Activities around the theme “Internationalization at the home university” have drawn law student Angela, 24, into working for UArctic as an intern, steering a Soviet tank, and guiding a group of Yakut schoolchildren through Room Escape Rovaniemi. Where would you end up in?
"These things get you involved in no time. The sky’s the limit, everything is possible."
Tell us about yourself – who are you, what are you studying?
Well, I’m Angela, 24, from Oulu. I’m a law student living in Rovaniemi for the fifth year now. I’ve been involved in the international activities of the university in every possible way: As a board member I was in charge of international issues, I was a tutor of international students for two years, and I worked as an intern at the International Office and UArctic. I will also soon become an exchange student myself.
How did you end up studying law?
Well, I probably could’ve broadened my perspective a bit when choosing the discipline! At the age of 12 or so I used to watch Ally McBeal and decided to start studying law at some point. [laughter] I thought that it would open many doors for me. I was planning to move from Oulu to Helsinki, but somehow I ended up in Rovaniemi! And I don’t mind it at all.
Next, a little thought experiment: If you could move anywhere, where would you go? What would you see there?
Just recently, I’ve developed an urge to go to South America to study Spanish. Somehow I feel that it would be fun to experience a totally different culture. I’ve realized how many people in the world actually speak Spanish.
I’ve never been there, so it would be something completely different. I assume I'd be faced with a chaos – compared to Finland, at least, where everything works pretty fast and in an orderly manner. Despite the chaos, I believe that on the spot I’d see friendly and open people, above all.
If I’d work there, it probably wouldn’t be anywhere in the area of law. A job involving children would be an interesting option. It’s a bit wild idea, but that’s the way I think.
You have been tutoring international students for two years. Did you gain any skills that could be of use in the future?
Well, I sure learned intercultural communication. I’ve noticed that people from different cultures tend to ask for help in a variety of ways. Some want guidance right from the beginning, others don’t have the courage to ask for help until six months have passed.
International students have problems mostly with everyday issues: the Internet, bicycles… that sort of stuff. In winter many have also trouble dealing with kaamos, or polar twilight. To top it all off, they live by themselves outside the city center. Of course they also have a good time, but it may not feel that easy to get to know Finnish students.
You have worked at the International Office and UArctic as an intern – what did you benefit from these experiences?
At least now that I’ve applied for further internships, foreign ministries and consulates seem to be really interested in me because of my background in international affairs. I’m on the right track because regardless of the different levels, we're talking about same line of work.
During the last three days I’ve been visited by a group of Yakut schoolchildren, which has been a very pleasant assignment. Adorable children. I took them to Korundi House of Culture and to Arktikum Science Centre. We also visited Room Escape, but that went a little bit over their heads [laughter]. They liked Rovaniemi a lot, and a few of them said they might even like to live here. At the university, we visited the art building, which was new to me as well. We tried out various instruments and looked at the cameras. They were thrilled.
You speak Russian – has the University of Lapland given you possibilities to use this skill?
Being a native you don’t get that many chances to use it, I guess. One has to be very active to be able to use a language skill, but the university offers mostly basic-level teaching. That’s a clear development target for the university.
You will be going to St. Petersburg. Has internationalization at the home university prepared you for student exchange?
Well, perhaps I know something about the cultural shock that many exchange students go through. I can prepare myself for it and I know that everything's going to be OK. And since I’ve been working at the International Office I'm also aware of the hurry in which people sometimes have to do things. I know that I can always get help, but you also have to do things by yourself.
St. Petersburg is not completely new to me, but a city of five million people has its own challenges. My friend studies in Spain and loves the country but still nothing seems to be working. I’m prepared for that to happen in St. Petersburg. The historic significance of the city is great – I’m sure the ambient energy level is also very high.
How should the University of Lapland enhance its international image?
I’ve often been asked about the whole supply of studies that is available in English here. We do have Master-level studies in English, but international Bachelor studies could be increased. Lapland is an international destination owing to its location, which contributes to the brand as is. The magic of Lapland could be exploited even more.
How does the international atmosphere manifest itself in the everyday life of students here?
The Café Lingua meetings are a good example! It means that local students gather together to discuss Finnish culture with exchange students for example in German or Russian. The meetings also enable exchange students to become part of Finnish culture.
Exchange students also meet in nightlife – at the university, they work rather independently. However, those participating in ESN activities have their hands full: they make cabin trips and do all sorts of things. Those who have participated in exchange themselves also seem to be very active in involving exchange students in their activities. In my opinion, the most important thing is to encourage students to go on exchange as early as possible.
What are your experiences of the activities of student associations?
Well, for example ELSA is a European law students' association that recruits students to Europe. I myself took a summer course in Bosnia last summer. It was a bit like student exchange – there were people from Italy, Norway, and three students from our institution. That trip was totally far out! ELSA strives to lower the threshold for students to go for practical training for example in the EU.
In Artikla, international activities concentrate on the Nordic countries. Each university organizes its own international week, and we attend them as a group. I’ve made a lot of friends there – it’s been a rather busy year. During my own international week we drove a Russian tank in the forest... [laughs]
What future plans do you have? What is the role of international issues in them?
Living abroad is a possibility. Let’s see how St. Petersburg turns out for me. It would be easy, there are many Finnish companies and offices. And I should also graduate at some point!
Why would you recommend internationalization at the home university?
I’ve made friends with people from all over the world. For example last fall I went to Berlin to see students that I have tutored. These things get you involved in no time. The sky’s the limit, everything is possible.