Thao Trinh Phuong from Vietnam, a degree student of International and Comparative Law, learned how to ski, how to get lost and how to find her way again in Lapland. Read more on how the Arctic light felt right for our dear Thao.
“When you have a chance to control
what and how you study, it’s really good for a student. Studying is not
“compulsory” anymore, not forced. It helps students love what it is they
You’ve brought something dear to you to the interview! Could you tell us what it is?
Okay, yes! This is one of my souvenirs from here, a memory from Finland.
I spent my Easter holiday at my friend’s house, they are really sweet
and kind. I think – most Finnish people I’ve met have been really
helpful. They’ve tried their best to share their traditions with me, as
much as they can.
At my friend’s house, the parents don’t speak Finnish. With my broken
Finnish, it is very hard to communicate with them. But they are really,
really friendly, they make me feel like I’m at home. So during this
Easter holiday, they showed me how they spend their holidays, together,
and they taught me how to decorate this little tree. They showed how
they go around visiting their neighbors, singing and dressed up in ugly
costumes. Their neighbor had a really good laugh!
You mentioned your broken Finnish – but you DO speak Finnish! How do you like it?
A little bit! I try to study as much as I can. I know Finnish is very
difficult, I’m trying my best. So far it’s not very fluent. I still
speak worse than a one-year-old child! [laughter]
What is the best thing in Lapland?
Christmas, even though I’ve only spent one Christmas here. But everyone
was so thrilled, the Christmas spirit was really strong.
Another best thing here is nature. Because it’s Arctic, it is very
unique. In winter the weather can be very extreme, but you can see one
of the most beautiful sceneries in the world. Of course, the Arctic
light is… you can’t describe it. It’s an once-in-a-lifetime thing, but
here you see it almost all the time in winter.
Did you know of any stereotypes of Finnish people?
I thought that when I’d come here, it might be difficult to join the
community. But during my time here, I haven’t really experienced many of
the stereotypes. They [Finnish people] have all been really
welcoming. Finnish people, they are not that shy, not that cold. Even
with strangers they are very friendly. In my own hometown I don’t get
strangers walking up to me and saying “hi!”, but here they do. Even when
I fell down on my bike, people helped me as much as they could.
Also, I remember one time when I was lost and couldn’t find my friend’s
house. An old couple just came up to me (they didn’t speak English at
all!) and tried to help me. They even let me in their car and drove me
to my friends place. Really, really warm and welcoming.
Have you made a lot of friends during your stay here?
Yes, at the University of Lapland I’ve had a lot of chances to meet new
students. From my faculty, from other faculties, exchange students. The
University of Lapland has even encouraged me to meet them, talk to them,
to share my experiences. We have each other to go through difficult or
Have you had an adventure in Lapland you’d like to share with us?
I got to experience skiing for the first time! It was very nice. I was
very surprised to see that Finnish people are so sporty – even
seven-year-old kids were so talented. But me, I was really horrible,
fell down all the time, but it was a really fun adventure for me! [laughter]
How do you feel about the more independent take on studying at the University of Lapland?
Yeah, I really like it. I have more power to control what I want to
learn, what I want to develop in myself, individually. Over here, you
have to make your personal study plan. It’s a very helpful thing, it
teaches you to plan everything ahead. It’s a skill you must have in
life. Sometimes things might not go as planned, but it helps you.
When you have a chance to control what and how you study, it’s really
good for a student. Studying is not “compulsory” anymore, not forced. It
helps students love what it is they are studying.
Can you think of some differences between your home university and the University of Lapland?
At my home university, the teachers are very busy. I mostly meet them in
the classroom, during the lecture. I hardly get a chance to meet them
outside the office hours, but in here students actually can write emails
to the teachers, and they answer in detail. They even invite students
to their office for more detailed explanations.
What future plans do you have?
I will pursue my career as a lawyer, but in my home country. I want to
contribute myself to my country, in the field of law. But Finland has
become my second home – it will always be one of the most important
places of my life.