Hei! Minä olen Ivana. Hello my name is Ivana Overliese and last semester I studied in Lapland. I am a Dutch third year tourism student from Breda, that is somewhere south in the Netherlands. I got to spend my 22th birthday all the way at the north most point of Europe, during my exchange to Lapland. I love snowboarding, baking bread and hunting northern lights!
First Impression in Lapland
Everything I did not expect and green. Before I went to Lapland, I had no idea what was waiting for me, but I definitely wasn’t expecting the endless forests, thousands of reindeers and beautiful small and big villages. Most people think about a remote place when thinking about Lapland, where there is no internet connection (which was mostly the case when traveling), no modern lifestyle and only one supermarket for whole of Lapland. I have to say that I thought the same, I didn’t expect much just some trees and rivers but until my last day I kept on being surprised and amazed by the beauty and wonders of Lapland, nothing I could ever imagine.
Reason to come to Lapland?
To just be blunt, the corona pandemic made me choose Lapland. I it wasn’t for Corona I would have been running over the Norwegian fjords. Finland was the only save and reliable option for me, I have never been much of a city person so a remote village/city all the way up North felt like the place to be for me where I could go on plenty adventures and stay active. My expectation is more then fulfilled. Along those adventure, I met many amazing and wonderful people who made my exchange even better. I made lifelong friends, went on unexpected and wonderful adventures, tried out all winter sports possible (well almost all of them) and got to live in a remote city, where life is pretty much booming. So, you could say that my journey has matched my expectations.
Studying in Lapland During Pandemic
With all the impressions and crazy experiences, we’ve had I almost forget that I went to Lapland to study. Sadly, the studies were online, making it a bit harder to connect with Finnish locals but it didn’t feel like a miss. Thanks to the online courses it was easier to travel around with other exchange students, so online has its ups and downs. It is commonly known that the level of education is relatively higher than most educational systems in Europe, this was also the same for Finland. I enjoyed my studies and learned some new things, especially regarding Northern Tourism. But talking from my experience it wasn’t much of a challenge. The way of teaching and grading is very diverse from the one I am used to, and in my opinion, it was therefore a bit easier to pass everything. The studies were good but not as exciting as everything else in Lapland. The importance of participating in the classes is the biggest difference in my opinion. When the teacher notices that you participate, the grade would most likely be good. This is absolutely not the case in the Netherlands. But it definitely made it easy to pass even when traveling a bit.
Living in The Arctic Circle
It sure as hell is cold up there. Such a privileges, to live in the arctic circle. Live is just good up there, there is nothing to complain about even the weather is doable. You know what they say there is no bad weather only bad clothing. When I lived in the arctic circle the rest of the world was in a lockdown because of the covid pandemic, but we didn’t really notice anything from that. We were still able to do everything we wanted and go everywhere we wanted. We got to experience, wonders of nature and beautiful destinations without any tourist insight. So living in the arctic circle when I was there was such a privilege and nothing anyone will ever experience after the pandemic.
Everyday Life in Rovaniemi
When I still had to go to or actually still had classes online my days during the week were pretty much the same. Following courses and going to the University to get a nice hot lunch, still every evening would be different. Living with 60 other exchange students in the same building has some perks as there always is something to do after school and not to forget to mention the Northern lights nights were always pretty exciting and not every day sadly.
Nevertheless, when the courses would be over, everyday would be a completely different day. Even only in Rovaniemi there is so much to do and so much going on. My daily life would exist out of renting a car and driving to the far north (even further) and spending the night in a lodge, enjoying the nature, having a little campfire and just sniff in the good life. Well, what not is? I mean Lapland is the home to the reindeers, northern lights, moose, snow, endless nature, thousand lakes and snowboarding. The way of living is very interesting to the way we live in the Netherlands. I have travelled a bit before I got to Lapland, but I have to say that the Finnish culture is one like I have never seen and acknowledged before. Their way of living keeps on amazing me.
My Lapland Experience
Most important thing that I have learned that no matter how bad there a day can be is always something that makes it a good day. Oh, and dress in layers. Best experience was getting to experience Lapland with a set of amazing friends and people. Lapland is home away from home. But then much greener and with reindeers of course.
Corona: How Are The Days?
I stayed in Rovaniemi until January and of course, corona was visible. We had to wear face masks in public places but beside that we weren’t limited in anything. Most days I completely forgot about corona as it is not a bit thing up there. Most common rules counted for everyone, if you feel sick just stay home.
What didn’t I learn that I want to take home with me? But I want to take with me that a great adventure is just around the corner with a great set of people. And what I have learned from a Finnish local that life is too short to complain about, just go with it and even enjoy the bad parts. So I am gonna keep that in the back of my mind.