Unusual study abroad location fascinates students

By Elizabeth ValenzuelaStaff Writer – evalenzu@unca.edu

Photo courtesy of Alyssa Wright Seniors Alyssa Wright and Carmen Dupree explore the outdoors in Joensuu, Finland earlier this semester.
Photo courtesy of Alyssa Wright
Seniors Alyssa Wright and Carmen Dupree explore the outdoors in Joensuu, Finland earlier this semester.

This spring semester, Finland becomes a popular study abroad destination as three UNC Asheville students travel to accomplish goals and see a new part of the world.

According to Diane Royer, administrative assistant at UNCA, from 2009 to 2014 a total of only six students studied abroad in Finland.

“This is an unusual semester where several (students) have gone at once,” Royer said.

Senior Alyssa Wright, senior Carmen Dupree and junior Sydney Gura all made their study abroad arrangements through the popular International Student Exchange Program.

Gura and Dupree were drawn to Finland in particular to learn and explore more about Nordic countries.

“(Finland) is known for many forests and lakes, and I was excited to explore that landscape in such a cooler climate than I am used to,” Gura said.

Wright, an international studies and political science student, chose Finland on a spontaneous wim.

“I honestly never thought I’d come to Finland,” Wright said.

Both Wright and Dupree anticipated beginning their studies at the University of Eastern Finland at Joensuu, located near the Russian border.

“The university has programs in international and environmental law, areas I’m interested in learning about,” Wright said.

According to Dupree, the University of Eastern Finland at Joensuu is the second largest university in Finland with three campuses and roughly 3,000 students total.

Gura, a psychology and international studies student, enrolled at Abo Akademi University in Turku, Finland.

Since living in Finland, Gura notices many similarities between U.S. culture and Turku’s.

“Many people my age spend their free time hanging out with friends, walking or shopping in the city center, and going out on the weekends.” Gura said. “A major bonus of the Finnish culture is their appreciation of students.”

Since Abo Akademi is exclusively Swedish-speaking, Gura enrolled in an introductory Swedish language course in addition to psychology courses.

According to Gura, the language barrier is mainly social, but she admits that grocery shopping can be a bit difficult.

“I have mistaken sour milk for yogurt several times,” Gura said.

Wright, Dupree and Gura have different goals they each want to accomplish while abroad.

“One of my friends sent me a bucket list of things to do while I’m studying abroad,” Wright said.

Gura defines her goals as abstract. She wants to take advantage of every opportunity and learn from as many people she meets as possible.

“Ever since I was a child I have wanted to travel as far north as I could and I knew I would be able to when I went to college,” Gura said.

Since Dupree plans to graduate at the end of the semester, she said she hopes to find out all she can about potential career and education opportunities. She also anticipates meeting people, growing stronger and managing money better.

All three girls share the common goal of traveling. Common places they want to embark to include Saint Petersberg, Helsinki, Amsterdam, France and Poland.

Wright, who has traveled to Europe before, especially looks forward to seeing new places such as Scandinavia, Estonia and Russia.

Wright, Dupree and Gura equally agree the hardest part of preparing for their semester abroad was the amount of paperwork they had to complete before leaving.

“I literally found out a new piece of crucial information one day after the other, payments that I could not anticipate came up consistently and getting my visa required me and my two other friends from UNCA to make an impromptu trip to New York City over Thanksgiving break,” Dupree said.

Dupree also suggests when it comes to packing to pay attention to airline regulations. She was able to bring two, 50 pound suitcases free of charge.

“In the end it was all worth it, just know that if you plan on studying abroad, expect the unexpected,” Dupree said.

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