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?
I’ve been working full-time for almost 6 months now, and I think that means I have started adulting. A little. Well, sort of. After moving solo to the UK as a 19 year old small-town girl I have now moved home and lived with my family for 6 months, once again becoming a small-town girl. This time I’m 22, going on 23. I’ve been working a full-time job, paying a bit of rent, paying my student loan and even managed to put some money away in a never-before-used savings account specifically locked to buying a house. I am under no illusion that I will actually manage to buy a house anytime soon, but at the time it felt like a step forward.
Now I’m not so sure.
It’s an odd feeling, having my dream job, but not living the dream. I am getting to do everything I ever wanted to do. Media, culture, tourism, writing, creating, imagining and living in the Arctic – every day. I have the loveliest of colleagues and have learned so much about people, about office jobs, about routine and the simple joys in life. Like never knowing quite what the day will bring, and constantly being challenged to be better, learn faster, adapt more. Like being part of a team, working together to get results and make a change, large and small.
I think the problem with graduating university for me is that I lived the dream. I got on a plane and flew all alone to the country of magic and boarding schools and accents and literature. I made the dream my everyday life. I was lucky enough to live the dream. My dream. And where do you go once the dream is over?
I find myself looking for a new dream. A new place, a new goal, a new purpose outside of just letting the days run past me, as I wait for things to happen. I don’t want to wait anymore. It has been 7 months since I graduated university and 4 months since I started my new part-time course in tourism management. And now the countdown to April has started. Come Easter I will once again be back in the UK, this time with no plan, other than to end the long distance relationship with my English love.
I have small goals, but an overarching dream for myself is still distant in mind. How can I find the place where I belong, and the new dream to keep me growing and learning and evolving into the best version of myself possible? How can my English love and I end up where we need to be, and where our individual dreams take us, while simultaneously dreaming together? There are practicalities to every dream of course, but I think it possible, if not inevitable, that all dreams become reality some way or another. Maybe not like I ever imagined it, but always born out of the little choices and the big decisions that shape the path we all walk. We can choose to be swept away by the wave of bricks, but if we resist the wave and control our steps,the yellow brick road will form before us, once again clear, although never not muddy.
The countdown is on. It will hurt to leave my family again, to leave my new-old life, to say goodbye to my colleagues and the comfort of knowing the days to come. For now I am knitting, working, going to my local gym and pondering the path ahead. But in two and a half months I am off again, seeking a Great Perhaps. and a new dream.
Life in the arctic can be lonely, but being busy, working, studying and the occasional weekend away keeps me going. I have been thinking a lot about positivity lately, and how to stay happy when your life situation isn’t what you want it to be. This video is both about my weekend in Newcastle upon Tyne, an arctic sunset and positivity.
In August this year, a few weeks after I moved home, my boyfriend joined me in the North for an adventure we were unprepared for, but determined to complete: We were going on a 5 day cycle trip in the Lofoten Islands. Never has my butt hurt more, but the nature, the memories, the nights camping and the places made the trip utterly unforgettable.
Hope you enjoy the little video diary we made, from some of the most beautiful islands and archipelago in the world.