Above the Arctic Circle. Traineeship in Sámi Archives

I graduated from Vytautas Magnus University in 2016 where I studied Baltic Sea Region Cultures (major) and Social Policy (minor) studies. Before continuing to study in master degree programme I decided to take a gap year and gain practical and more theoretical knowledge and life experience doing recent graduate Erasmus+ traineeship. It was a second time I participated in Erasmus programme. In 2013 I was exchange student in University of Helsinki where I was studying Finnish Language and Culture. There I had a course about Indigenous peoples and their challenges in the world. That encouraged me to write my bachelor thesis on Indigenous Sámi people identity issues. I wanted to deepen my knowledge and collect more information so I chose Lapland. Sámi people live in far north up to the Arctic circle in territories of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. I chose Finnish side of Sápmi (Sámi land) or as it is famously known as Lapland as I was familiar with Finnish language and culture though Sámi people speak their own 9 different languages.

I was looking for any organisation in Finnish Lapland but I found more than I expected -Sámi Archives. It is situated in Sajos – Sámi Cultural Center in small village called Inari about 350 km up north from the Arctic circle. The working environment was great! There were just two people and me working in Archives. But Sajos is a big building where a lot of people works who you meet with everyday. I happened to be around important cultural workers of Sámi people like parliament members, president, cultural events organisers, archivists and researchers.My work was really interesting too. I was working with private ethnographical collection of religious studies professor Emeritus Juha Pentikäinen. The collection is huge, consisting of 200 archival shelf meters. First I was learning about private archival collections, their preservation and management and about Juha Pentikäinen‘s life work. Actual work started when I was checking inventorization, organising collection, puting it in order, establishing a new colder room for audiovisual materials which included a lot of researching on technical issues concerning audiovisual preserving rules and practises. I started working on document preservation and describing part of the collection for digital database. Furthermore, I was helping researchers by finding information and documents that they need, preparing for group visits which is part of archival pedagogy. I had a chance to meet professor couple of times and other colleagues from other Finland‘s archives to discuss about questions concerning the collection. While learning a lot about work in archives I was collecting information for myself and in this case archives was a perfect place to work.

 By Ugnė Starkutė

But Erasmus+ experience is not only about the work. It is a lifetime experience as you have a chance to live in different culture and get to know it. I was living in small community and I had a chance to live in family as I was renting a room in their house. Thanks to wonderful people there I had a chance to attend reindeer round-up, travel and attend festivals, markets, lectures and other important community events, visit traditional dances, karaoke singing, go skiing, hiking, making bonfires even in the freezing cold and have the most interesting conversations with local people. Also I gave my first radio interview to Sámi radio programme. So I was really involved in the local community, made close friends and I hope those friendships going to last. As a professor Pentikäinen said to me once when he was talking about his field works that there is a big difference between trip and longer period staying because it becomes part of your life not just an adventure.

 

When I came to Inari it was the last days of July and sun did not go down below the horizon. I left first days of December when kaamos – the dark period started. That means that sun did not rise above horizon anymore at all. It was -25 degrees and I was going with sledges to the bus stop. It was just four months but seasons changed extremely, I learned a lot, I met so many wonderful people, worked hard and got so much different experiences that it felt I stayed there way longer.

 

So, don‘t miss a chance! Erasmus+ is more than just studies or working experiences that you can put in your CV. In a few months you grow in all possible ways at the same time. 


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