Student Spotlight: Katie

Study Abroad in Finland
Dog sledding, swimming in freezing water, and adventuring across Europe!

Katie Swenson, a double major in math and statistics at Truman State University, studied abroad at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland during the spring semester of her junior year. The opportunity led to some amazing experiences all across Finland and beyond.

“Getting there was what I was most nervous about, and I arrived in a snowstorm,” says Katie. She found her classes very interesting but different than her classes at Truman. “We had tutor groups at our university with people who were in a similar major, and I got to explore the city with them—super grateful for that—it made things so much easier,” says Katie.

Experiencing Finnish culture, Katie’s discovered her favorite food was Mämmi, a traditional Easter dessert made out of rye and orange zest generally eaten with something creamy and sweet.  Her favorite experience was going to Lapland and swimming in the Arctic Ocean. While it was super cold and definitely shocked her system, she got to go to the sauna beforehand. Katie also experienced the thrill of dog-sledding first-hand and took a trip by ferry to St. Petersburg in Russia. Toward the end of her study-abroad journey, her mom came to visit her, and they met the rest of Katie’s family in London.

Katie says she is most grateful for the people she met during her study-abroad experience. “There’s a culture for Finnish people but also a culture of exchange students,” says Katie. “We all came from such different places, but we were still similar in key ways.”

One lesson Katie hopes to remember is how she learned how to be independent and solve problems on her own. More than that, she gained more confidence yet still learned how to ask for help. She wishes she would have known how fast it was going to go by so she could have focused more on enjoying such a unique experience.

If she could say one thing to a prospective student, it would be: “You should absolutely go. There are ways to get around the obstacles you’re facing. When I was a freshman, studying abroad wasn’t something I thought I was capable of doing. It was out of my comfort zone but in a really good way. It’s not as scary as you think!”