Freed-latitude + Freed-longitude = Freedlandia (p.s. This is NOT an official Department of State website. All views and ideas expressed are my own and are not representative of either the Fulbright Program or the Department of State.)
Going back to the conversations I had with Fulbright DAT alum at orientation last summer in D.C., I remember repeatedly being told to engage my patience as a researcher; to be open to my research evolving, changing, revealing itself organically, not micro-filtering information so my conclusions might mirror some image of what my research should look like. I will be totally honest: this was super hard to hear. To put it mildly, I have control issues. (I can hear my colleagues in Newburgh chuckling at the adverb “mildly.”) Also, anything of importance in my life (this Fulbright being one) immediately sets in motion a deeply problematic choreography of planning and implementation. I did the same thing when my son was born…and fourteen years later, I’m still struggling. You get an idea in your head concerning how it must go, so you set the table for that to happen. Does it ever play out the way you want it to? Nope. But you do it anyway because your DNA makes you do it and you’re too tired to fight. So, sitting in that wonderfully air-conditioned conference room at the Mayflower Hotel on an oppressively muggy summer day, I knew I had to begin speaking to that issue in me sooner rather than later…and I had to listen. If I didn’t, I would probably drive myself and my family insane.
Today is exactly a month since landing in this blissfully snowy and cold and welcoming country, and I am sincerely happy to write that I have engaged my patience…so much that I have swapped out “engaged” and replaced it with “married”….and I don’t see this love affair ending. I have gone the completely opposite direction with my pedagogy-powered controllism, and there is no going back. Hopefully.
How did this happen, you ask? Well, for one, the supports here are amazing. Not only do I have a courageously adventurous and supportive family, but I also have a “Fulbright Buddy” who checks in with me and recommends beer and pastries and coffees to try….AND…..an inquiry project adviser at JYU (the University of Jyväskylä) who could not be kinder and more patient with my intellectual idiosyncrasies. We’ve been meeting for lunch about once a week, and I have to say, that’s when everything I’ve observed and read and questioned all week kind of coalesces in my brain. In this heightened state of curiosity and examination, I quickly realized I needed a sounding board or pedagogical touchstone in my life (more than Alana, whom I burden with my stories and ideas way too often). Sharing these half-baked ideas in an environment where I can sort them out, then finish the baking process, has been indispensable. Without my family, my buddy, and my adviser, I probably would have had a control relapse. (I can hear them all chuckling at the adverb “probably!”)
Whatever the reason, research could not have started any better. I have been visiting schools and speaking with teachers and guidance counselors (though in Finland they are referred to as “study counselors”). I have routinely visited multicultural and language centers that offer services to immigrants and refugees. I’ve had some amazing conversations about immigrants and refugees in Finland (as well as in the rest of the EU), the integration process they go through, the services they are given by the Finnish government, and the third sector (NGO/Non profit) outreach that exists for them as well. I have met some incredibly sweet and smart and dedicated educators and volunteers, and have come away from most every visit with the sense that what I am experiencing is profoundly relevant and has the ability to be deeply helpful to my learning community at home in Newburgh, NY. The part that encourages me the most: it has only been a month.
Olen hyvin onnekas! That kind of sums it up.