to a region currently going through its intermediate stages, all for the same resource.

At some point in high school, my long-haired younger self discovered a cache of Finnish heavy metal in some corner of the internet, and I was just blown away by the sound of the language itself. I had always been interested in other places and was taken by the uniqueness of Finland and Finnish. I started reading about the country and kept a kind of casual interest until I went to the University of Washington and saw that they offered Finnish classes, which I took as a bit of an indulgence alongside my studies in International Relations. But I kept with it, and ended up majoring in Finnish, even spending a summer in Savonlinna in 2011 and loving every minute of it.

As for the Arctic, I participated in a senior project that was themed after the changing Arctic. The UW sent me to Quebec with a team of students to interview experts and officials about Arctic issues and I quickly realized that this issue was cutting edge and fascinating. Previously to that, I had little knowledge of just what was being done up there and who was interested, but I found the idea of a landscape being uncovered and exploited in a continual paradox of destruction and custodianship interesting, and I’ve been following it ever since.

After graduating, I managed to tie together my two interests into an application for a Fulbright Grant, and now I am in Rovaniemi at the Arctic Center (University of Lapland) researching Finnish Arctic policy in a bid to see what lessons the US can learn from Finland’s unique approach to the Arctic.


Also check out Michael's blog Fulbrighter in Rovaniemi - American Views on the Finnish Arctic to hear more about his thoughts on Arctic strategies!

Read Michaels other testimonial here.

Published in 2014.