Born and raised in Happy Valley – Goose Bay, Labrador she has grown up close to nature. With a population of approx. 10, 000 the community she calls home has a similar climate and vegetation to Rovaniemi, Finland, the place of her internship for 6 months.
We contacted Elizabeth after 11 years of her work experience at the International Secretariat and she immediately expressed her availability for an interview as well as genuine excitement in retracing her steps in Finland.
Can you spend a few words about your 2009 internship experience at the International Secretariat of UArctic?
The UArctic International Secretariat six months internship changed my life and opened my eyes to the reality that there are different cultures in the world. I saw first hand, young people that had not one degree, but sometimes more than one and they had travel experiences through school. Where their education was funded by the Finnish government and due to that social investment, I found myself surrounded by really interesting people who had a lot of experience at a young age. As a first-generation college and university student in my family, where my dad didn’t finish high school, nor did my mom until later, I saw that higher education was normalized throughout Finland. It wasn’t an exception to the norm, to have a lot of experiences in higher education and that opened my eyes.
What are you working on right now?
As of current, I am a legal counsel working with my government in Labrador. I just finished my master of arts in political science and I am finishing my master of laws thesis while working. My thesis looks at Inuit legal orders, through published and publicly accessible Inuit stories. How these stories have Inuit law threaded within them and how Inuit laws can be applied to contemporary institutions that govern Inuit within Nunatsiavut. Later in life, I want to get my Ph.D., but as of now, I have a lot I am working on in my career, education and personal life. However, I want that door to be opened, for when I am ready to open it and explore.
How did UArctic impact your professional life?
I was young when I moved to Rovaniemi and I was stubborn. It was my first time out of Canada and all I wanted to do was go skiing, go dancing, spend time with friends, take photos and explore. I realized through working with the UArctic International Secretariat that I had to learn to respect the Finnish ways and the Finnish language. I recall having a lot of coffee around the table with Finnish co-workers in the office and learning to be comfortable listening to the conversation and not knowing what was being said because it was in a different language. I learned cultural humility, to allow people whose mother tongue that is different from mine, to speak and listen in their own ways. I also learned from my German colleagues, who were also interns that people who come from Germany work very hard. I felt at moments, my colleague outworked me, but as I said, I was enjoying my life at that time, more than focusing on work. I was a youth!
Do you have any new projects/plans coming up in the future?
I am working on my master in law thesis and that will be my focus moving ahead.
Do you have any advice for the Arctic youth?
The Arctic is a big and diverse place, each of the circumpolar countries is different from one another and within each country, even there is diversity! If there are opportunities for higher education or experiential learning, then embark! Before adulthood sets in and life becomes filled with more responsibilities and a desire to be more sedentary.
Anything to add?
If there are any opportunities for me to travel to Finland (preferably Rovaniemi), then please contact me! It has been over a decade since I last visited the fells of Lapland and visited the Top of the World, where Santa comes from! However, my experiences there still stay with me, in a good way, when I recall all the moments I had there. I would like to go skiing there again, go to the sauna, bike in the winter, and visit my long-lost friend, Jenni. Whom I remember, always.
Thank you Elizabeth and good luck for the future on behalf of the UArctic International Secretariat!