For Denisa, exchange studies at the University of Lapland offered an advantage when looking for work after graduation. Now she is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Faculty of Law who loves the nature in Lapland and likes to spend time with friends by the fire.
Tell us something about yourself
My name is Denisa Souza and I am from Slovakia, where I also grew up. After high school I studied at a university in Czech Republic. Last year of my Master’s studies I spent on exchange via Erasmus here in Rovaniemi. It was a life changing experience for me. I met my husband here, and since we’ve lived a couple of years in Prague, but also shorter periods in Brazil, Chile, and Portugal. However, we were always thinking about coming back to Finland. We both applied for degree studies at the University of Lapland. We moved back to Rovaniemi in September and I am a Ph.D. Candidate at the Faculty of Law.
When I was choosing a place to go for Erasmus, I wanted to go somewhere to experience something different, to go to a place where I wouldn’t normally go and to a place where I could improve my English. Lapland definitely meets both these criteria.
Now, I wanted to come back because I had such a good experience here. People are very nice and try to make international students feel welcome. And of course, I love the nature, especially the fact that it surrounds us everywhere, even though we are in a city.
Why would you recommend Lapland for potential exchange students?
The education here is very good, and you can attend many interesting seminars. What I, for example, very much like about doctoral seminars is that students from all faculties can participate. People with different backgrounds have different ideas and perceive things differently - that also stimulates your own thinking.
After, I graduated I started to look for a job. From my personal experience, the exchange in Finland was very valuable for employers. I am pretty sure, it has helped me to get the job, I wanted.
What were the challenges that you had faced?
In the beginning I thought, that the cold winter will be my biggest problem. But I have got used to dressing up in layers and it’s not such a big deal. The darkness is a bit worse, but it actually doesn’t last that long and the white snow helps as well.
I think, that the biggest challenge for me is the Finnish language. People sometimes think that I am from Finland. We have a dog here and she is very cute so people usually talk to us when we are outside, and I always need to tell them that I cannot speak Finnish. It’s a pity because I would actually like to talk to them.
Do you have any recommendations?
Lapland is a unique place and you will create memories for a lifetime. I recommend to everybody to stay here for a year to experience everything Lapland has to offer. Even though, there is a lot of snow already in November, in my opinion, the winter here is the most beautiful in February. Days are already longer and quite often sunny.
I would also recommend traveling to north from Rovaniemi. The nature there is fascinating. I was in Inari in the summer and I can’t wait to go back there. One of the most memorable moments for me was to watch the sun that never sets.
What can you do in Rovaniemi?
There are many winter activities to enjoy. You can for example borrow equipment for cross-country skiing from the university Student Union. Rovaniemi is a perfect place for this sport. Then, there is, of course, the downhill skiing in Ounasvaara.
First time, I was in Ounasvaara, I was really surprised that there is a fireplace with wood always prepared to make a fire. I love it there. It’s a great place to go with your friends, eat something and talk. In the autumn, there are blueberries and lingonberries. It’s nice to pick them with friends, bake a cake, and then to enjoy it together.
Did you make any friends here?
Yes, many! It’s great that all exchange students live close to each other, so it’s super easy to meet people and create new friendships. I am still in contact with quite many people that I met here five years ago.
Why did you apply to become an International Student Ambassador?
I wanted to share my experience with new international students and to help them to have such a great time here as I have had. I also think that it is a good way to become an active member of the University, to learn more about the admission process and to meet new people.
Would you like to share something with us?
If you are hesitating to come to Rovaniemi or even to go on Erasmus, do not! Go! It will be the best time of your life. You will meet many nice people here and if you have any problem, people will help you.
I enjoy the freedom that I have here. Rovaniemi has many advantages comparing to big cities. I don’t need to take hours to come to the university, I am there in 10 minutes. I don’t need to worry about missing a bus or a tram, I simply take my bike and ride wherever I need.
Did you experience any funny moments in Lapland?
Once, during my exchange, we went to ski on Ounasvaara. When we were coming back, we got lost, because in the winter the paths here look very similar. We were lost in the forest for almost two hours, trying to find a way to Kuntotie. When, we finally found a road, we were lucky that we managed to stop a car. We were on the other side, about 6 km from Kuntotie. The man that stopped for us, was very nice and gave us a lift.