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Shiva Mani Risal, graduate of Comparative Social Work (CSW), Nepal

As a bachelor’s degree graduate in social work from Nepal, I was looking for further studies. I explored several universities in European countries, USA, Canada and Australia, but the highly-ranked free education system in Finland got my attention, and I was wondering if I could have my master’s in social work from there. Luckily I came to know that University of Lapland offers master’s studies in Comparative Social Work (CSW) in English, and I could not stop dreaming and seeing myself a master in social work. Yes, that means I processed for social work studies in Finland. And when I came here and started studying, I knew that it was not that easy getting admission in the program.

"The comparative approach enhances the students in acquiring know-how on the topic from international perspectives. This is the best part about the CSW program and ULapland’s professors."

I was interested in the CSW program mainly because of its name. I was preoccupied with the idea that I would acquire an international degree and then return to my home country. I checked the program outline and found out that it had a generalistic approach and it also focused more on the comparative approach. And that was exactly what I was looking for. About starting studies at ULapland, it was a huge transition – transition as I was away from home and the weather was challenging all the time. However, with time, I adjusted myself well into the Finnish education system which is more scientific and practice-oriented than the studies back at home.

Preparing scientific writings, meeting deadlines, attending courses despite the working life were never easy, but these are the things that made me a graduate of the master’s programme in two years. The motivation and psycho-social support from the professors; sweet smiles from the silent Finns; and the loud noise among the international students (both degree and exchange students) are a very sweet memory that will remain with me forever. The courses are more individual study based and very contextual. The comparative approach enhances the students in acquiring know-how on the topic from international perspectives. This is the best part about the CSW program and ULapland’s professors, and the academically very rich library has further provided perfection.

"The social network among students is what I am missing with my graduation. You have at least two neighbors from different countries, and they have their friends, and automatically all of them become your friends."

The study life was balanced by the snowy and challenging weather of Rovaniemi. Along with studies, you experience extreme winter in which northern lights and snow activities become your lifetime experiences. Slowly, summer too becomes unforgettable as there is no darkness at all. What that means is that winter makes you wait for summer, and so does summer the other way around. You are gonna complain about the weather all the time, but it becomes part of your daily life and therefore makes you miss the weather you don’t have with you.

The international students’ circle, exchange students, partying, trips, hanging around made living in Rovaniemi special. I would prefer calling Rovaniemi as a place where you get to learn in international circumstances. Together with Finns, there are people from other parts of Europe, North and South America, Australia, Africa and Asia. The social network among students is what I am missing with my graduation. You have at least two neighbors from different countries, and they have their friends, and automatically all of them become your friends. The international evenings, food party, Spanish party, African party and so on were just a few examples of students’ network. Once I remember Club Tivoli full of students from ULapland and I was confused – am I at the university or in the club? I am going to miss all those moments.

"It is our hard work which determines our success, but ULapland becomes our friend in this process. The updated knowledge and graduation will bring changes on both personal and professional level."

In addition to the degree and fun during university life, I am very happy with myself. I developed my scientific writing skills, reading habits and critical thinking. I can now work as a social worker in Finland; however, it is important to know that the social work profession demands skills in Finnish language. So, if I have the competence in Finnish I have the possibility to work as a social worker here. As I am still sticking to my plans, I am going back home and work there as a social worker. My dream of experiencing life as a social worker in Finland has not been met so far, but I’m still hopeful.

In the end, I am happy to say that studying at ULapland is of high standard. The university has an international environment, the faculty members are highly experienced, and courses are well planned. It is our hard work which determines our success, but ULapland becomes our friend in this process. The updated knowledge and graduation will bring changes on both personal and professional level.