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Omar Sierra Gutiérrez, MICLaw degree student, Mexico

Since always, I was dreaming and looking forward to find the perfect opportunity to mix some of my passions: to travel, to have an extreme adventure, to have a unique opportunity, and to keep on studying and specializing on international and environmental topics. For almost five years, I was attracted by the Nordic countries; it was kind of a signal to go there to study and expand my mind and my soul. Then, as I started to read more about the Nordic education, the first highlight that came into the front was… Finland, of course.

"University of Lapland – in the Arctic, near the Arctic Centre, close to the Saami people, northern lights, reindeer, winter sports, sauna, avanto (ice holes for swimming) etc. – was just perfect for me."

Before attending my academic program at the University of Lapland, I used to work as a volunteer at Tampere for almost one year, and that was enough time to make me realize that what Suomi as a word meant to me was “good, keep on going, and everything is going to be all right”! The Finnish education system was knocking at my door, and as an environmental lawyer, also interested on indigenous peoples’ rights, the University of Lapland – in the Arctic, near the Arctic Centre, close to the Saami people, northern lights, reindeer, winter sports, sauna, avanto (ice holes for swimming) etc. – was just perfect for me to take the train and keep on moving forward into the adventure.

It was then that I realized that the University of Lapland with the MICLaw program was offering me even more than I was expecting with the specialization on Arctic Law and Governance, in which I could keep on learning about climate change, its effects, mitigation and adaptation actions, the Saami´s adaptation and success cases, and international and regional cooperation, among other things.

I knew that being about 9,000 kilometres away from home would not be an easy task, but I was also sure that after being accepted for studying at this program it would be a unique and more than a rewarding opportunity – once in a lifetime. And you know what? It was like that. I can clearly remember my first day at the university; it was amazing to know that we were about 260 students, from 30 different countries and from five continents (I mean, I was from Mexico, come on)… Just WOW, that is an international university, in which I could really expand my mind and learn more about different cultures and people! And it was like that; it is so rewarding to know that I can visit so many friends around the world, and who knows, perhaps in the future we can even make a difference to the world… joining forces, dreams and knowledge acquired through our lives, and reassure at the University of Lapland.

"I can certainly tell that studying at the University of Lapland is going to make a difference in my life."

I can certainly tell that studying at the University of Lapland is going to make a difference in my life; the knowledge and wisdom that I gained in the Arctic is unique and is helping me to pursue one of my goals, to move towards environmental topics and indigenous peoples rights, first in Latin America and after that… who knows, anywhere, anytime!

Every time I think about Rovaniemi, I think about one of the best moments of my life. I was fully pleased by the nature and the people, including both foreigners and suomalainen (the Finns), but beyond that, I am never going to forget the northern lights. It was like waking up from October until March with hope and joy of watching them on the sky.

My best advice: do not be afraid of anything, and always ask, Finnish people are so helpful. And Finland is one of those countries where you know that everything works, it’s like a clock, and people are so honest. Forget all kind of prejudices: if Finnish people do not talk too much, it does not mean that they do not have something to say or that they do not feel anything or that they are mad at you. It might be that sometimes we have to enjoy the silence, though every now and then a joke is a good ice breaker. Go out, meet people; the more you go out the more chances you have to get to know special people with whom you can share a special place like the Arctic. Keep on playing sports, even more when it is all snowy outside; try indoor sports (basketball at Lapin AMK is awesome), and sports keep your mind healthy. One more thing: try to volunteer at festivals, it is awesome and more than free tickets – it is so good for socializing and travelling!

"My favorite memory is that I can remember EVERYTHING; that I achieved one of my goals – to study my master’s in Finland; all the friends I made; the countries I got to visit; and perhaps my favorite, the northern lights."