I was born to a family which travelled a lot. My father was an engineer and he worked for a Finnish paper mill company in the 70s and 80s. In those days it was common for the family to go along when an expert was sent abroad to supervise the building of a paper mill. I spent my childhood and teenage years in various places, but two years as a teenager in the U.S. were and still are the most memorable.
I was sixteen when we left Shreveport, LA and I had to leave my friends, my school and my car behind. At the time it seemed like the end of the world. I swore I’d come back, go to college here and move back to this great country when I’m old enough. But as you all know, life doesn’t always go as planned. I didn’t come back. I went to university in Finland, married, had children and lived my life happy there. But at the same time, I missed this country. I visited a few times, but it wasn’t the same. I wanted to live here again, be part of the community, go to school and study.
At the age of 52 the dream finally came true! Suddenly I realized I don’t have children to take care of anymore, I’ve been in my job for so long that I can have a sabbatical, my parents are still in good shape and I don’t have to take care of them, I’m free to go. I researched my possibilities and I found the best possible program for my needs, Fulbright teacher exchange programs. What an amazing opportunity: to live in my favorite country for four months, study at the university and go to school visits. Nothing I could hope more, except maybe for a longer period.
I applied last fall and was accepted. I was overjoyed and still am. I’ve now been in the Midwest for three months and have really lived my life to the fullest. I’ve enjoyed all my courses at the university. I’ve met wonderful new people and made friends with a lot of researchers from all over the world. I must say that the Indiana University Bloomington really is extremely international. We are also required to do an inquiry project, which will benefit our home institutions and communities. My topic for the inquiry project is teacher collaboration. I’ve talked to various teachers, seen different variations of collaboration at the schools I’ve visited and read loads and loads of excellent research literature on collaboration. What I have gained as a professional is tremendous.
In addition to being an international town in the Midwest, Bloomington is also a great place to live. It’s small enough for you to find everything. It has wonderful restaurants and very nice people. The campus is often cited as one of the most beautiful in the country and I agree. There are parks and dense woods, limestone buildings and beautiful brickwork all around you. I’m so happy that my dream of coming back has finally come alive. This visit will soon end, but it’ll definitely not be the last one. I have new dreams for this country already.
Text: Sanna Leinonen