UVU Where in the world are you: Finland | News @ UVU | News @ UVU

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

“You can learn the steps they use to try to improve their schools, and you can apply them to your own teaching,” she said. “I feel like it’s something every student in the education program should do.”

Hadley said it was very helpful to interact with students, teachers and administrators from various Finnish schools to see how they approach education.

The two-week blitz was led by Benton Brown, assistant dean of 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 places rich in history and culture, chosen because of their reputation for innovative teaching approaches and internationally outstanding educational performance: Helsinki, Finland; Tallinn, Estonia; and Stockholm, Sweden.

Brown said study abroad aims to help students prepare for their future professions as educators and deepen their understanding of global diversity through cross-cultural exposure.

“Our trip to the Baltics exposed our students to unique cultures, vibrant and successful education systems, and exceptional students and teachers from diverse backgrounds,” Brown said. “We are thrilled to have our students return to Utah equipped with unique new perspectives, including innovative teaching and learning methods.”

Abby Skousen, a UVU junior studying special education, appreciated the autonomy Finnish educators gave their students and the way they trusted their students to do their jobs in a way that matched their their learning style, whether it’s doing a worksheet or completing a group project.

“I feel like a kid would get up and walk out of the classroom, and the teacher would just know, ‘Oh, they’re going to the bathroom’ or ‘Oh, they needed to figure something out. They will come back,” Skousen said. “It felt like the teacher was there to make it easier, but I felt like they were all on the same level. So that’s definitely something I really want to implement, just trust to my students in what they do and how they learn and let them be different.

Hadley felt the same. “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’re solely responsible for their upbringing,” she said.

As well as connecting with educators and students from Finnish schools, students were able to visit the school and community center in Fryhuset to see how this unique organization, based in Sweden, has focused on young people and the growing immigrant population over the years.

They also took part in many Nordic cultural experiences, including bathing in a traditional Finnish sauna on an icy lake. They visited the high-end shopping areas of the Design District, the UNESCO World Heritage Center 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 Stockholm’s most famous sites, such as the “Venice of the North”, the Vasa ship and the Norse 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, meeting and talking with Finns in the sauna, touched her deeply.

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

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