When Dawn Kilic leaves her home, it feels like she’s in a utopian globalist world. Her four children, who range from ages 3 to 15, speak several languages, including English, Turkish and Russian. She’s surrounded by people from Korea, Nigeria, all over Europe and her husband, Veysel, hails from Turkey. Life in the relatively new country of Kyrgyzstan has a feel quite different than the Finnish-American upbringing she had in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul suburb of Burnsville. It’s an experience she absolutely loves. When she thinks back to what made it possible, she can’t help but focus on her time at Suomi College/Finlandia University, and specifically the time spent with longtime English professor Lauri Anderson.
“We still keep in touch with him,” she said. “He’s not simply someone I look back at as just a teacher or a professor, but he’s turned into a lifelong friend and mentor. He’s actually my second child’s godfather.”
Kilic remembers fondly the time spent with Anderson and history professor Dan Maki, both of whom pushed her outside of her comfort zone to gain a deeper understanding of not just English and literature, but life. “If I didn’t go to Finlandia, and meet and have classes with those two, I would not be where I am today,” she said. “My kid’s wouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t be married. I certainly wouldn’t be here in Kyrgyzstan.”
Kilic earned her associates in English from Suomi College in 1999, and stuck around for two more years to be among the first bachelor-degree graduates at Finlandia University, earning a degree in the short-lived, but oft-remembered program “Great Books, Great Voices.” She moved overseas in 2003, and hasn’t looked back since. She’s now leading the next generation as a teacher at Oxford International School, which is a Council of British International Schools (COBIS) school that’s currently an IBDP candidate. She earned her master’s degree in English Language and Literature Teaching to help give her the training in methodology she needed.
The work is paying off. In January, she was recognized as Secondary Teacher of the Term.
“It was humbling because I just do my job teaching English,” she said. “I had three pages of comments about why I was deserving of the award. Hearing what people had to say about me was pretty nice.”
Kilic’s story is a great example of the amazing things that can come from a liberal arts education, especially when small classes allow you to get to know your professors at a deeper level. “Finlandia is exactly how I would hope any liberal arts college experience would be. It was the teachers that brought the program to life in its students,” she said. “Without that, I wouldn’t be teaching the next generation of kids English and critical thinking skills.”
Ultimately, Kilic’s story is another beautiful chapter in the sisu-inspired world of Finlandia University.
“The idea where I’m a single parent at the time, very shy still, and I was able to take the sisu that I have and fly halfway across the world to start a new life the way I wanted to and be successful despite the fears that I had and despite the lack of knowing the native language,” she said. “I had the guts and determination that comes from the experiences I have as a proud Finn and the experiences I had at Finlandia.”
While she loves to point to her Finnish heritage, the utopian mix of cultures she surrounds herself with today proves that the stories of sisu come from any background. Kilic smiles knowing the next generation of Finlandia students, who come from an ever-increasingly diverse background, are still being instilled with that sisu.
This article was featured in the Spring 2018 edition of the Bridge. You can see the full version of that publication by visiting finlandia.edu/thebridge. To subscribe to the Bridge e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.Tags: Dan Maki, Dawn Kilic, Great Books, Great Voices, Kyrgyzstan, Lauri Anderson, Spring 2018 Edition of the Bridge, the Bridge