Dominika didn´t choose Lapland, she chose her study programme TourCIM, but now she can whole-heartedly recommend Lapland as a study destination to anyone craving for good education and amazing adventure. She might not be the most skillful winter cyclist yet, but she has definitely been building her professional network.
Tell us something about yourself.
I grew up in Poland and I moved to Finland when I was a young adult - over 10 years ago. I used to live in Helsinki, I did my bachelor studies there and started my professional career. Now, when I think about it, a relatively big part of my life is related to Finland, maybe this is why I go through some identity crisis from time to time. [laughter] I’m a foreigner in Finland, but when I go back to Poland it doesn’t feel like home that much. For instance, when members of my family are talking, usually everyone at the same time, still, they are able to understand one another perfectly and I just sit there quietly waiting for my turn to speak. So Finnish of me, huh? I usually need a few days to adapt. [laughter]
Why did you choose Lapland as your destination?
I didn’t really choose Lapland, I chose my study programme, Master's Degree Programme in Tourism, Culture and International Management (TourCIM), which happened to be taught at the University of Lapland. I had my life figured out in Helsinki, my friends were there and my job, but I wanted to continue my studies. So I found my current degree programme, applied, got accepted and then started to panic, mostly because my buddies were saying thigs like: “Lapland?! It’s cold up there! There’s snow for 7 months! Look at the map, do you know how far it is?” I actually did know where Lapland is, I had visited several times before and it wasn’t bad at all! Every time I went to Lapland I experienced most wonderful moments. So, I didn’t hesitate and just accepted my study place.
Did you encounter any surprises after your arrival?
Not that I recall. I was only surprised by the beauty of the nature around. Back in Helsinki I used to live next to the marina, so I had the sea just outside. I love the sea, the wind, the smell, so I was quite sure that I’d miss that. However, after arriving to Rovaniemi I was amazed with all the water around here: the river is just astonishing, so are all the lakes nearby. I like outdoors, whenever I have the time I like to spend it outside.
What do you like the most about living in Lapland?
The most I enjoy all the changes happening in the nature. Not so much happens in the winter though, there’s snow for 6 or 7 months and it’s cold, sometimes even very cold, but when May comes, suddenly it’s like a whole new world here. Every morning when I open my window there’s something new: a flower which wasn’t there the day before, is now blooming in the sunshine. During 1st of May (Vappu) celebrations there still might be some leftovers of snow, but at the end of May it can be hot enough to go to the beach. So basically in Lapland you jump from the winter jacket straight to the summer clothes. For me also fascinating are changes in the duration of day and night throughout the year. In December there are only a couple of hours of the daylight, while in June the sun is shining all the time. It’s a unique experience to live in this latitude.
How is it to study here?
It’s really fantastic! The high quality of education in Finland is known worldwide, so that’s already a great motivation to apply here. I like that my studies give me a lot of flexibility to build up the curriculum according to my interests. I have had the opportunity to take some courses from a different study programme or even from a different faculty, as well as to go for a study exchange. The teachers give a lot of support along the way too. Since the relationships in Finland are rather informal, you call your boss or professor by the first name, and it’s easier to establish a trustful relationship and ask for some guidance or tutoring. In TourCIM the students are asked to deliver different types of assignments, it’s not only about writing, but we work on various practical projects with different companies, so we already start building our professional network.
What tips would you give to the new students who are applying to study here?
Get some good winter clothes and shoes! [laughter] But honestly, I would recommend anyone craving for good education and amazing adventure to apply here. You have a unique opportunity to enjoy the northern lights while sitting on your balcony, or to go cross-country skiing on the frozen river. You can enjoy sauna and ice swimming as your regular Saturday routine. There is a chance you grill a sausage outside over the fire in -20 degrees and a stranger at the fireplace will share with you a cup of coffee or mulled wine. Isn’t that something to look forward to?
If you would be asked to cook something typically Lappish or Finnish for your friends or family back home, what would it be?
Oh, it’s definitely salmon soup! It’s always that! I mastered the recipe and cook it often for myself, my family or friends, wherever I go. It’s the award-winning dish and the usual star of the day. [laughter] I also like reindeer or elk meat, but I never had the chance to prepare it by myself, hopefully one day.
Did you experience any funny moments in Lapland?
Well… People cycle here everywhere, even in the winter, -30 degrees does not seem to be a problem. As they say in Finland: there is no such thing as bad weather, there are only bad clothes. I tried to cycle on the icy road too, but it did end up miserably. I was coming back home from the supermarket with my groceries and my bicycle slipped. I fell down and noticed my oranges rolling down the hill into the road, stopping all the traffic. I ran after them and it took me quite a while to collect 2 kilos of oranges from the road. Everything ended up fine with a lot of laughter, I was alright, my oranges as well, and even the drivers didn’t look upset by my incident. Well, I might not be the most skillful winter cyclist after all. And nope, I don’t cycle in the winter anymore. [laughter]