Tag Archives: SLU

Final Farewell!

Alas, it is the end of the school year at Michigan Tech, and thus the end of my blogging. While Michigan Tech’s school year ends the last week of April, school is still in session at SLU until the first week of June! In the next two months I will be participating in various forestry related excursions in and around Sweden, such as: the Skättilljunga sawmill, a non-traditional oak forest in Blekinge, a non-traditional beech forest at Ryssberget, Söderåsen, a beech forest in Halland, and the Bialowieza National Park in Poland.

As I reread some of my entries, I am humbled by how lucky I have been – experiences, health, opportunities, traveling, friends, family, the list goes on. This time abroad has truly changed my life, from my confidence as a traveler to a more globally minded scientist, and everything in between. Though attempted through this blogging experience, words really cannot describe what I have experienced in the past year of my life.

Still a long road ahead...
A trip down memory lane...

I thought it would be fun to make a quick list of my favorite things in each country I have visited (thus far),while studying abroad:

  • Finland: Free Education
  • Switzerland: The Blend of Cultures/Languages
  • Germany: The Art – Graffiti and Museums
  • Scotland: The Highlands
  • Lithuania: KGB Museum and History
  • Latvia: Forestland and Local Medieval Folk Rock
  • Estonia: The People I Met
  • Russia: The EXTREME Culture Shock
  • Sweden: The Diversity and Open-mindedness
  • Denmark: The Funky Architecture

I would not  feel right if I did not send special thanks to everyone that has taken the time to read my blog over the past year – what an adventure it has been. I would also like to acknowledge some very special people that have made this blogging experience possible:

  • MTU ParentNet/IPS/Technical Assistance: Gretta Gustafson, Katie Russell, Michelle Nightingale, Lisa Pignotti, Donna Armistead, & Scott Shannon.
  • ATLANTIS Coordinators: (MTU) Dr. Shekhar Joshi, (NCSU) Dr. Bronson Bullock, (SLU) Dr. Eric Agestam, and (UH) Maija Kovanen.
  • Photography: Chris Johnson, Elina Inkiläinen, and Shekhar Joshi.
  • Professors: Dr. Vilis Brukas, Dr. Kathleen E. Halvorsen, Dr. Andrew Storer, and Dr. Pekka Nygren.
  • Flat-mates: Blake, Ivanna , and Marta 🙂

To avoid making an enormous list or forgetting anyone, I will keep things short and general – thank you to my friends, family, and especially my fellow ATLANTIS students, (both abroad and at Michigan Tech). My Michigan Tech ‘family’ of friends, as well as my international ‘family’ that has developed over the past year will forever be in my heart. The gifts, travel stories, social events, late nights, early mornings, bike rides, bus rides, dancing, studying, crying, laughing, screaming, frustration, joy and love have made all the difference.

And now, for my final farewell, I will leave you with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau:

Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.

Estonian Excellence!

An apology to anyone looking forward to my adventures in St. Petersburg, but  this past week was especially exciting at SLU, and I could not skip writing about it. I will post about St. Petersburg later this week I PROMISE!

Congratulations Arvo!
Congratulations Arvo!

So what made this past week so special you may ask? Not only did my two Estonian ATLANTIS colleagues visit, (Arvo and Margus), but Arvo successfully defended his Master’s thesis on Warming Alters Photosynthetic Rates of Sub-Boreal Peatland Vegetation. The defense itself was a production, as it was internationally broadcast from Alnarp, Sweden, to Michigan Tech in Houghton, and even to the Umeå Campus in northern Sweden. This entailed coordinating international times, schedules, and advisors. Because of the way the ATLANTIS Programme works, each student has an advisor in the United States and an advisor in Scandinavia/Europe. Arvo’s advisors are Dr. Rodney Chimner (MTU) and Dr. Eric  Agestam (SLU), both wonderful people and scientists. Dr. Eric Agestam is also the SLU ATLANTIS coordinator, and is very active with SLU’s International EUROFORESTER Masters course. This is the course which ATLANTIS students participate in while at SLU. Eric has been especially helpful and active during my time at SLU 🙂 He has a wonderful sense of humor, especially when I even had to ask him how to write my flat address correctly when I moved to Sweden!

When causally asked during his defense, “what have you learned or taken away from the ATLANTIS Programme?,”  Arvo answered along the lines of “the people and the cultural experience” – I couldn’t agree more. I feel so privileged to be part of the ATLANTIS Programme, and essentially the ‘ATLANTIS family’. The people I have met throughout this program have truly changed my life, the cultural experiences have truly been incomparable, and the people running this program have done an amazing job. I am going to take this opportunity to ‘plug’ the ATLANTIS Program, and highly suggest applying if you can – (check out the ATLANTIS website here) – contact the coordinator in your region and get started as soon as possible! Also, I am more than willing to answer questions about the ATLANTIS Program for current or future students, though my experience in the United States is limited to Michigan Tech in Houghton.

Chris and Arvo - 'MTU Crew'
Chris and Arvo - part of the 'MTU Crew'

It was wonderful to have the ‘MTU Crew’ back together again – it felt like just yesterday we were all back in Houghton, Michigan. I pray that we will some how find a way to have an ATLANTIS reunion in the future. I would also like to extend a special ‘thank you’ to Chris Johnson, my fellow MTU ATLANTIS colleague, for allowing me to exploit his love for photography. As I have mentioned before, I am not really a picture person – I am not photogenic and I would rather spend my time living in the moment than behind a camera – thus, my friends have graciously allowed me to borrow some of their pictures for my blog – of which I truly appreciate!

Good cooking boys!
Good cooking boys!

I am extremely excited for my defense at MTU this coming Fall (2011)! It is really inspiring to see other ATLANTIS students starting to finish their programs. Margus (the other Estonian) will be coming back to SLU in April to defend his thesis. In addition, two ATLANTIS students currently studying with me at SLU should be defending this summer. Good luck everyone!

On both a historical and ironic note, Arvo’s defense happend to be on Estonian Independence Day (February 24th)! Thursday evening, traditional Estonian meatballs were consumed to celebrate both successful events! Check out the link to learn all about Estonia’s social and Soviet struggles during their historical quest for independence – very interesting.

Congratulations again, Arvo!

Starting the Second Semester in Sweden

Private Forest Field Trip
Private Forest Field Trip

The first week of class is officially finished, and I am exhausted! The first day of class was a field trip to a private forest owner’s property. The owners were a married couple from Sweden, both with forestry backgrounds. Interestingly enough, the husband worked for the timber sector of IKEA. They had a large property that they use for firewood, mushrooming, hunting, an ornamental tree nursery, and rent out some of the land for  farming. We spent the afternoon wandering their property learning about Swedish forestry practices, policy, and private ownership. As a challenge the students were split into groups and told to come up with future forestry and land management options for the couple. It was a fun challenge, and the winning group had even suggested converting part of the property into a paintball field! The long day ended with a much needed bonfire and warm food.

SLU Campus
SLU Campus

Juggling class time and homework, it was a challenge to sneak in an ‘official’ campus tour or even welcome for that matter. Luckily I was able to make it to a brief afternoon session to get my networking, computer, and library accounts in order. The system here is very different from anything I have ever had to use before; printers que documents and require double passwords, I also have to put money in an electronic account to pay for copies, faxes, and printing, and if I do not have enough money in my account, I cannot print – no exceptions! Hopefully I will not be printing much this semester. The campus itself is gorgeous, with whimsical looking buildings and a large park. There might have been a few Harry Potter Hogwarts jokes mentioned throughout the tour…

As for classes, it has been intense. The long days remind me of being in high school again, or at the ‘Fall Camp’ that I had to go through for Michigan Tech. I really enjoyed my schedule in Helsinki – I had long days, but they did not start at seven in the morning. I am definitely a night owl.

After a long week, I was invited out with the other new SLU students to go bowling. I have not been bowling in a very long time, and for good reason – I am not very good. I was excited to go out with my new friends, and was even more excited to be meeting more new people. I had to take the bus into Malmö, which costs 22 krona (about $3.40) one way! Not only is Sweden expensive (like Finland), but they use the “Swedish crown” or Krona as their currency. It has been quite the conversion adjustment for me. I miss using the Euro 🙁  1 Euro equals 8.87 Krona, which is currently equal to $1.36. Luckily, I kept my NORDEA bank account active in Finland so I do not have to pay common currency conversion fees like most people.

Tastes like home!
Tastes like home!

To finish the first week myself and a few other ATLANTIS students got together for a hearty brunch. Each person contributed a dish; there was sausage, scrambled eggs, traditional Finnish crepes, fresh bread, lingonberry jam, and someone even bought real Canadian maple syrup! I mad a warm winter citrus salad of grapefruit, blood oranges, and pineapple with a brown sugar glaze. After our spectacular brunch, reality woke us from our mid-morning food-comas and reminded us why we had really gathered, that pesky group homework assignment. It was nice to distract ourselves for an hour or so with brunch though. In short, the weekend and evenings after class have been filled with group assignments, personal homework, and enough take-home reading to kindle fires for a month. This will definitely be a challenging semester!

Next week is the Superbowl! Yes, my hometown team, The Green Bay Packers, have made it to the Super Bowl. It is also one of my Finnish ATLANTIS colleague’s birthdays, as well as Runeberg’s Birthday (a Finnish holiday for the famous Finnish poet). I look forward to writing about the upcoming fun, but busy week.


Sweet Sweden!

Studying, Exploring, Experiencing, and Blogging!

After surviving my winter break, and Russia for that matter, I have finally gotten settled in Sweden!

I will re-introduce myself, as my blog has recently changed locations from the MTU ParentNet Student Abroad, to the MTU IPS Student Abroad Blog. My name is Kassidy Yatso, and I have been the ‘student abroad’ blogger for the past 6 months while studying at the University of Helsinki, Finland, starting in late August 2010.

I received my B.Sc. in Applied Ecology and Environmental Science from Michigan Technological University’s (MTU) School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science (SFRES) in December 2009, and chose to continue my education at MTU. I am currently part of an exchange program of American and European master’s students, leading to a dual (double) master’s degree, (in completion, I will obtain two MS diplomas, one from the US and one from an EU university). My Transatlantic Master’s Degree in Forest Resources requires a total of 2 years (4 semesters) across three universities in Finland, Sweden and the USA: 1 semester at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), 1 semester at the University of Helsinki (UH), and 2 semesters (one study year) at MTU.

I have just completed my semester of graduate studies at the University of Helsinki, and am now attending SLU. I will be blogging about academics, culture, my travels, and much more! If you are just joining me, I am in transit between Helsinki, Finland, and Alnarp, Sweden, but my blogs from last semester are archived, so you can go back and read about Finland and last semester’s adventures 😀

Map of SLU Alnarp Campus
Map of SLU Alnarp Campus

After repacking all of my belongings in Helsinki for the move to Sweden, I realized I had some how accumulated more possessions that I thought. Luckily, one of my fellow classmates at UH was willing to drive me to the airport so I did not have to rangle my baggage on the Helsinki public buses. I will forever be grateful. A short hopper flight to Denmark, and I was in Copenhagen in less than two hours. Alone, attempting to navigate the airport, buy a train ticket to Malmö, and manage my baggage, I was taken back by the quiet, calmness and neatness of the Copenhagen Airport. Feeling a bit more relaxed, I caught the train to Malmö Central Station to meet up with other new SLU students and a ‘welcoming committee’. SLU had graciously offered to pick new students up at the railway station and bring us and our luggage to our new addresses, saving time, money, and inevitable frustration. I am currently living in Arlöv, Sweden, which is north of  Malmö, Sweden, and west of  Copenhagen, Denmark.

My Bike "Kermit"
My Bike "Kermit"

I live in a student flat with two other forestry students; a Russian girl from the Moscow State University, and an Italian girl who is in the Erasmus Mundus  Programme. We all attend the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) this semester, taking part in the Euroforestry programme. I had one day to unpack, regroup, and reorganize before classes started for the Spring Semester. Luckily my roommates are in the same course programme and showed me around campus and the surrounding areas. I live about a 20 minute bike ride from the Alnarp campus, and about 5 minutes from the Burlöv Center (a large mall with a grocery store in it). I was fortunate enough to buy a bike upon my arrival to Sweden, from a fellow ATLANTIS student that was already at SLU. A bike is vital for survival here.

For the first half of the semester I will be taking a course titled “National and International Forestry Policy”. We have class Monday through Friday from nine to four, with an hour lunch break. It is much more reading intensive than my courses in Helsinki, with a more demanding schedule and course load. I think it will be easier to make friends here though, because it is the same 35 students every day, doing the same homework and field trips, with some of us living together as well. I am excited about the diversity of the class; there are students from Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, Uruguay, and the United States. A very exciting mix indeed!

I have convinced my house mate to help me further my Russian linguistic skills, as I have just returned from Russia. In the upcoming weeks I will talk about my first week of class in Alnarp, and my adventures in Russia!

до свидания! (Do svidaniya pronounced duh svee-dah-nee-ye) which literally means in Russian, “Until (the next) meeting”


Passport, Pictures, Payments, and Permits!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Being an American holiday, Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Europe. I really missed seeing my family, and gorging myself on homemade delicacies this year! I was in class all week and had an extremely busy week in general. There are only a few weeks of class left, and many things to do, including obtaining a Swedish residency permit!

In order to study in Sweden next semester I must apply for a Swedish residency permit. Luckily, there is a Swedish embassy in Helsinki. This makes the paperwork, payment, pictures, and passport issues much easier to deal with in person.

A few items are required in order to apply for a Swedish residency:

Swedish Embassy
Swedish Embassy
  • an official residence permit application
  • two color passport photos
  • an acceptance letter from the University I will be studying (SLU)
  • a copy of and proof of health insurance
  • a copy of my United Sates passport
  • a copy of my Finnish residency permit
  • my physical passport
  • an additional letter stating my intentions while in, and after I leave Sweden (entitled ‘Appendix A’)
  • 109 Euros to be paid in cash upon applying

The Swedish Embassy is only open from 9:00 in the morning until noon, Monday through Friday. It is located on Pohjoisesplanadi, near downtown Helsinki. Apparently the process of applying for a residency permit can take anywhere from 20 minutes, to 2 hours – unfortunately, I ended up spending about 2 hours at the embassy. There were only two people ahead of me in line, but they were having some extreme issues with their permits, and their tempers. Finally, it was my turn.

To my surprise, when I went to apply for my permit, they informed me that the 109 Euro fee was being waived because I was invited to be a student at a Swedish institution – I was elated! I found it extremely convenient that they have a photo system/booth set up at the embassy so you are not required to bring your own passport-sized pictures; they take your picture, and it is automatically entered into their online/computerized system. This not only saved me money, but time. After turning in my paperwork, I was given a receipt with a tracking number so I can check the status of my application online. Hopefully it will not take very long for my application to get approved and processed. They told me it can take a few weeks or even a few months. From my understanding the embassy just handles your paperwork, the processing and approval does not happen there. They send the paperwork to the Swedish Migration department in Sweden, and then return it to Finland after processing. I will have to go back to the embassy to get my residency permit placed in my passport pending approval. Thus far, there has been no progress on my application according to their online tracking.

I was the first of the ATLANTIS students in my group to apply for a residency permit, and passed on my knowledge to help the other students with their applications. Hopefully we all get our permits in time to move to Sweden!

My next stop was the Russian Embassy! I am planning to spend Christmas in Russia this year and need to get a tourist VISA in order to enter Russia. Unlike the Swedish application, I found out that I needed to leave my physical passport with the Russian Embassy while my application was being processed. Because I am an American citizen, legally, they have to hold my passport for at least ten days. I was unable to leave my passport at this time because I was traveling to the Baltics the following day. I was accepted to ‘study abroad’ while studying abroad in Kaunus, Lithuania! I will have to go back to the Russian Embassy upon my return from Lithuania.

Join me next week as I talk about EU economics and rural development, Lithuanian cuisine, the historic KGB museum, and my explorations in the capital city of Vilnius.


On a side note, Finnish Independence Day is celebrated on December 6th. Finland declared independence from Bolshevik Russia on December 6, 1917. We did not have classes on Monday, and everything in the city was closed.