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The north2north exchange at Yukon College had a huge impact on my life in general. I was doing my studies at the University of Lapland, Finland, and in 2006 I was for the first time abroad for a long time and felt I could manage on my own. The environment and the Canadians taught me a totally different aspect of life, and the philosophy courses I took had an even bigger effect on me and my philosophy of life. Although I studied in Lapland, Yukon was my first true experience of wilderness, and it made a huge impact on me as well. I even almost bumped into a bear once, and even though it was scary, it was quite an amazing experience. Esa and Zina Ekdahl, a Finnish couple I met in the Yukon, became like step-grandparents to me, and their way of life, respecting the nature, was really something else than the superficial culture I had lived in. I must say that everybody should live in the Yukon once.
I went back to the Yukon in the summer of 2007. I took a dear friend of mine with me, and we stayed with Esa and Zina the whole summer. We flew to Vancouver, bought a Toyota Corolla, and off we went and drove 2,600 kilometers to Whitehorse. We visited Dawson City Music Festival and lots of other small festivals in Yukon and also in Alaska. All in all, we drove 14,000 kilometers during that summer and saw 14 bears from the car window. In the summer of 2011 I took my boyfriend to see the Yukon and of course Esa and Zina, and he also became a Yukoner. Unfortunately Zina has Alzheimer’s disease now, but I think she was able to remember me from back in 2010.
The exchange has not yet had a big impact on my career. I work currently as a Project Manager at the University of Jyväskylä, which is located in central Finland. The university is more focused on European issues and research rather than Arctic matters. The exchange in Canada had a huge impact on my English language, though. My skills improved a lot during the exchange and also after it: in Canada I noticed that my English was better than I expected, and after the exchange I was not afraid to speak English in different situations. The exchange in Canada was such a good experience that I also spent one semester in Vienna, Austria, in 2009. There I got to improve my German language. The time I spent in Vienna was different from my exchange in the Yukon, but I am happy I took the time for both experiences. I hope I can visit Yukon as soon as possible again!
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The interview was first published in Shared Voices Magazine 2013.
To read Laura's original student profile, click here.
Student follow-up: Yukon wilderness taught a new aspect of life
Mon, Jun 24, 2013
Laura Aineslahti spent the spring semester of 2006 in Yukon College, Canada. Now, seven years later, she looks back on her exchange and how the experience affected her.