UVU Where in the World Are You: Finland

UVU Where in the World Are You: Finland

UVU student shares her experience about the UVU study abroad experience she had in Finland.

Hailey Hadley, a UVU student studying to become a secondary education history teacher, is passionate about the Utah Valley University study abroad experience she had this summer in Finland. She said it is an experience that no student in the education department should miss. 

“You can learn the steps they are using to try to make their schools better, and you could apply it to your own teaching,” she said. “I feel like that's something that really any student in the education program should do.”

Hadley said it was very valuable to interact with students, teachers, and administrators from a variety of Finnish schools to see how they approach education.

The whirlwind two-week program was led by Benton Brown, assistant dean for the School of Education; Trevor Warburton, assistant professor in secondary education; and Mia Wang, associate professor in elementary education. They visited not just one but three locations with rich history and culture, chosen because of their reputation for groundbreaking teaching approaches and outstanding educational performance internationally: Helsinki, Finland; Tallinn, Estonia; and Stockholm, Sweden. 

Brown said the study abroad aims to help students prepare for their future professions as educators and deepen their understanding of the world’s diversity through intercultural exposure. 

“Our trip to the Baltics exposed our students to unique cultures, dynamic and successful educational systems, and exceptional students and teachers from a variety of backgrounds,” Brown said. “We are thrilled that our students return to Utah equipped with new, unique perspectives, including innovative methods of teaching and learning.”

Abby Skousen, a UVU junior studying special education, appreciated the autonomy that Finnish educators gave their students, and how they trusted their students to get their work done in a way that fit their learning style, whether doing a worksheet or completing a group project. 

“I feel like a kid would get up and leave the classroom, and the teacher just knew, ‘Oh, they're going to the bathroom,’ or ‘Oh, they needed to figure something out. They'll be back,’” Skousen said. “It was just like the teacher was there facilitating work, but I felt like they were all kind of on the same level. So that is definitely something that I really want to implement, just trusting my students in what they're doing and how they're learning and let them be different.”

Hadley felt the same way. “I feel like we as teachers, and, you know, people who work in education, can try to incorporate that kind of environment where students feel like they are the ones in charge of their education,” she said.

In addition to making connections with educators and students at Finnish schools, the students were able to tour the Fryhuset school and community center to see how the unique organization, based in Sweden, has focused on youth and the growing immigrant population over the years.

They also participated in many Nordic cultural experiences, including bathing in a traditional Finnish sauna on an icy cold lake. They toured the Design District’s higher-end shopping areas, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Helsinki, Gamla Stan (the Old Town), the royal palace, the Nobel Prize Museum, and Drottningholm Palace and gardens. They even had the opportunity to visit some of the most famous landmarks in Stockholm, such as the “Venice of the North,” the Vasa ship, and Nordic and Viking museums.

Skousen said the trip was special because of their immersion in European education and culture. Her experiences in the Nordic countries, such as meeting a classroom full of Ukrainian students, exploring the KGB museum, and meeting and talking with Finnish people in the sauna, deeply impacted her.

“It was just cool to help me recognize the cultures and why the countries were where they were at,” she said. “And just seeing all the different buildings and all of that was really impactful, like the world is so cool and so much bigger than me.”

UVU students in Finland

UVU students in Finland

UVU students in Finland

UVU students in Finland

UVU students in Finland