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UArctic collaboration brings Finnish student to UW

Marika Vihko jumps in the air in a snow field. She is wearing a short grey jacket, a black skirt with black tights, grey boots, and a black scarf.

March 19, 2021

In the 2020-21 academic year Marika Vihko enrolled in an Arctic minor course quarterly while working towards an MA in Computer Science in Finland.

When UW courses went online last spring, it provided the Center with the opportunity to tap into its membership with University of the Arctic (UArctic) opening up UW courses to UArctic students and enabling UW students to take UArctic courses. In fall quarter 2020, nine students from UArctic member institutions signed up for ARCTIC 200: Indigenous Diplomacies and International Relations in the Arctic, including five students from Finland, two from the Yukon, one from Ontario, and one from Québec. One of those students, Marika Vihko, registered for ARCTIC 401: Arctic Landscape Change and Detection this winter quarter with professor Kevin Turner, UW’s 2020-21 Fulbright Canada Visiting Chair in Arctic Studies and for ARCTIC 391: Climate Change: An International Perspective in spring quarter.

Marika is studying Computer Science at Tampere University in Tampere, Finland and plans to complete a minor in Arctic Studies by drawing heavily on courses offered by the UW’s Arctic Studies minor. Marika has long had a love for the Arctic – she grew up in the sub-Arctic watching ice breakers come in and out of the docks in Helsinki and walking in the boreal forest that surrounds Tampere. For reasons she does not completely understand, the Arctic draws her in. “The Arctic,” says Marika, “is such a distinct part of the world and yet it is connected to everything while also being remote.”

Marika hopes to blend her love for computer science with Arctic studies. She envisions getting involved in data gathering and analysis in the Arctic and has found some inspiration in the current ARCTIC 401 course. Her final project will be a research proposal on the effects of wildfires on permafrost.

Marika has only traveled to North Carolina in North America. Yet, her enrollment in these three Arctic minor courses at UW is providing her with North American perspectives on the Arctic. “I am very excited about ARCTIC 391 in the spring,” she says, “it looks to combine all aspects of the Arctic including international geopolitics and art into challenges in the Arctic today.”

The Center hopes to continue supporting more students internationally to take courses at the UW virtually while sending our students “abroad” via these unique offerings.