Isabelle, Northern Tourism MA student at the University of Lapland

Isabelle Spiby, Finland


Isabelle´s interest for nature-based and adventure tourism and her secret longing to the winter wonderland of Lapland brought her to study Northern Tourism at the University of Lapland. There is enough snow here for her taste.

How did you end up in Rovaniemi?

I grew up in Helsinki, Finland, but after graduating high school I moved to Scotland to go to university. I wanted a change of scenery and felt very fascinated by the Scottish nature and environment. Although I loved living in Scotland, after graduating I wanted a change of scenery again, and a different perspective on life. I really missed the Finnish winter, and there has always been a part of me that secretly longed to the winter wonderland of Lapland. So, after spending a gap year in the south of Finland, wondering what to do next, I decided it was time to go for it! When I heard about the new master’s degree in Northern Tourism, I was sold. This is exactly what I want to be doing, and a perfect gateway to my new chapter in Lapland.

Why did you choose an international degree?

I think studying in an international setting gives a broader perspective to life and the entire world. Since the students all come from different backgrounds and have different experiences, there is a lot to share and to learn from others.

Also, even though I grew up in Finland, Finnish is not my native language. Nowadays I have learnt to speak Finnish fluently, but I still doubt that I could manage academic studies in the language (Finnish is extremely complicated, okay?). Studying in English was a natural choice for me, still wanting to do it in Lapland.

What is different in the studying process compared to your previous studies?

I have done my bachelor’s degree in Scotland. I feel like the studies here in Finland are a lot more independent. The students are given a lot more freedom in planning their study programme and what courses they would like to take, to build up the entire degree. But this also means a lot of responsibility: you need to see the whole picture and plan ahead, to reach your study-goals.

I might not be able to speak for the entire country of Scotland, but at my university we had a stricter curriculum to follow. The courses were set to a certain semester, a certain year. In Finland, students are also expected to be more independent and proactive, than at my previous university.

How is your MA programme preparing you for future worklife?

The programme in Northern Tourism discusses a lot of different issues concerning tourism in arctic environments, as well as developmental ideas in the field. As part of the degree is held in collaboration with the University of the Arctic Thematic Network on Northern Tourism, there is also a very diverse group of lecturers, researchers and students from different countries involved. I think this is extremely enlightening and rewarding. Working in this kind of environment is good experience concerning future opportunities in the field.

How would you define your MA-programme?

It’s very much about understanding and analysing different concepts within tourism in the north, like the name says. We focus a lot on sustainability and development of tourism in the Arctic. The degree is quite theoretical, and perhaps more focused on tourism research than e.g. management. Personally, I have a special interest for nature-based and adventure tourism, which connects very well with the themes of this programme.

How has your time in Rovaniemi changed you?

I have learned a lot about myself and what motivates me. After having a break from university for a year or more, it can be hard to get back in to the rhythm of studying again. I think I have had to re-learn a lot of study routines, but it’s been very beneficial for me.

The town itself has also affected me positively in many ways. I feel very much at home in Rovaniemi, although I have only lived here for a few months. There is something very cosy about the entire atmosphere of the place, and I have met a lot of nice people. The nature is extremely beautiful and easily accessible. I’m also definitely looking forward to a proper winter for a change – Helsinki simply does not have enough snow!

Do you have any words of encouragement to someone considering this programme?

Go for it! The studies are genuinely very interesting and there is a nice team behind it. Since the programme does not have a lot of students, everyone is very easily approachable – both students and staff. Lapland is beautiful and the people in general also very nice. Although all Finns don’t seem very sociable at a glance, once you get to know them, they are very genuine, honest and kind.

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