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Miserable or Golden Karelia? Interpreting a Cross-border Excursion of Students from Finland to Russia

Pirkkoliisa Ahponen


Two border towns, Joensuu in Finland and Sortavala in Russia, are situated on different sides of the border which cuts across the peripheral region Karelia. A group of 40 Finnish students from the University of Joensuu went on a 2-day excursion to Sortavala in March 2007, being curious to see the anticipated and imagined place of others. During this 2-day excursion, these Finnish students, who had recently started studying Social Policy, were instructed to make notes on everything that they experienced as being different from their own living milieu. The notes made on this excursion give us a snapshot of what it is like to cross a border between familiar and unfamiliar societies. A phenomenological interpretation of the students’ travelogs tells us how they carried their previous knowledge as well as all their assumptions and prejudices with them. It can be seen how even a short border-crossing experience influences perceptions of young people about otherness in confusing or reflexive ways. On returning from the trip, many of them found that they looked at their own situation differently than what they had done earlier.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229