In April 2023, I received the awaited email - the one that would alter my summer plans. It revealed my selection to represent Finland in the Study of the U.S. Institutes for Student Leaders from Europe (SUSI) program. The program, themed "Environmental Issues," was set to unfold between June and July 2023 at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.
The initial week kicked off in Washington D.C. at Meridian International Center, providing a platform to connect with fellow students from diverse programs. Being keen on networking and cultural understanding, I appreciated the well-organized opportunities for interaction through engaging games and workshops. Though the charm of a luxurious hotel in DC was resistible, the anticipation of campus life at Shippensburg University, fostering meaningful connections with mentors and teachers, fueled my excitement.
Upon reaching our host university, days ahead promised a range of activities - volunteering at a local homeless shelter, hiking, delving into U.S. history, attending classes by industry experts, and savoring homestays, kayaking, and quality time with younger students. We also dedicated time to planting seeds at the university's farm and organizing workshops for groups of children. While Shippensburg held its charm, we were gearing up for a few days at Chincoteague Island's research station, immersing ourselves in water testing, boat rides, and a visit to the NASA base, unveiling the organization's intriguing history and current projects.
A journey through New Mexico
One of my primary motivations for applying to the SUSI program was to deepen my understanding within my field of interest - water management and treatment in regions facing water quality issues. As we touched down in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the program's final week, my enthusiasm surged. Interactions with local water treatment organizations enriched my knowledge and offered valuable insights for my thesis. New Mexico's intriguing history unfolded during our visit to the Petroglyphs National Monument, where ancient petroglyphs decorated the rocks, narrating tales of the Pueblo people's ancestors. We also learned about flood control methods in Albuquerque from experienced professionals.
Amidst the program's conclusion, we paid a visit to the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, a fascinating journey through the archives of nuclear science and Oppenheimer's legacy on the day a film about him premiered.
My gratitude for the 2023 SUSI program knows no bounds. I wholeheartedly recommend it to those interested in an intensive academic program shedding light on contemporary issues, fostering international connections, and cultural exchange. Months have passed since the program's end, yet calls and conversations with fellow participants continue, emphasizing the connections we built.
I firmly believe that we, as students, embody the future, and cross-cultural exchanges, facilitating effective communication with individuals from diverse backgrounds, stand as the key player for fostering strong diplomatic relations worldwide. Additionally, understanding and embracing varied approaches to address environmental challenges holds the potential to ensure a sustainable and secure planet.
The opportunities and invitations I've received as a Fulbright Finland alumna have significantly expanded my network and nurtured meaningful connections within my field.
Fulbright Finland Foundation played a pivotal role in my selection for the SUSI program, managing pre-travel logistics seamlessly and providing me with constant support and checkups throughout the program. The opportunities and invitations I've received as a Fulbright Finland alumna have significantly expanded my network and nurtured meaningful connections within my field. For this, I extend my heartfelt gratitude.