The end of last week was spent in Helsinki attending a mandatory orientation that was provided by the Fulbright Finland Foundation (FFF). There are several topics that will be the subject of individual posts – this post will largely focus on cultural events we were privileged to attend. The orientation provided opportunities to meet the staff of the FFF, fellow Fulbrighters and their families, and receive introductions to the Finnish culture, language, and education system.
The orientation also included several cultural events including an evening at Villa Hvittorp in Kirkkonummi for dinner, sauna, and ice swimming.
The FFF arranged a bus tour that included a brief visit to Oodi, Helsinki’s main library that opened in 2018 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Finland as an independent nation. What really struck us during the visit on a Thursday afternoon was the number of patrons using the library. Although it’s difficult to appreciate from the photo below the top floor of the library is elevated to provide a panoramic view inside of the library and downtown Helsinki on the outside.
Thursday evening was spent at the US Embassy in Helsinki which hosted an alumni social for individuals that completed a US State Department program including Fulbright projects in either the US or Finland, Finns that attended the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), and writers that attended the Iowa International Writing Program. We met one IVLP participant who is Sami from Lapland and her expertise relates to reindeer husbandry. We also had a nice visit with the US Ambassador to the Republic of Finland, Bob Pence (no relation).
Friday included a visit to the EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art. The museum includes a portion of The Saastamoinen Foundation Art Collection. The Saastamoinen Foundation was formed in 1968 and benefits the arts and science in Finland. My Fulbright-Saastamoinen Foundation Grant is a direct result of the Foundation. The Saastamoinen family started a number of industries in the Kuopio area (e.g., sawmills, spool manufacturer) in the late 1800’s and the family continues this legacy through their activities with the Foundation. I was able to personally thank Marja and Petteri Karttunen for their Foundation’s support of my work here in Finland.
We then went to the Sibelius Upper Secondary School for several student performances. The Sibelius Upper Secondary School trains high school aged students in art, music, and dance. Students from all of Finland compete to attend the school. Friday’s orientation ended with a brief Suomi 101 language lesson and a short talk on 10,000 years of Finnish history. We had a few hours before our train returned to Kuopio so we were able to take in the Ateneum Art Museum which had an exhibit of paintings by the Finnish artist – Helene Schjerfbeck. When we arrived back in Kuopio we were greeted by fresh snow! You can learn more about the orientation at: https://twitter.com/fulbrightfin?lang=en.