As a Fulbright grantee in Finland, you have the unique opportunity to take part in an event called the American Voices Seminar. This seminar is a component of the Fulbright Finland grant, and it happens in the fall of the grant term, almost halfway through the semester.
During the American Voices weekend, all of the U.S. Fulbrighters in Finland travel to the city of Turku, Finland for a weekend of presentations and socialization. The event is held at the University of Turku, which happens to be my host university for the Fulbright grant term!
The American Voices Seminar is a long-standing tradition at the University of Turku that brings Finnish students in the University of Turku’s North American Studies Program together with the U.S. Fulbright students and scholars to discuss and learn about various topics related to American life and culture. This year was the 30th American Voices Seminar.
During this seminar weekend, U.S. Fulbrighters get to share a little bit about their lives in America, the topics they find interesting, and the issues they care about.
The topics vary over the years, with past Fulbrighters discussing things like New York style pizza, race and social justice, gangsters, holidays, comics, Native American land recognition, high school marching bands, religious life, and more. For the Fulbrighters, these presentations are both interesting and generally entertaining, and they allow students and scholars to study concepts that most likely differ greatly from their traditional fields of study.
From accents to sports
This year, our presentations were on: Reality TV, the American Desert (in all literal and figurative iterations), Women in Sports, American Accents, the American Education System, Climate Issues and Appalachia, and American Football. The American Accents presentation got the crowd to practice their best Southern “y’all,” while the American Football presentation showed images of massive college crowds and incredibly engaged fans, and the American Desert presentation shared images and experiences from growing up in the desert.
My group presented on Reality TV in America. We shared images and shows from the American reality TV landscape, compared media offerings between the US and Finland, and discussed the impact of reality TV both within and beyond the American context.
The American Voices weekend is also a time to meet with past and future Fulbright Finland grantees to the U.S. We had the opportunity to chat with alumni and connect with Finnish students who will be studying in the U.S. next year. Meeting with alumni and sharing experiences in both home and host countries is always fun, and you always learn something new!
Additionally, we were able to chat with the new Fulbright Finland grantees to U.S., talking about our experiences in the American education system, and (hopefully) helping them as they begin the process to pick the universities they will attend next year.
Building the Fulbright Finland community
The weekend is also just a great time to interact with fellow grantees and Fulbright staff.
While the presentations are the star of this weekend in Turku, the weekend is also just a great time to interact with fellow grantees and Fulbright staff. Being in a new country is a big change, and it is reassuring to know, and to remember, that there are so many others in the same position, adjusting to life just as you are and navigating a new culture.
During this weekend, over meals and coffee and munkit and pulla, we were able to share stories, talk about what we have experienced thus far, discuss culture shocks, and provide support to one another as we continue to adjust to life in Finland.