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A Changed Perspective

June 12, 2019

Year in school: Sophomore
Majors: German, Scandinavian, Dutch (with an emphasis in Scandinavian and Finnish studies) and Strategic Communications
Minor: Political Science
Language studied: Finnish
Learning abroad experience: Turku, Finland, July 2018

What was your program like? How did you learn about it?

It was three weeks long and we had class every weekday. All of my classes were completely in Finnish, as many of the other students weren’t native English speakers so Finnish was the easiest way for everyone to communicate. Other than class, I tried to immerse myself in the Finnish culture and also traveled a bit around and outside of Finland.

I heard about the program through my Finnish instructor; the U generally sends a few students to it every year. The Finnish government sponsors the program, which means they pay for housing and classes. There are students from all over the world studying Finnish there. Most of them are learning Finnish as their third or fourth language.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time abroad?

I have two favorite memories.

One day a few friends and I took the bus to the beach. Although Finland is generally thought of as cold, I was there during a heatwave with record-breaking temperatures. So, it was super hot and a really great beach day. We spent the day drinking Finnish ciders, tanning, going in the sauna, and jumping into the water. I was just so purely happy that day. Also, running from the sauna into water is extremely Finnish so I felt like I had done a good job immersing myself into the culture.

My other favorite memory is of taking the train from Turku to Helsinki and then to Tallinn, Estonia by ferry. I was there with a few friends and we walked around Old Town and explored the city. Tallinn is absolutely amazing, and I definitely plan on going back.

How has studying another language and culture changed the way you approach the world? What impact has it had on your education, career trajectory, or life in general?

Studying abroad has shown me that there is a whole world out there that I have yet to explore. I constantly have “wanderlust,” which is very hard as a poor college student! I have also studied in France, so I am completely changed by being abroad.

Learning another language and culture changes your perspective because you see what other cultures prioritize—and what they don’t. You can also learn to appreciate your culture more. Traveling allowed me to see how privileged we are in America and has opened my eyes to see that we all have to help where we can. After graduation, I’m hoping to join the Peace Corps—something I never would have considered without studying abroad.

What connections do you see between your language studies and your career, major, and minor?

Understanding another language and culture helps me because I have been able to learn about ideas from different perspectives. For example, my Finnish major relates to my political science minor by showing me how different countries run their governments and political systems. Scandinavia has thriving economies and Finland has been declared the happiest nation in the world; they’re clearly doing something right.

Additionally, learning Finnish has helped me to stand out when applying for jobs. During many interviews, I’m asked about my interest in Finnish and in this day and age, anything that makes an interviewee stand out is important. Studying abroad in Finland only made me more excited to continue learning Finnish and learning about Scandinavia.

If you received any scholarships, how did they aid your learning abroad experience?

If the Finnish government didn’t provide these classes for free, I would not have been able to go. 80 hours of Finnish language instruction is expensive and I feel so blessed that I was accepted into such an amazing program.

What advice do you have for students who are thinking about learning abroad?

Do it! I know it can be scary, but it is amazing. You will not regret studying abroad. I was lucky enough to be able to study abroad in high school and college, and I’m still thirsting for more. You will make so many amazing memories, meet awesome people, and be a completely changed person. From studying abroad, I gained so much confidence, became a lot more independent, and got a much clearer picture of how I want my life to go.

Also, you should pick a place that not many people go. I don’t know many people who have traveled to Finland or Estonia, so pick a place that is unique and will make you stand out. Wherever you go, you will have the time of your life, and I will be guaranteed to be jealous of all of your experiences.

This story is part of a larger article. Read more at Learning Abroad Is for Everyone.

This interview was conducted by an undergraduate student in CLAgency. Meet the team.