Traditions are a part of every culture, from holidays to formalities to how guests are treated. And of course in academia there are traditions that are unique to countries and continents. Since I spent several months contemplating going back to graduate school in another part of the world, There are a few of these academic traditions that I have stumbled across that I think are not just really interesting, but make me want to go there for my degree despite being in a program already.
One of the countries that I looked at going to was Finland, not because I am a huge fan of moose, or the idea of living in what is nearly the arctic circle. Mainly the Nordic countries popped on my radar thanks to the University in Stockholm. They may be across the sea from the Swedes, but I wasn’t about to discriminate because of that, besides, I pretty much looked at every country in Europe. I also looked at Australia and New Zealand, but in the end I ended up choosing an American school… Though there are always thoughts of going overseas still, despite the costs.
Directions: Spin and point to a spot, apply. Re-spin if there is there are no Universities in country, or if you land in an ocean.
There are of course massive downsides to going to school over there, at least in chemistry. I have been told repeatedly that getting your degree in Europe, or any where outside of the US really, puts you at a huge disadvantage in getting a post doc, or a job when you get out back in the states. There also is a feeling that the schools and the science over seas is some how sub-par to that of what is available in the US. But if you are anything like me, and are interested in bouncing around the world while doing the work you live. or think the possibility of becoming a citizen of another country isn’t an impossibility, and is in fact kind of appealing then who really cares if it is a bit harder to come back to the states. Life should be an adventure sometimes.
A finish doctoral graduation.
Anyway, the thing about getting your doctorate in Finland isn’t the over abundance of moose meat that is commonly eaten in the Nordic countries. Apparently when you finally graduate in Finland, in three years instead of 5 like most European countries, you are awarded not only a diploma but a doctoral top hat and sword. That’s right, a sword. The top hat is worn with a tux, as a graduation is a black tie affair and the graduates do not wear the gowns we are used to. The sword comes with the the seal of the University and the the date of the graduation engraved on the sword.
Doctoral swords…. I want one!
Seem a bit excessive, maybe. But I think that this is a brilliant tradition that has lasted nearly 500 years. This is not isolated to Finland, as Sweden also confers a sword and hat to its doctoral graduates. This is a tradition that began with medical graduates in the 1400′s and 1500′s. There are numerous professors that I know that have at one point or another wanted a sword, at very least when they are over run by students.