“There’s some good points, some bad points… I will find a city, find myself a city to live in.”
Talking Heads, “Cities”
Before starting the Fulbright period, I figured I’d experience some growth, personally and professionally. But I had no idea how far it would go — I definitely do not see the world, myself, or my future the same way anymore. For one thing, I didn’t originally see myself seriously considering staying in Europe after the year was over. But now, I see no great reason not to return. Really, I’m itching to get back as soon as possible. And if I end up in Finland then I’d be thrilled.
I could go on for a while about why I loved Finland so much, but here I’ll just mention a few recent times that Finland has gotten international recognition:
- Finland was recently ranked second by the Good Country Index
- Finland was named the best country for mothers (again) by Save the Children
- For the third year in a row, Finland topped the World Press Freedom Index
- Although Finland slipped a bit overall in the latest report, it still ranks VERY highly in PISA scores
But don’t let me try and convince you that Finland is flawless — it certainly has its own problems. A Finnish winter isn’t for the faint of heart, even if only because of the darkness. Alcoholism is a big issue, and it has a somewhat high suicide rate. No country can be perfect, of course, but overall, I felt like I fit right in.
Professionally, my advisor at the University of Kentucky, Benjamin Braun, and I were able to complete a paper together. A preprint is available here (click on PDF on the right for the article itself), and is undergoing the peer-review process. I’ve also been working on a second paper, the product of my main research under the Fulbright grant. I managed to meet with a bunch of mathematicians at different stages of their careers in multiple countries, and it seemed like everyone had something very insightful to say. Moreover, I got an idea of different teaching styles in the classroom as well as the different university structures that exist in different countries.
These cover only a tiny part of what I’ve learned and done over the past year, but to avoid being too wordy, I’ll wrap it up here. If you want to know more, I’d be happy to talk about it! Just ask me personally.
There are about a thousand people I need to thank for making all of this such an amazing experience; fortunately I’ve already talked to most of them personally. But I still want to take some space to say it again here: I owe many thanks to the Fulbright organization both in the United States and in Finland; to Aalto University for hosting me, especially Alex Engström; to everyone at the University of Kentucky who supported me, especially Ben Braun, Peter Perry, Carl Lee, Uwe Nagel, and Patricia Whitlow; to my wonderful friends in the United States for their encouragement; to the many friends I made in Europe for their warm welcome; to my family for their support even though every time I move somewhere, it seems to be farther and farther away from them (I promise it’s not intentional!).
On to the pictures! After wrapping up work at Aalto University, I spent about a month traveling around Europe. I didn’t get to go everywhere that I wanted, which means I’ll just have to go back to visit the rest! I started out in Paris, staying at a hostel near the Montmartre district. I had heard mixed things about the city, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Fortunately I had a great time there and learned a lot while seeing the big attractions and the lesser-known ones. These pictures are just a small portion of the photos I took, so if there’s anything you want to know more about, just ask!
After Paris came Geneva for a couple of days. I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to visit CERN, but I did take a short visit to the UN office.
After Geneva, Zurich:
Vienna came next. It was nice to go somewhere a little bit cheaper after about a week in Switzerland.
After Prague came Berlin. I didn’t take many pictures this time since I had been there before in March, so I’ll post pictures from that trip.
Next was Stockholm, but I’ve already posted about that. I’ll go straight to Oslo.
And that’s all! So ends a truly incredible year. And who knows? Maybe a good job opportunity will pop up at some point… either way, this won’t be the last time I find myself in Finland.