My name is Choteau Kammel and I have been a remote intern for the American Embassy in Helsinki this summer. After spending my Fall 2018 semester at the University of Helsinki as an exchange student studying comparative public policy, I’ve wanted to return to Finland ever since. Due to COVID-19, however, and the unprecedented times we are living in, that was unfortunately not possible this summer. Regardless, even across the Atlantic Ocean, nine hours of time difference, and spotty internet connection in my home in the mountains of northwestern Wyoming, this summer I was still able to learn more about the mission of public diplomacy and the importance of the Finnish-American relationship at an international level in matters of human rights, trade, and environmental protection. Although several of my assignments failed to materialise due to various circumstances, one personal initiative I undertook was to take advantage of my home and document the beauty of public lands of Wyoming and Montana. Amongst economic, cultural, and in some cases ancestral ties, one common bond that unites Americans and Finnish citizens alike is a love of the outdoors natural land. In both Finland and the United States, this shared loved is expressed in each nation’s system of national parks.
As the world has slowly begun to reopen following the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, national parks in both Finland and the United States have seen an influx of visitation as citizens have sought to escape the confines and health risks of more densely populated urban living. Ironically, just as Finland is the least densely populated nation in the European Union, Wyoming is the least densely populated state in the Continental U.S. Due to my parent’s employment with the National Park Service, I have been blessed live in and spend the last two summers with them in their home inside Yellowstone National Park. As the world’s first national park, Yellowstone was founded by President Theodore Roosevelt under the mantra of, “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People,” a sentiment which is similarly and more expansively embraced by the Nordic world, Finland included, with the right to wander protected by Jokamiehenoikeudet, or “Every man’s rights.” With this similarity in mind, and the American and Finnish public’s shared enjoyment of national parks, I spent this summer documenting sights and scenes from both inside Yellowstone National Park and state parks in western Montana. During these excursions, I also did some research and learnt that the state of Montana has connections to Finland that date back to the 1880s when Finnish immigrants arrived with dozens of other nationalities to work in the coal mines. The small town of Red Lodge, Montana is actually where my own Finnish ancestry began its life in America. Furthermore, the cool climate and abundance of lakes make many parts of Montana seem very similar to the Land of a Thousand lakes.
Although this summer was certainly different than I expected when I applied to intern at the American Embassy in Finland, it has surely not been a waste and has only further inspired me to pursue a career in diplomacy on my completion of law school. Even through a remote environment, I have learnt the importance of inter-personal relationships and their role in international relations and am even more galvanised in my belief that today’s globalised world requires global solutions to rapidly broadening problems that no longer affect any one nation in a vacuum. These photographs represent but a glimpse into the beauties of America’s Northern Rockies and the public land that protects them, but they amply show the importance of conservation and the national parks that both Finnish and Americans respectively love.