One of the most interesting parts of this program was learning about how very different Finnish social policy is from social policy found within the United States. In Finland, social programs are available to all those within the country. Education and health care are free.
. It was interesting to see how disadvantaged populations are treated in Finland versus how they are treated in the United States. My classmates and I were very much dismayed at the work that is left to do in the U.S. to measure up to the quality of services that the Parliament of Finland provides.
One very interesting experience was one of comparison in policy and practice in the corrections system. We visited a women's prison. Imagine my surprise when I saw a tree lined drive and fields of flowers on our approach. No bars, no fences, no guards with weapons.
A realist to the core, it is not often that I believe things are “meant to be.” But I believe I was meant to go to Finland as it opened a wealth of opportunity. I learned the world is more accessible than I imagined and I am capable of getting places and doing things I never dreamt.
I chose the Finland program because the country’s service provision structure was noted to be one of the best in the European Union and it certainly met that expectation.
One take away I had from the system as a whole that I would like to see implemented in the United States, is a general attitude change about the individuals who receive services is one of empowerment and respect rather than judgment.
The professional presentations, individual conversations, cultural experiences including food tasting and the sauna, and walking through the streets of Finland all intertwined to create a wonderfully beneficial learning experience.
I was unable to participate in study abroad during my undergraduate education so I knew that I had to take up this opportunity. Studying in Finland was extra special to me. I was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I grew up with many Finnish people and around Finnish culture.
As a first generation college student in my family I was unaware of specifics about study abroad. I had heard about study abroad programs that were offered during my undergraduate career, but honestly I was never quite interested until I reached my graduate level. I think I was a little ignorant about study abroad because I had though it meant that you would live with a family and go to a school overseas, but that is not what we did at all.
I was able to gain enriching information on social policies and practices that could benefit the United States, as well as learn of social policies and practices of the United States that could benefit Finland. While in Finland we visited many different social work agencies as well as universities.