Hei from Rovaniemi! We arrived on May 1 in this beautiful city of 60,000 that sits very close to the Arctic Circle. With a busy tourism industry (it’s the official home of Santa Claus – more on that later) and large student population, Rovaniemi has a great vibe. Perhaps arriving on Vappu, the country’s May Day holiday, had something to do with it! We spent the day relaxing and celebrating with our new host families.
Back to work on May 2 – a very busy day for us. First we met with Antti Syväjärvi at the University of Lapland, a school with over 5,500 students specializing in advanced degree programs in law, education, social sciences and art & design. It’s also home to the globally significant Arctic Centre of research.
Later that morning we met with the president and the director of international affairs development at the Rovaniemi University of Applied Sciences. The school has an amazing post-graduate employment rate: 90% of their students find employment after graduation, with 70% of those jobs staying in Lapland. Again, at both institutions, we spoke about the differences in post-secondary education between our three countries. With free education for all those who earn a place in their chosen degree or technical programs, Finland certainly seems to be a leader in this area.
For lunch we joined the Rovaniemi-Napapiiri rotary club at the Hotel Santa Claus. Before our presentation, we were treated to a performance from club president Seppo Leino, a nationally renowned accordionist. We were honoured!
In the afternoon we met Mayor Esko Lotvonen at the Rovaniemi City Hall and had a presentation from Erkki Kautto, director of business development. Tourism is an economic cornerstone for Rovaniemi. It was incredible to learn that the city has built such a solid brand as the “true” home of Santa Claus that they hardly need to market at all – the tourist draw is huge.
The rest of our afternoon was spent exploring the excellent and interactive Arktikum Museum and Arctic Science Centre. A big thank-you to our knowledgeable (if unofficial) tour guide, Erkki Kaila. It was a wonderful way to end the day and learn more about life and research above the Artic Circle.