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Jennifer Matthews, Global Biopolitics degree student, USA

The reason I’m studying in Finland is kind of weird. When I was in high school I did my exchange studies in Italy where I met some Finnish people who encouraged me to come to Finland. I did an exchange in Jyväskylä, and when I was looking for a master’s program I found out that ULapland offered Biopolitics. Not many universities have that, even in the US, and this is one of the first programs of its kind, so it was exciting. I really liked the content of the degree, and I really liked Lapland when I had visited, so I thought it was a good idea.

"The program has challenged me to work harder and work better as an individual."

Biopolitics is a new but also a really good program. It’s been a challenge but I’ve realized that I have a lot more potential than I thought. It’s really different from my studies back home, a lot more focused on independent work and doing things on my own. The program has challenged me to work harder and work better as an individual, make my own schedules and deadlines, and that’s really nice.

The biggest difference between ULapland and my former university is definitely the focus on individual studying. Also my home university was much bigger, but it’s nice that ULapland is smaller and you recognize everyone and everyone knows each other. The class size is much smaller too, and it’s easier to talk to seven than one hundred people! Things are also much more close-knit, and it’s easier to establish better relationships with everyone.

"Every time I turn around I meet someone new here, and people are really warm and welcoming, always encouraging you to do something new."

Lapland itself is a really amazing place, different than anywhere else I’ve been. The scenery and weather are special, but I think the biggest thing about Lapland and Finland is the people. They make a different study atmosphere – they are the ones that make this so special! In the beginning it’s a bit hard to get Finnish people talking, but once you do, it’s easier to establish relationships with them. It really helps to be involved with the student association and the Student Union, because they make it easier to meet other students.

There is also always something to do, even for such a small place as Rovaniemi. Every time I turn around I meet someone new here, and people are really warm and welcoming, always encouraging you to do something new. My absolute favorite memory is from last year. I met some exchange students here on a Tuesday, and they told me that on Wednesday they would leave for a trip to Norway and I decided to go with them, even though I didn’t know them! We drove two cars to Norway and spent ten days exploring northern Norway and Sweden. I will never forget sleeping in a cottage in the middle of nowhere and looking at the northern lights.

"I think that whenever you travel, and especially when you live in a different country, it changes you. It makes you realize more things about yourself."

Before coming here I had a life plan but now that plan has changed completely. Coming here helped me make decisions about my future. Lapland has been really instrumental in helping me make those choices and giving me a lot of opportunities to do things I wouldn’t normally do. I think that whenever you travel, and especially when you live in a different country, it changes you. It makes you realize more things about yourself. You overcome many challenges, and that helps you grow and become a better person. Being a part of ESN gave me the chance to take a leadership role, which is something I’ve never done before and something I never thought I would do before coming here! It’s been a big challenge but also an enjoyable one, and I don’t think I would have gotten the opportunity to do it somewhere else.

Something that I’ve learned here in Lapland is that my memories, the moments and experiences I’ve had here, are so much more important to me than anything else – that’s really the most important thing I’ll be taking with me when I leave.