Dreams about northern lights, picturesque fells and Nordic Design became true when Alina spent her exchange semester of Autumn 2016 in Finnish Lapland. Inspired by Finnish culture she found that Finnish education suited her goals. Later she applied to a Master’s degree program in Arctic Art and Design and continued her journey in Lapland.
I grew up far from Lapland but it feels that I had dreamed about it all along. I remember reading books about the Moomin valley by Tove Jansson, as well as trying “Finnish sledges” in a cold and snowy city park of Chelyabinsk, city by the Ural Mountains. After my first visit to Finland I was impressed by the culture and character of people living among thousands of lakes. I found very inspiring functionality of everyday life and surrounding design and architecture. Starting my studies in Multimedia Design in St. Petersburg Polytechnic University I knew I was going to apply for an exchange semester in Finland. When I looked for partner Universities in the list and I was amazed to find that the University of Lapland offered such amazing art and design courses. From a trip across Finland I remembered Rovaniemi by Alvar Aalto's architecture, the Jätkänkynttilä bridge and Joulupukki.
Application process for exchange semester abroad was long and challenging. In order to go for an exchange in autumn I started preparing preparations in January. It was not easy to make decisions in such a long-time frame, but it was something that I definitely wanted to do. There was so many papers and forms, it was difficult to get all the documents approved and signed. But after submitting all the necessary paperwork there was a long time waiting for a decision. I was so happy to find out that the wait was worth it, when I received my acceptance letter from the University of Lapland. I spent the next whole summer in preparations: immersing myself in English on a daily basis (movies, podcasts, news), revising Finnish for beginners student book, applying for accommodation, buying tickets and so on. I was very excited, but when everything was prepared and it was time to take my backpack and start my journey I realised that I am not sure if I am ready. My family and friends supported me on the way, them believing in me, helping me to get through my doubts. I was the first one arriving to an empty flat, where there was not even a kettle and I found myself making tea in a pan. What now? Is it possible to study so many courses in English? I hope I will find friends... If I could send a message to myself I would say that "it is natural to be scared of changes and later they will turn out to be a great experiences, don’t worry and have fun!”.
I was very hesitant to talk to my new flat mates, as it was a new experience for me to use a foreign language every day. But very soon we became friends, a family! We learned a lot about each other, explored eachother’s cultures. We studied, traveled and dined together! We were brave, adventurous, as well as lazy and funny. We are still in touch to this day! It is great to have friends across the world. There was a lot of new challenges, one of them was biking on snow. Studies were my priority and I wanted to use the chance to learn as much as possible. I was staying at Uni very late, doing assignments at the art faculty. I enjoyed each course I had! In Rovaniemi you are so close to nature, so many beautiful sights just on the way to Uni. It is great to see how the weather and light affects colors of the sceneries - so inspiring. During just 4 months I learned so many valuable lessons. It was not only about studies, but about believing in oneself, communication, friendship, confidence, artistic experiment and creative freedom.
After my exchange I knew that it is not that scary to meet changes after all! I finished my bachelor’s degree in Saint Petersburg and applied for studies in a Master's degree in Arctic Art and Design at the University of Lapland. It was a different experience, in comparison to my exchange. I enjoyed my studies a lot and we had a lot of interesting projects, exhibitions and workshops. One part of my studies was work on Kiela mural project. I had an opportunity to test my ideas about connecting board games and research methods. I have designed a board game that was used as a tool to facilitate participatory workshop with a local community. I graduated in the summer of 2020 and started my internship at the Internationalisation services of University of Lapland in the following September. The internship gave me a chance to use my service design skills, utilise my knowledge in visual communication, to hold a radio program about experiences of studying abroad. It was great to be a part of the team, where creativity and initiative are encouraged and supported, which offers a broader possibility for learning. I am looking forward to the new year and upcoming endeavours!