Fulbright brought Kristiina Jomppanen to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for an academic year to teach Finnish language and culture. Her work as a Foreign Language Teaching Assistant has taught her a great deal not only about American culture but about cultures all over the world.
In August 2017 a dream of mine finally came true as I boarded a plane in Helsinki and travelled to the United States for an academic year. I had been selected to teach Finnish and represent Finland and Finnish culture in the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant. FLTAs come from all over the world sponsored by Fulbright to share their language and culture in the USA.
I did not only get the opportunity to gain professional skills and do what I love but also to meet amazing professionals from United States and all over the world. The past seven months have consisted of hard work, inspiring courses, travelling to eight different states and getting to meet amazing people.
I am a "cultural ambassador" of Finland and so are my fellow grantees of their own cultures and countries. This multicultural experience has brought me together with teachers from over 40 different countries and offered me the opportunity to connect with them and for us to learn from one another. It is not only the American culture I am getting to know.
In my host institution, University of Wisconsin-Madison, I am also part of a multicultural work environment, working in the Scandinavian Studies Program together with colleagues from the US as well other Nordic countries. I have even had the chance to learn a bit of Norwegian from the teaching assistant, a dear friend of mine, with whom I get to share an office.
Heritage is a term whose meaning I have truly learned while living here in the Midwest. Having Nordic heritage is a strong part of many Midwesterners’ identity and a fascinating part of our department and many people’s lives. Many students here are motivated to take on a Nordic language because of their heritage and desire to discover more about their roots. Seeing closely how important knowing your roots is has taught me a lot and continues to interest me. Discovering more about my own heritage has also been a big part of my journey here as I have had the chance to take on courses on the Sámi people, among whom my own roots lie.
The past seven months have certainly been a time of professional as well as personal growth and flourishing and I am so very grateful for this as I continue my discoveries in Madison, the Midwest and world of multiculturalism.
On Wisconsin! On Badgers!
And of course, on Fulbright!
Text: Kristiina Jomppanen
More about Kristiina's American adventure in Finnish: https://krisumadisonissa.wordpress.com/