It's been a over a year from application to departure and I am ready to leave behind the preparations for and anticipation of the adventure in Finland. I want to be in Finland: exploring new places, breathing Finnish air, smelling Finnish aromas, and feeling the crunch of my footsteps in the Finnish snow.
Our in-person initiation into the Fulbright family started with the Orientation in August in Washington DC. Kyle, the boys and I went to the Finnish Embassy to start the resident visa process, toured the Lincoln memorial, and joined the crowds at the Air and Space museum to escape the wet and rainy weather. We visited family in Alexandria and rode bikes from there to Mount Vernon. Thank you Kathy, Chuck, James and Alice!
Kyle and the boys went home after 3 days because Kyle, a high school Language Arts teacher, had to start work and I was fully scheduled with Orientation meetings. The orientation was exciting and a huge information dump: all necessary, relevant and helpful but overwhelming toward the end. I fully experienced overload on day 3! It was wonderful to meet the IIE staff in person since we had been communicating with them via email for months. It was helpful and reassuring to connect with the other American and International Fulbrighters and share excitement for our projects and upcoming adventures and our nervousness about living in new places and cultures, learning new languages and meeting new people.
As a family, our Fulbright experience continued when we had two Fulbrighters stay with us last Fall. The first was Marja P., a mid career Fulbrighter from Jyvaskyla, Finland (where we are headed), who was researching post secondary career counseling in the U.S. She was based at Georgetown University and wanted to see the Rocky Mountains so she visited Colorado for 3 days in late September. She accompanied me to my school, Arapahoe Campus, to see the Career Technical Education classes and facilities. She toured the building, met counselors, other teachers and commented that the Nursery and Early Childhood Education Center, which support teen parents and their babies, was unique.
After school, Marja and I did a quick tour of Boulder and she saw Pearl Street Mall, the Flagstaff amphitheater, and Chautauqua Park. On Saturday, we drove to Rocky Mountain National Park. The day was picture perfect with blue sky, warm temperatures and coincided with a free entrance day to the Park. We went on a short and stunning hike and were treated to an up close view of an Elk bull on the drive home.
Our second Fulbright visitor was Keith D. who visited at the end of October. He is an art and design teacher from New Zealand, who was at Indiana University for the Fall semester with the Fulbright international teacher cohort. Keith stayed in Colorado longer than Marja so he had the opportunity to see more of personal and professional life in Colorado.
He visited Arapahoe Campus with me and Centaurus High School, where my husband works, and made a good connection at CHS with one of the art teachers. He attended the Centaurus open enrollment showcase night with us as we toured the school with our older son who is in 8th grade and deciding where to attend High School. We visited the landmarks in Boulder that I showed Marja, He attended the Colorado Art Educators Conference in Breckenridge, CO. At the conference he connected with a friend of mine who is an art teacher and with whom I student taught back around 2006. I can't remember exactly when I was a student teacher!
He had the chance to see some spectacular scenery on the drive to Breck and back to Lafayette. He drove over Loveland Pass, through South Park (yes, the inspiration for the TV show), up the back side of Pikes Peak, down into Colorado Springs and through the Garden of the Gods. While he didn't see all Colorado has to offer, he got a great introduction to the Centennial State.
These visits made real for the me the idea that I am part of unique and privileged group who is working toward making education better through sharing knowledge, discarding comfort for the growth, changing perspectives and envisioning new solutions by seeing different approaches to familiar processes and situations and diving into new experiences. Finland, here we come!.
I am a high school art teacher from Boulder Valley School District in Colorado studying craft education in Jyvaskyla, Finland. I am in Finland through a grant from the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching program and the Fulbright Finland Foundation.