Find yourself in Lapland

Tess van den Brink, Netherlands


How did Dutch city girl Tess van den Brink, a Master’s degree student in the Tourism, Culture and International Management programme, end up moving to Lapland? She may still be wearing clogs, but next year she’ll have some big boots to fill as an international tutor.

“Everything has come out of its winter sleep. I love seeing the changes – and a lot changes, every single day. It’s amazing.”

You’ve brought along something dear to you to this interview. What is it?

I brought a key chain, which my best friend gave me at my farewell party. They’re clogs – people probably recognize clogs as something typically Dutch. These are porcelain clogs, made of Delftware, or trying to represent Delftware. And they just – whenever I look at them, I think of home and the farewell party that I had. As it’s my key chain, I see it every day. Yeah.

Does something make you especially happy today?

Today the sun isn’t out, so not particularly! [laughter] No, no, today is a beautiful day, as you can see how life is coming back to Rovaniemi. Everything has come out of its winter sleep. I love seeing the changes – and a lot changes, every single day. It’s amazing.

If you would cook any Lappish meal for your friends back in the Netherlands, what would it be?

Any meal, huh? I guess a lot of people will answer ‘reindeer’, but I would never cook that, I know I would ruin it! [laughter] Um… I’d like to make a proper potato puree. I think the best potato puree I’ve ever had has been here in Lapland!

What has been your biggest adventure in Lapland so far?

Well. I would actually say my biggest adventure is to be living on my own so far away from everything. It’s a remote place, but not necessarily a small place. Rovaniemi can be seen as a town, but it’s still very much a city, there are a lot of opportunities.

Do you feel you’ve gained some personal skills during your stay?

Definitely, especially because it’s the first place I moved to from my parental home. It was the first time I was on my own – and immediately in a very remote destination, compared to where I’m from. As I said I’m a city girl!

I feel like I’ve grown, personally. I’ve become more independent, even though I already thought of myself as very independent before I came here. It’s also because the Finns here are very independent. They’ll do whatever it takes to carry their own responsibilities.  

Have you noticed any fundamental differences between university life in the Netherlands and Lapland?

Back home you finish every course with an exam and everything is very grade oriented. Here everything revolves around the study process.

It’s more useful. If you were to ask me what I’ve learned in a specific exam during my previous studies, before coming to Lapland, I wouldn’t remember. But if you’d ask me what I learned during my very first course here, I would still remember.

Why did you choose Lapland as your destination?

Everybody asks me why I came to Lapland! I didn’t choose the university because of the destination. I wanted to combine my Bachelor’s studies in tourism with courses on intercultural communication and I found out that the University of Lapland offers this.

First I was like: “Why should I go to Lapland?” I mean, it’s so far away! But then I started doing research on the Finnish education system and found out that it’s really good. And that they really promote independency among students here in Finland in general.

What will you be doing in the future, professionally?

I really like studying, but I don’t know exactly what it is I want to do. For my Master's thesis I want to continue with the same research I did for my bachelor studies. I’m taking a lot of research courses to complete my degree, so I most likely want to continue with that. I want to do research which benefits the tourism industry, globally.

You’re going to be an international tutor next year. Why did you choose to apply?

Well, I decided to become an international tutor because I myself had a really good tutor. She was a Finnish girl, who helped me a lot with everything. She wasn’t the type who would hold your hand, but made sure that you had a good, warm welcome, and introduced you to the school and stuff.

I myself know how difficult it can be for international students to leave their country and come to a place they don’t even know. I want to make sure they feel welcome and safe here. Just like my own tutor did for me.