As I am writing this I am listening to my Finnish lecturer talk with my Icelandic classmate. I am sat in an office at work in Northern Norway. Our course leader is in Tromsø, our online moderator is in Rovaniemi, Finland and my groupmate is from Malta. It is an interactive online space unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of.
I am currently enrolled in a distance learning course from the University of Tromsø (the Arctic University of Norway)- created in cooperation with the NarFU Northern Arctic Federal University in Russia and LAPIN AMK Lapland University of Applied Sciences in Finland. Basically, it is the Barents region, Nordic Region, the Arctic region, or Lapland, depending on what you know it as and what makes sense to you. What tourism in these areas has in common is a focus on native tourism, nature-based adventure tourism and natural phenomenons like Northern Lights and Midnight Sun.
In theory I could sit anywhere in the world, and as long I have internet and am awake as the lecture is live I can participate, “raise my hand” with a button and talk by turning my microphone on. It is perfect for travellers, and as an extra course alongside work or other studies.
It’s not free of problems however. The work-load can be overwhelming at times, as you learn about the tourism industry, business planning, business management and ways of thinking about tourism in sociological terms. I am expected to write a thesis, but it is not a Masters degree, nor is it enough credits to be a Bachelors. It is a One-year diploma, created to quickly expand your knowledge on all things tourism, particularly about tourism in Arctic areas. We also do a lot of group work, never meeting or seeing our groupmates in person. Learning to work in groups using only the internet and online tools to cooperate can be tough, but the content of the course is so very interesting for those who are interested in the field.
As a Media and Communications graduate I view the audience experience very differently than before I began my degree. I view video, advertising and cultural outputs differently. I view text and image with new, critical eyes. And as a student of Travel & Tourism Management I am now starting to view travelling differently.
Studying Travel & Tourism Management is learning both business and societal factors of the tourism industry, but it is also complicating the travel experience and questioning the tourism moment. How do we meet natives? How do we preserve or destroy culture? What happens before, during and after a tourism boom?`How do we promote and create sustainable places of work, particularly in rural areas? How do we protect nature when nature itself becomes a product? Why does “dark tourism” exist?
I am finding the course and the courswork challenging, but so interesting. I am also loving the business management aspects of it. Previously I didn’t want to take elective business classes due to the general nature of them, but framed by tourism the course is highly enganging. Learning across borders brings challenges in terms of cultures, but it also brings benefits in terms of contacts, networks and perspective.
Despite occasionally having trouble balancing full-time work with university I know for a fact that this course is leading me down a path I want to be on work-wise. And what better course for an avid traveller then a Tourism course?