It is a long ways from the Finnish coastal city Maija Haga calls home to Great Bend. But, her love for animals bridges the nearly 5,000 miles between the two communities.
For the past three weeks, Haga has been working with Dr. Nels Lindberg and the rest of the staff at the Animal Medical Center as part of an “externship,” taking a break from her veterinary studies at Helsinki University, Finland’s largest and oldest university in the nation’s capital.
She leaves today to spend five weeks at vet clinics in California working with dairy cattle and horses. After that, she will travel around California, Arizona and visit New York before heading home Aug. 29.
Why the United States? There are many reasons,” she said
In additional to her mother tongues of Swedish and Finnish, English is the language she knows best. “The veterinarians are really talented here too,” she said. And, almost all of her veterinary books come from the America.
“I wanted also to look at the veterinary field from a different perspective than what we do in Finland,” Haga said. For example, in Finland, they don’t vaccinate or castrate cows, and don’t declaw cats.
Why Kansas? “Actually it was a coincidence,” she said.
“ I searched the Internet and found a web page about different cattle externships in the U.S. I did not know much about Kansas at that point. But I applied and here I am.”
As for Great Bend, “it could have been any town,” she said. “But I am really happy that it’s Great Bend. All people that I have met thus far have been extremely friendly.”
But, looking at her experiences in the Great Plains, there is a site she hasn’t gotten used to. “I am still amazed of the sizes of the feedlots. It’s something I’ve never seen before.”
Haga has always wanted to be a vet. “It has been my dream for as long as I can remember.” She is in year two of a six-year program at Helsinki University.
But, what type of vet is a more difficult question for her to answer. “I like all fields,” she said. “This is why I am doing an externship. I want to learn more about the different fields. At moment I am mostly interested in large animals and horses. But this can still change many times.”
Haga comes from the city of Vaasa on the west coast of Finland. Although an industrial community, Vaasa is surrounded by some of the nation’s richest agricultural land.
Her father works in the Agricultural Ministry and her mother is a psychologist. She has two older sisters, one of which an meteorologist. “She warned me of all the storms here. The weather is quite boring in Finland.”
“Maija has been our first international veterinary student, and has been a pleasure to host on her externship,” said Dr. Nels Linberg. “Not only, in this situation, can her knowledge base and skills be expanded in veterinary medicine, but we can all expand our knowledge and culture of each other’s home countries.”
Lindberg said his practice enjoys hosting veterinary student externs from coast to coast as a way to give back to the future of the veterinary profession. In this case, “we enjoy the opportunity that international students present to us.”