I study Environmental Politics and Regional Studies at Tampere University. When I started my studies in 2016, I was sure I wasn't going to study abroad. But last year I realized that this might be the last chance to spend a couple of months abroad for an affordable price without needing to worry about writing my master’s thesis. So, I attended an information session where I heard about the north2north program and its partner universities.
I had a couple of preconditions: location in North America, no big cities nearby (helps to focus on studies), and as remote as possible (I don’t know why). Thanks to the strict visa policy of the United States, I decided to apply to a Canadian university. This was the first time I heard about the University of Saskatchewan. I was convinced by their website - so easy to use when compared to others! - and the wide selection of interesting courses.
In Saskatchewan I studied geography and chose courses on the Circumpolar North, Canada, and the GIS (Geographic Information System). These courses also highlighted Indigenous peoples. When I was reading about the Sámi, I realized how little we have been taught about the Indigenous people living inside our borders in Finland. This was a wake-up moment for me, because I have previously connected the Arctic mainly with issues related to climate change and economy.
The University of Saskatchewan was the perfect choice. I was living in one of the many residence buildings called Voyager Place / Saskatchewan Hall. It was a beautiful, over a century old but fully renovated building in the campus area. The residence was connected to the culinary center, library, gym, classroom buildings and other buildings via a tunnel system, so you didn’t have to go outside to enjoy fresh -45'C air if you didn’t want to. The rent also included unlimited dining at the culinary center, so there was no need for grocery shopping.
I didn’t feel a culture shock of any kind. Like my exchange coordinator promised, Canada is a country similar to Finland. Of course, people were extremely polite, and I did get tired with the constant “how are you”. My studies weren’t too difficult, but they required lots of work. What surprised me was the number of exchange students. There were many European students (including six Finns), so it wasn’t difficult to get friends. However, getting to know Canadian students proved to be much harder. Although the university campus offered almost everything you need, the city of Saskatoon was quite boring. Being designated for cars, it wasn’t comfortable to walk around the city. However, the valley of South Saskatchewan River offered some great views and paths to walk.
I definitely recommend the U of S as an exchange university, but please check that there are no global pandemics going on!