I got here just this morning after traveling by night train all the way from Turku to Rovaniemi. I didn’t get that much of sleep, but I woke up quite fresh and looking forward for the first lecture day. I had been quite exited to participate in the International Summer School for the global social issues and for new friends from all over the world to share my thoughts and experiences in social work.
At the campus, it was obvious that there was something special to begin. You could sense the atmosphere and hear people talking in English or in other languages. It’s is not that usual to have someone passing by and smile back at you in Finland. Not to mention them all saying “Hello” or “Hi!” to you as well. I believe we all, as the future social workers, have a big and loving heart and it’s easy to contact to a stranger. But, I could definitely adjust to this kind of gesture.
So, the Welcoming speakers, Liisa Hokkanen from the University of Lapland, Finland and Professor Stanley L. Witkin from the University of Vermont, USA, made us all warmly welcome and we had some good moments while getting introduced with the Finnish ways of life and mostly about the secrets behind the happiness of Finnish people. It was also interesting to know how we all were a part of a tradition that has now been going on for 19 years.
There is a story behind International Summer School project. Before the International Summer School officially started, Kyösti Urponen – now the co-founder of the International Summer School and Professor Emeritus in the University of Lapland, Finland - had asked Stanley to come to Finland and have a lecture done in University of Lapland. Stanly accepted the invitation without knowing that Kyösti would ask him again the next year and year after that, and so on. Somehow the participants in Stanleys lectures were each year more and more foreigners, coming from different parts of the world. The idea of the International Summer School was born during these years.
The rest of this project we all know. It was clear that this way as we connect in International Summer School we will have more perspective for our future careers in the social field. Stanley outlined how important it is for all of us to get together and have personal relationships with people from different countries, so that a country would have a face instead of just being a foreign land you sometimes hear news about.
For me, the first day was very nice experience and it seems obvious already how appreciative this is to be part of the International Summer School and how worthwhile this week will be for my future as a social worker. We all are here to get multiple perspectives by sharing thoughts and experiences and having different points of view for different issues that we might have taken for granted before and getting visible things that have been invisible or unseen. At the end, perspectives can be different, but none one of them is the Truth.
Tanja Sarkonsalo, Social Work student, University of Lapland, Finland