My first experience with Fulbright Finland was almost 10 years ago, when Professor Michael H. Epstein, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) arrived as a Fulbright Senior Specialist to University of Eastern Finland (UEF). I was a new doctoral student and my advisors had invited Dr. Epstein to Finland. I was particularly excited about this visit as Dr. Epstein was a leading researcher in my field (special education) and in the specific topic area of my doctoral dissertation (strength-based assessment).
This was memorable academically, personally, and socially as I was given the opportunity to host him and his wife, Professor Alice Epstein, during the visit. We toured for a week throughout Lapland, my home region, which allowed me an opportunity to show off Finland and engage in extended discussions, ask questions and learn about academia. I recommend supervisors invite Fulbright Specialists to visit Finland and allow your doctoral students to engage and learn from your guests.
The first visit of Dr. Epstein led to numerous international experiences and several new collaborations. In 2012, my supervisor and I traveled to the U.S. with a research collaboration grant from UNL. This was an eye-opening learning experience in regard to forming international research work, developing social relationships and making academic presentations. Most importantly, I met an excellent colleague and friend Dr. Matthew Lambert, a research methodologist and Associate Professor at UNL, and our collaboration remains active today.
In 2014 as a postdoctoral researcher, I was invited by Dr. Lambert to visit UNL. During this stay, I visited the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) and met Associate Professor Dr. Christine Cutucache and formed a new great research partnership and this resulted in a delegation visit from UNO to UEF at 2015. Recently, I had the honor and pleasure to invite Dr. Lambert (2016) and Dr. Cutucache (2020) as Fulbright Specialists to Finland. Thank you Fulbright Finland for international collaborators!
In 2015, I served as one of the first two Fulbright Finland Travel Grantees with my colleague Saeed Karimi-Aghdam. My travel grant visit to UNL and UNO was my first extended period in the U.S. and gave me new insights about the U.S. culture, research procedures, and international collaboration. During this visit, I received important advice to participate in the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) conference and its friendly community. Participating in this conference opened new possibilities to work internationally, particularly at another SITE related conference called EDmedia + Innovative Learning where I am now a member of the Executive Board. Thank you Fulbright Finland for international opportunities.
For me, the Fulbright Finland experience has been, and is, empowering, and the best part is that the journey continues.
With all of these memories, learning experiences, and other trans-Atlantic collaborations and experiences, I can say this has been a magnificent journey. Recently my university and its researchers have become active as Fulbright grantees and are creating our own international collaborative community in Eastern Finland.
I believe the international, national, and local Fulbright community has much to offer students, teachers and researchers. The most important lessons I have learned since 2010 is that alongside the academic and continuous learning experiences, remember to interact with your international colleagues to show your Finnish personality, hospitality and friendship to your colleagues either here in Finland or in the U.S. Show them what is Fulbright Finland. That is why in my presentations I always include examples of Finnish culture and nature, and examples of my fishing exploits and cooking hobbies. For me, the Fulbright Finland experience has been, and is, empowering, and the best part is that the journey continues.