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Arctic learning in the context of international business studies

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4.2.2020 8:00

Anzelika Krastina, MEd., Senior Lecturer, International coordinator, School of Northern Well-beeing and Services, Lapland University of Applied Sciences

Arctic learning strengthens the integration of international students

Arctic learning is an important component in overall International Business studies at Lapland UAS.

Lapland and the Arctic region have their unique characteristics and for international students to better understand the businesses operating in the region, employment or entrepreneurship opportunities, the studies of the regional specifics can be very beneficial for the integration into the regional worklife or possibility to make future businesses with the regional actors.

There are many examples of such businesses established in Lapland by foreign students due to better region understanding. Good examples are Arctic China Oy (Arctic China Oy, 2019) tourism destination company established by the Lapland UAS alumni from China, when he discovered an opportunity for Asian tourists in Lapland.

Another example is Lapin Panimo Oy co-founder (Lapin Panimo Oy, 2019), former Lapland UAS student from Latvia, who realised the gap and need for a local Lapland brand beer brewery. Without the knowledge of the local conditions and opportunities, probably such businesses would be difficult to develop.

Global attention towards the Arctic and Lapland is growing due to climate change as well as due to new economic opportunity discovered (Käpylä & Mikkola, 2013). We need to strengthen the knowledge of our own students coming from all over the world, as well as local Finnish students, to help to discover the opportunities that are hidden in the area.

Arctic learning in International Business Degree programme takes many forms. We invite specialists from the Arctic Center of the University of Lapland, we invite local business people to lectures, we carry out joint projects, for example, with the Arctic Design Week project or Lapin Panimo company, we organise Arctic Business Dating workshop and Creative Entrepreneurship in the Arctic annual event. Besides, we sometimes go out of the classroom and travel to see the region with wider lenses.

Field trip to Northern Finland

Field trip to the Northern Finland as a part of the International Business study programme during International Project course proved to be a valuable learning in terms of better understanding of the region, Saami culture, small business opportunities, sustainable solutions to the current climate change. More than 30 international students participated in the filed trip.

During two day trip in November 2019 the agenda included the following activities: first day was an exploration about the region from many prospectives. Second day was learning about the businesses in the area and actual visits to the companies, meetings with the owners and learning from their experiences.

First, we arrived to Inari and had a chance to participate in annual Calotte Academy led by well renown professor of Arctic politics Mr Lassi Heininen . According to Lassi Heininen´s presentation the Calotte Academy is an annual traveling symposium and an international scientific forum in the North regions of Europe targeted for young scientists interested in Arctic issues (Calotte Academy , 2019). Here the students had the possibility to gain new knowledge on various international projects taking place in the region, such as development of indigenous tourism between Sámi (Finland) and Nenets (Russia) tourism companies with real practical business cases.

Students had an opportunity to learn about Sámi Parliament, their activities at national and international level and a project called “Arctic Generation 2030” connected to digitalization of higher education provided for Arctic indigenous people.

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Picture 1: Marina Falevitch (left), International coordinator at Sámi Education Institute tells about cross-border tourism project. (Picture by IB students)

Further learning about the region and Sámi culture continued in the Sámi Education Institute (SOGSAKK, 2019), unique education institution that provides education that helps to sustain traditions of the culture and Sámi language. Sámi Siida museum gave an opportunity to explore not only Sámi culture and traditional livelihoods, but also eight seasons of Lapland.

During our second day we visited companies mostly located in Lemmenjoki area, also called as a valley of the Golden River. The owner Timo Halonen charmed the students with the innovative and authentic way of running Hotel Korpikartano, which as we learnt is fully booked for the season even located in so remote distant area in Lapland and the Arctic.

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Picture 2. International Business 1st year students from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at the front row eager to discover Lapland (Picture by A.Krastina)

Visiting Ateljee Kaija Paltto was a great opportunity to learn the traditional reindeer harder’s family success story as well as to participate in actual felmaker´s workshop. The location and beautiful lanscapes of Sámi land were breathtaking.

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Picture 3. Visiting Ateljee Kaija Paltto (Picture by A.Krastina)

Concluding the visit´s official part in Ahkun Tupa was not just about the restaurant in the wilderness, but more about the family business with Sámi background, handcrafts and happy being with the mindset of sustainable livelihoods.

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Picture 4. Unforgettable sceneries of Lemmenjoki valley (Picture by A.Krastina)

Lessons learnt and conclusions

As a part of their study course students submitted reports from which it can be summarized that students learn so much beyond what actually was expected, which encourages for the future organization of such learning activities.

Probably few business ideas were born already during the trip. Students reflected on the lessons learnt regarding running the business in very harsh climate conditions as a positive learning with many success stories, which encourages them to consider own businesses in the future. They also referred to the importance of discovery of the Arctic region as such, beyond just being in Rovaniemi.

In addition it was an extraordinary culture learning for many. Last, but not least, it was important for students also due to strengthening their personal relationships, which might become a network for the future business cooperation. The following quoting from the student work will better reflect angles of their learning and meaningful experiences (Student feedback survey, 2019)

Student from France learnt about the Arctic region development:

"As we could see with the example of the Arctic Event, Arctic region is developing in an innovative and business way and will be soon famous worldwide. Learning about the region’s characteristics as a student is good to understand the environment you study in and facilitate your business tasks in the country with local companies. Also, knowledge of Arctic culture can become an advantage in the future expansion of this region."

Student from Belgium found an added value of the visit:

"It is important for a business student to be able to see all this, especially the visit to the hotel was interesting on this subject. Tourists like to learn more about the local culture, and it is important to know how to bring the added value that will make foreigners want to come and discover it. In my opinion, this journey should continue in the future, it is a good way to learn without sitting in a classroom and discover a lot about the real way of life in Lapland with local products. In the bus I couldn't take my eyes off the landscape, I was amazed by this beauty and that I will never forget. Thank you for everything for organizing all this."

Student from Vietnam finds the trip as a good start of his studies in this university and it encourages to stay here and start a business in the Arctic region:

"This is my first business trip since I came to Lapinamk. For me, this trip is so interesting and brought a lots of new experiences, not only about business but also about Sámi culture in Arctic region. I haven’t thought that they can have that kind of idea when running businesses in those places. I used to think no one will come there to be a guest, so why would they open a hotel or a restaurant like that, but I was wrong. They know clearly what people, visitors are curious about and take the chances to build the unique services.

Since we are studying in Rovaniemi, it is important to study more about Arctic region especially business here to gain our practical knowledge for future career if we want be an entrepreneur here in the Arctic. As our title of the presentation, this is a trip of enlightenment."

One student from Belgium called it as a real Lapland discovery:

"We can conclude that Lapland is a unique region in the world and the culture, although very different, is enriching. This work has allowed us to understand and learn a new vision of things. We all live in different environments and yet we all have something in common.

The Sami culture is a strong culture based on nature and animals, yet it is very modern. The Sami know how to live in harmony with our environment while remaining connected to the world. I therefore think that this kind of trip should continue so that everyone can discover this region that deserves to be known."

Student from Spain feels that their learning was beyond expressing it in words and the Arctic was discovered as a mine of opportunities:

"For me what I gain in this trip does not have a price, there are some kind of things in this life more valuable but sometimes we don't care about it because we cannot touch it. Arctic region has a huge economic potential that why it is important for a business student to learn about it because it is a mine of opportunities for them."

Student from France enjoyed learning about actual businesses in the region:

"This business trip organized by our teacher had the purpose to not only discover more North of Finland and show Rovaniemi is only a part of this North atmosphere, but also to gain knowledge and learn more about business established in this area and about some institutions established as well.

Even if their lifes are complicated by many facts (North of Finland area, different mother languages…), they are facing them and finding solutions no matter the problem and it is one of the main things that I am impressed about Saami people."

Student from Lithuania finds this experience similar to his home country:

"Saami remind of my home country, I think it is great that they have kept their culture and history, even have their own parliament. It is very important to keep to our traditions and I think its amazing that many Saami still keep their traditions."

Student from Russia (coming from the central part) discovers business opportunities in distant areas:

"I have learned, that it is possible to create something even in the 'Middle of nowhere'. Is there an opportunity for regular tourists to have trips as we had? I think many people would want to experience the same. Actually, before going on this trip I already had some knowledge about Saami, but I didn't know that they are living such a modern life and can run successful tourism businesses."

Students from Finland confirmed that they also have learnt a lot in addition to their previous knowledge about the region:

"For example, the daily life of an entrepreneur in Lapland during the season and also off the season.
The most important lesson for me during the trip was that marketing is really important. It is hard to get customers/guests if you don't look appealing also on online. Since your business is middle of the forest, no one can find your firm expect from internet. The layout of your web page needs to be well made in order to get more customers.

I'm more confident about starting a business because of Timo's hotel. If he can do it in the middle of nowhere, then I might too."

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Picture 5. IB student group in Inari, Sámi Education Institute (Picture by A.Krastina)


Arctic China Oy https://www.arcticchina.com, retrieved 12.12.2019
Calotte Academy https://calotte-academy.com/, retrieved 12.12.2019
Käpylä, J. & Mikkola,H. 2013. The Global Arctic. The Growing Arctic Interests of Russia, China, the United States and the European Union. The Finnish Institute of International Affairs . https://www.fiia.fi/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/bp133.pdf, retrieved 16.12.2019
Lapin Panimo Oy https://lapinpanimo.fi, retrieved 12.12.2019
SOGSAKK http://www.sogsakk.fi/fi, retrieved 12.12.2019
Student feedback survey. 2019. Moodle course folders on “Project Management” and “International Project”