I was granted a great opportunity to spend an academic year at the University of Minnesota Morris as a Fulbright Scholar-In-Residence awardee. I arrived last August when the weather was hot and sunny. The whole of Fall was warmer and sunnier here than we have in Finland. However, the weather during the winter has been more or less the same as in Finland, and I have often dreamt about skiing. As the weather has been quite cold and I do not have skis, I did not get the chance until February. One weekend, I, surprisingly, ended up at a remote cabin in Wisconsin with three strangers for a ski trip.
This is how it happened. I met one of those strangers, Michelle Lenhart, Early Childhood Education Policy Specialist at Minnesota Department of Human Services, in a Zoom meeting in Fall 2021. This wonderful and cordial person emailed me a few days later:
“After we talked, I started brainstorming about people I wanted you to meet, and things I thought we should invite you to do. I especially thought about the idea of inviting you to join a group on a ski trip to a resort up north. There is a lot of Scandinavian influence up there that you might enjoy getting to see and experience. I got the feeling you liked skiing too, so thought you might enjoy doing this.”
Michelle’s husband, Chris, was on a Fulbright scholarship in Ecuador, and their experience of the kindness of the people there made Michelle think it would be nice to offer new experiences for me too. So one weekend in February, Michelle and I, along with her two friends, Nancy Johnson and Jane Laurence, headed to Nancy’s cabin in Wisconsin.
The temperature dropped during nights to -28 Celsius (-18 Fahrenheit), but it didn’t disrupt the relaxed atmosphere. We skied, went to a wonderful sauna, had delicious meals, and talked about everything between the earth and sky.
"The people here have acted on their Minnesota Nice promises; they have been incredibly friendly and helpful. They have made me feel welcome and made my year here in Minnesota unforgettable. I hope to have the opportunity to repay this experience in the future for the benefit of future Fulbright grantees coming to Finland."
Michelle, Nancy, and Jane provided everything for me: skis, ski boots, breakfast, lunch, dinner, a sleeping bag and everything else I needed. They picked me up from the bus I took from Morris to the Twin Cities, drove me to the cabin and then back to the bus on Sunday. Nancy shared her beautiful cabin and sauna with us. Those unknown, wonderful, and friendly people became my new friends that weekend.
The Fulbright Fellowship has provided me with memorable experiences and great friends. The people here have acted on their Minnesota Nice promises; they have been incredibly friendly and helpful. They have made me feel welcome and made my year here in Minnesota unforgettable. I hope to have the opportunity to repay this experience in the future for the benefit of future Fulbright grantees coming to Finland.