Personally speaking, living here and adapting to the differences (it’s quite apart from sunny California or even rainy Seattle) has been empowering in many ways. Essentially, you are faced with two choices as a student here: you can stay in the exchange network bubble and spend your time in apartments, shunning the weather and the dark, or you can get out, establish yourself a network, get to know Finland and its people (as this place is as Finnish of an experience as you can have), enjoy the chance to be outdoors, and take advantage of as many opportunities as you can. I have found this second option to be much more rewarding. It would have been very easy to stay at the local student residence all the time and try to relive my earlier college experiences, but I consciously decided not to.
The result is strong professional and personal contacts here, and some strong grown roots. It may seem an out-of-the-way place, but I feel as if I could return here and have opportunities, and that is something that I am strongly considering now. I’ve come to really enjoy the lifestyle that you can enjoy in Rovaniemi, with its easy pace and welcoming people. No doubt, even though I grew up in the asphalt ocean of southern California and have lived in Seattle’s concrete jungle for a while, I will experience some culture shock returning to being around that many people and that urban ignorance of what lies outside and around.
On an academic and professional level I think I can treat my year at the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland as something of a free primer on academia beyond being a student. Of course, I took some classes and through those was introduced to some fine experts on the local area and the wider Arctic, but I also got excellent help in learning the process to getting an article published (ongoing, it’s not a nice process necessarily) and an insight into an academic career. I will hold an ongoing interest in Arctic issues and have a personal insight into the perspective of some of the tenants of the Arctic for the rest of my career – of that I also have no doubt.
For the future, I have to return home in the short term to work and see my family, but I am still interested in continuing my education with a Master’s degree in comparative law at the University of Lapland. Finland has left an impression on me and I want to come back, should the situation allow.
The previous testimonial of Michael can be found here.
[Read the article in the Shared Voices magazine]