Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
I have wanted to go on a study abroad trip since I was in middle school. So when I heard that Emporia State offered an exchange program in Finland I jumped at the chance. Finland is well known for their education system and, as a Elementary Education major, I knew that I would get some great new perspectives by taking advantage of the opportunity. Since this would be my first time out of the country, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I had a feeling it would be amazing.
Preparing to go was a lot more work than I had anticipated, but I got through it all and the day finally arrived. Four other students, two professors, and myself flew to Finland. We arrived in Helsinki, the capital city, where we stayed for two days to do some sight seeing before heading to the university. One of my favorite activities included taking a ferry ride to visit a Navy island, Suomenlinna, where we explored what was left of the old abandoned fort, hiked along the coastline, and learned the hard way that geese in Finland are less than friendly. We also visited an art museum, the zoo and aquarium, and explored the street markets on the harbor. After our action packed two days, we boarded the train to Jyväskylä where we spent the remainder of our time.
The University of Jyväskylä has a very strong teacher education program and I loved learning the ins and outs of the Finnish education system. I took three week-long courses during my stay and learned countless lessons both in and outside of the classroom through lectures from wonderful professors, as well as collaboration with other students from around the world.
Some of the highlights of what I learned on my trip are as follows. There are no dead ends in Finnish education-you can go whichever direction you choose, and a high emphasis is placed on continuing education (you receive a sword and top hat with your PhD!). Young Finns are encouraged to play and explore – they learn through doing. Teachers are highly respected in Finland. Even elementary teachers must have at least a Masters degree and, as a result, teachers have a high level of autonomy-they can (for the most part) decide how and what they teach without worrying about meeting the criteria of standardized testing. Finally, I learned that much can be learned from simply listening to others and their perspectives. Some of the most interesting things I learned came from other students and their perspectives from their own countries’ education systems. By comparing places like Brazil, Hong Kong, China, the U.S., Norway, Germany, and Finland we were able to see what works in education and what may not be as effective. We also learned that what works in one country may not work in another simply due to cultural differences, but it is important to respect other practices and the people that implement them.
I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
can happen to you.
Study abroad is amazing, and I would recommend it to anyone. However, as I have learned, it is important to remember that not everything will go perfectly. You might leave your purse on the train, your plane may get cancelled and you get stuck in Stockholm overnight, you will likely have some miscommunication with the locals, and you will certainly get very tired. Guess what though? Those bang-ups and hang-ups are important because they teach you things about yourself that you would not have learned unless you were pushed out of your comfort level.
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!
This has been a tiny glimpse at my own adventure. There are so many more things I could share like the amazing food (reindeer, boar, pear ice cream, nettle pancakes…) or the people (generally reserved, but very polite), and much more, but I think you get the general idea. Thank you for letting me share a little bit of my experience in Finland! I hope if you haven’t already, you get a chance to make your own adventures abroad.
(The above excerpts are from Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Suess.)