Where do I even start to describe what this last semester has meant to me, and to share all the experiences I’ve had? This semester, I moved to Helsinki, Finland for an exchange semester in the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Helsinki. It was such an interesting experience to be able to focus solely on education for one semester. It was even better to do so with students from all over the world, in a country that is widely recognized as one of the highest-performing, if not “best” educational systems in the world. I took classes on educational philosophy, social justice in education, the Finnish school system, and Finnish language which was surprisingly difficult. In Finnish, there are absolutely no connections to English, or Spanish, or any other language I’ve encountered before, but I somehow managed to finish with an A!
I had the opportunity to do group work with students from Japan, Germany, Finland, Ireland, and heard so many different perspectives about schools and teaching from preservice teachers from around the world. As the only student who wasn’t studying education at their home school, I like to think that I was able to enhance the discussions for my peers by bringing up American examples and broader political questions and ideas. Academically, this semester provided me an opportunity to engage with issues I’ve cared about for years but from a completely new perspective. I am so happy to know that I’ll be coming back with a stronger understanding of what education looks like in a country that invests in its teachers, its public schools and all of its students.
I’ve also travelled a bit through Finland, getting to go up north to the Arctic Circle and Lapland for the northern lights, dog sleds, and reindeers, and going to Hameenlinna and Porvoo to explore some of Finland’s medieval history, including seeing a castle for the first time ever (I was way, way too excited about that). There are lots of cliches out there about traveling to discover who you are. While I think that those are always a bit dramatic, I found that my travels this semester helped me to uncover pieces of myself that I didn’t know were there. I discovered issues I care about, new places I love, and a unique way of seeing the world.
Written By: Sarah Aldridge
For more information, please visit:
https://international.appstate.edu/education-abroad Office of International Education and Development (OIED)
https://rcoe.appstate.edu/ Reich College of Education (RCOE)
https://dllc.appstate.edu/ Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures (DLLC)
https://tcva.appstate.edu/ Turchin Center for the Visual Arts (TCVA)