Karol Kowalski, MICLaw degree student, Poland
Karol is a 1st year MICLaw student who first came to ULapland for an Erasmus exchange in 2011. Interested in Scandinavia, he was considering both Sweden and Finland as study destinations, but in the end chose the more exotic Finland, the place where he knew the education system was highly ranked and also respected in Poland.
After his exchange Karol did an internship at the university and then decided to apply for master’s studies. Now he’s a degree student, a tutor for new international students, and his future plans include staying and working in Finland, possibly also a PhD. In his free time he travels around the country as a basketball referee.
Karol’s main reason for staying in Finland was his girlfriend, but we wonder: is there more to the story...?
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When you see Rovaniemi on the map your first impression might be that it’s at the end of the world, there’s nothing to do, and the university is somewhere behind a forest. When I told my friends I was going to Finland, their first question was “are you crazy?!” and second, “how can you go to Lapland when it only exists in stories?”. But I don’t think anyone should be afraid to come here if they want to get a good education and have a good time, even if only for a short while.
Many students may be intimidated by Lapland’s harsh climate, but I would say that the climate is not really even a problem. It’s more like a pleasure, because you can enjoy new things like winter sports and activities. So not only is weather no problem, but the education is fantastic.
"Academic freedom is a central point of all other aspects. You can create everyday life, but academic freedom makes it possible."
What I like about the academic side here is that I found complete freedom in my studies. I can go to a professor, say I’m interested in that context and that topic within the framework of the course. There are different ways to pass the courses: take an exam, write an essay, participate in a seminar, or a combination of them. This freedom, this flexibility, being open to ideas – it’s so difficult to describe – it’s unbelievable! Academic freedom is a central point of all other aspects. You can create everyday life, but academic freedom makes it possible.
If you plan on staying here, I would say that you definitely need to learn Finnish. You need it in everyday life, so you also have lots of opportunities to practice. I found out that if you are willing to speak Finnish, people are really patient with you, always saying “ei haittaa (that’s fine), continue” even if I make thousands of mistakes. I’m taking Finnish language classes here at the university, and the courses are really good! I think Finnish is a nice language and very rich compared to English, but very hard too!
"I truly believe that more career paths and opportunities are open to me now."
My studies have changed where I live, given me a much more practical view on law compared to the theoretical one in Poland, and offered new life experiences since I’m constantly surrounded by other foreigners or being a foreigner among Finns. I truly believe that more career paths and opportunities are open to me now.
My Erasmus exchange here was the point which changed my life. Of course it was such a relaxed time and I met lots of people, but I also saw that it was not so difficult being abroad. It was an introduction for the next steps. I have found a place in the world where I want to live: in Finland for sure, and in Rovaniemi if I can. The university has taught me that Finland is a good place to get a job, and the international environment is basically everywhere.
"A degree from a Scandinavian country in your CV is respected in other countries."
My advice to new students would be: don’t be afraid, just apply – try it, at least – if you want to get good education as part of your studies. And of course, a degree from a Scandinavian country in your CV is respected in other countries.
After I graduate, I plan on applying for PhD studies at ULapland and afterwards look for a job in the legal field. I’m not planning to become a teacher at the university, but never say never. I also didn’t plan on doing master’s studies here!