NINE MONTHS IN LAPLAND (WELL ALMOST)

I felt I should reflect on my year living in Lapland as my time here is coming to an end in May. Going on Erasmus was something I was extremely nervous to do, I never saw myself as one of those people who jumps into every opportunity regardless of how daunting it was. I was proud of myself for even applying in the first place. Lapland was nothing like I expected it would be, each month has brought its share of challenges and rewards. From my initial and continued struggle with the University, I have produced work to a high standard proving my worth to my skeptical teachers. The difference between my home University and the University of Lapland have caused some difficulties, academically and personally. Since arriving in Lapland with my course friends from CU, it has caused more trouble that it was worth, we are never seen as individuals and because our educational background was not favored by our ULapland teachers. I was pressured to move away from my typical way of working and to experiment more, while I did not disagree and knew that this year was an opportunity to experiment, I felt that I was judged unfairly before I had even arrived. Nonetheless the courses offered to me at ULapland have influenced me for the better and I have taken opportunities that would be non-existent in the UK, such as my ice-sculpting workshop.

Lapland has been an incredible place to live; the views and way of life have been beautiful to experience. It has also been incredibly hard to survive in such an expensive area, there are days where I haven't been able to afford dinner or pursue some opportunities due to lack of funds. However, to live in the Arctic Circle has been a once in a lifetime experience and it has been interesting to live in such hard weather conditions where the locals don’t bat an eyelid. I have been very connected to the weather and nature and produced artistic work reflecting this, adding to my continuous relationship of adapting to life in Rovaniemi. Although I am living in such a unique and gorgeous place I have been battling with loneliness, where I live is very isolating and in stark contrast to city life. Although I live with my course friends from CU, again us three moving here together has posed another challenge - a difficulty to make new friends. Coming as a trio has created a barrier between us and other international students, with all of our efforts to create bonds with other students it has been mostly unsatisfying. When I was on excursions by myself I found it a lot easier to make friends with other students. Although I was happy to move with my friends, as they have been a constant support system, I do sometimes wish I went on Erasmus alone.

Going on an International Enhancement year obviously encouraged me to travel as much as possible while I had the chance. With a rather large dent in my bank account I am thrilled I have been able to explore various parts of Finland, as well as travel to Poland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Estonia and Italy.  Travelling has been helpful to improve my independence and open-mindedness to other cultures. I have had the opportunity to photograph these places, which will be useful for my photographic portfolio. I have also enjoyed the opportunity to discover art galleries and museums in different parts of the world.

Overall, I am proud of what I have accomplished this year, from never living away from home before and suddenly having to create a life for myself in Lapland has taught me life lessons that I will carry with me when I return home. I have also learned a lot more about my identity, which has helped with my artwork. I have over come my fears and thrown myself into opportunities where I have experienced Finnish culture, encouraging me to live more free as opposed to my mundane and structured life in the UK.