We all came from different places and had different journeys. Getting here was interesting, but we made it. Roel’s first night was spent on a boat while both Marc and Caymen took a long bus directly to campus. Arriving with all our luggage was difficult at first, but we were all eager to begin the adventure that awaited us.
All of us arrived a week early in order to get accustom to our surroundings. At first the buildings maze like structure confused us, but we soon were able to navigate it with ease. The campus offered many amenities, one of our favourites being disc golf, a game in which Roel often emerged the victor. There are many natural spots we enjoyed as well, such as the lake Sääksjärvi. Here we are able to swim to our hearts content, even though the water is frigid. The people also made our time here great. Wednesday karaoke has been a blast so far and we hope it continues to be. Spending time on campus is truly enjoyable and we look forward to making more memories here.
Of course, Finland is much larger than the campus, so we have tried to see as much of it as we can. From day trips to the stores in Helsinki to day hiking trips there has been so much to experience. We have explored Helsinki, where Marc was able to find his beloved Spanish sausages. Here we also saw Lapsipalatsi square and many other sights the city had to behold. The islands were also a place of great interest and we were astonished by their beauty. Our trips were not just contained to urban areas, we also took a day hike to Kuhakoski rapids. The trip was long, but amazing. We experienced different terrain and had a wonderful time.
First of all, Sini share with us more information about the university and the surroundings. The first week, we start subject that name is play and games. On the reflections, the students share a lot of ideas of the objectives for this subject. We talk about warm up, communication, trust, safety, cooperate with each other. At the end of the first week, we started to practice kayak in the pool. The Erasmus students are excited for try it and do the wet exits. On the afternoon, we can get the kayak on the lake. On this second week, we have trust with the kayaks and we can do wet exits on the lake. We can get the kayaks when we want to use it. During this week, we talk about the planing of the Pallas trip too. Sini shows us all the clothes and food, we have to take it. The week ends on the forest, when we learn do tents and tarps.
When we arrived at the campus we were greeted by one of the tutors, that was Mika. Mika helps the students to find their way on the Nurmijarvi campus, answers all the questions the students have, drives people to the supermarket, tells a lot of Finnish jokes. He is probably the reason why everyone felt at home so quickly. The joker.
We lived on the 6th floor and 7th floor. The floors under us were hotel rooms. The area around the hotel and the building was quite big and there were many options for things to do. We could go to the Gym anytime we wanted to and the pool and the sauna were open from Monday to Friday. Downstairs on the 3rd floor we had a pool table and usually once a week there was a karaoke night for all hotel guests. In winter time we went on the lake and did a few activities on the lake, such ice swimming, ice fishing, cross country skiing…
As soon as the ice on the lake began to melt, we went swimming in the lake and took a boat to go around. We all had our rooms on the 6th floor. We were 16 Erasmus students and 3 Finnish students and we all shared a small kitchen together and the living room. It was really crowded from time to time and especially in the beginning, but we worked it out pretty well. We also organized some basic rules for the living together and a cleaning plan, which was necessary!
For class we had to go down to the 2nd floor, it started at 9am, so we didn’t even have to leave the building. Lunch was always at 11 in the cafeteria: we had to get used to this because it is so early. But the lunch was quite good and there was always a fresh salad and also a vegetarian or vegan option. You could also tell them if you have special diets.
We had to get used to the living together but it was really nice that there was always somebody to talk to. If we didn’t want to talk to anybody, we just went to our rooms and closed the doors. We respected our personal space and our belongings. We watched TV Shows together, had meals together, we had parties together and we shared many laughs together.
The area around campus offers a variety of possibilities if you are interested in different outdoor activities that are connected to nature. It is possible to borrow the equipment from the school if you don’t have your own. For example in winter time, when the lake was frozen, we borrowed some ice skates and wild nature skis from school and used them in the weekend to do some winter sports. We had a lot of fun, especially when our families were visiting us, who never tried something like this before.
The school also arranged some activities. For example in the school there was another course for people who were studying to become nature guides. One man had to do his exam and had to lead our international group. This was a good chance for him and us: one Saturday morning we went together with the group, met him and we all did some snowshoeing in the forest. It was a new and really fun experience for most of us. Snowshoes are used to walk on top of the deep snow, without falling in the snow. It looks like a duck’s leg. You can also use them to go down a hill. After that we all went to do some ice fishing together with the tour guide and made a fire outside to barbecue some sausages. It was a really fun day for all of us, filled with lot of new and different activities.
In general there are a lot of cross-country ski roads passing our campus area and it is very easy to go out of the house and do some winter sports. Nowadays, when the snow has melted, the roads become wonderful walking roads, where you can walk for hours and hours enjoying the wonderful nature during that time. In Finland forests are sometimes so wild that you might not meet anyone for hours when you’re walking. The forests are so beautiful and green and seem almost magical. If you are lucky, you will find another lake inside the forest, because Finland is a country with a lot of lakes. But even if you don`t meet people during your walk in forest you can still see a lot of cottages, because in Finland people like to come and spend their weekends there in the silence and peace.
The lake also gives a lot of sport opportunities in summer. You can have a nice rest in the sand next to the lake, you can go swimming or just enjoy the beautiful view.
Other nice options are disc golf and orienteering roads. For orienteering the main point and start is next to the campus: you can download the map in your mobile phone and after you can go to different points in the forest. You will register all these points with your mobile phone and then you will see where is the next point. You can run and try to do this as fast as possible and afterwards compare your time with others online. It is a really fun and exciting way to get to know the area better and also spend some nice time in this wonderful nature.
Sauna and ice swimming
On the 27th of February, when the local temperature was minus 27 degrees, the Erasmus group had the opportunity to use the sauna by the lake. Put more than ten women, some of which were still not comfortable with the blatant nudity, together in quite a small sauna and you will surely have a good time.
There was a cosy and relaxed atmosphere in the sauna. Whenever someone wanted to leave about 5 people had to move positions, but this added a humorous aspect to the experience.
It turned out that this was not our only challenge of the day: we also had the opportunity to go ice swimming, a very popular sport amongst the Finnish people. In the end to my surprise almost everyone ended up jumping the water.
Most of us only stayed under for a couple of seconds, but one Finnish student even decided to wash himself with some snow.
Reactions from home were mostly along the lines of: “You didn’t stay in there for a very long time, did you?” Next time, folks.
Below you can find a photo of the ice swimming experience.
Besides of sitting in the class rooms, we did also a little excursion in the adventure education. On a nice and sunny day in May we took the canoes and did a paddling trip around the lake Sääksjärvi . First our instructor did an exercise with the group to find out on what kind of stress level we were. After this she explained everything important to us and then we took the canoes and did a practice run to improve our skills and to familiarize us with the group and the methods to turn, to stop and to move forwards and backwards. After the lunchbreak we took the canoes again and we started paddling to the little island. We did a break around the island and then moved on to a little lake next to the big one. We had to paddle through a really small and narrow canal to reach the smaller one.
After all it was a great experience and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. More expressions are in the video below.
We had the most wonderful time on campus! Thank you for the amazing experiences!
Hello Helsinki visitor. I would like to invite you to read our blog in which we suggest you some of the most popular tourist attractions in the capital of Finland. We tried to collect some places which could be interesting for you and hope you will spend a nice time in the third largest city in the Nordic countries.
The Design Museum
By many people, Helsinki is known as a City of Design. In 2014 the city received the UNESCO title City of Design. You can’t leave Helsinki without taking a look at the Design District. Many galleries, design shops and museums are located in this area of the city, with the Design Museum as one of the highlights. The museum gives you an introduction in the history of design, even as contemporary design. The focus is on Finnish design, but there is also design from other countries housed in the museum. To check the current exhibitions, check the website: http://www.designmuseum.fi/en/. After visiting the museum, take some time to talk about what you just saw, drink a nice cup of coffee and let yourself inspire by each other.
The Cable Factory is the cultural centre of Helsinki. From 1940 until the ‘80s the building was used by Nokia to make cables. Nowadays it houses three museums: the Hotel and Restaurant Museum, the Finnish Museum of Photography and the Theatre Museum. Besides there is a book store, a restaurant, eleven galleries, art schools, artists bands, dance theatres and companies active in the creative industry. This makes it a perfect place for a relaxing cultural Sunday or just an easy way to see all kind of different cultural places without much travelling time.
pictures from : http://austria-forum.org/af/Geography/Europe/Finland/Pictures/Helsinki/Cable_Factory
and : http://www.yukiokumura.com/works/ss/helsinki.html
Close to the Rock Church, a small bookshop is hidden so well that you would almost cross it without giving it any attention. It is the perfect bookshop to visit as an Erasmus group, because you can find books from all over the world. Finnish, Swedish, Spanish, Italian, Hungarian, German, French… The chance is big that every student will find a book in her/his mother tongue. Beside the wide range of international books, the bookshop is already worth it to visit because of the friendly and hospitable owner, the old-fashioned design and the cosy ambiance. Take a book, buy a tea and set yourself in a chair to read in whatever language you want!
pictures from : http://www.arkadiabookshop.fi/photos/
The Winter Garden
No metter in which season you are visiting Helsinki, the Winter Garden is always a good choice. If you are interested in exotic plants and you need a place to relax, inside the garden you can enjoy your coffee or tea on the benches. In case you need guided tours should be negotiated in advance. In summer and autumn time you can also visit the Rose Garden in front of the Winter Garden.
In case if you are interested in ordinary sightseeing and you like churches than you should definitely visit the biggest one in Helsinki. This church is the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran cathedral of Helsinki. It was built from 1830-1852 and before it was known as St Nicholas’ Church until the independence of Finland in 1917. The church is built in neoclassical style with Greek cross plan. It can be easily found, it is only few minutes by walk from the city centre. This is one of the most most popular tourist atteactions in Helsinki, so do not skip it and enjoy the view from the top of the stairs in front of the church. For more informations about opening hours and history of the church use the website as a help:
When you read its name first time, maybe you think it is the church of rock music and Elvis Presley is the God. But actually it is a beautiful Lutheran church near to the city centre. Its Finnish name is Temppeliaukio Church. The church was designed by architects and brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and opened in 1969 and it is built directly into solid rock. That’s why it is one of the most interesting church what I have ever seen. You have to pay 3 Euros to enter, but defenetly worth it. The athmospher inside is impressive. The walls are rock, not the usual paintad wall. If you want to visit a special church then you have to go there.
If you ask me, this is the most beautiful and pleasureable place in Helsinki. Suomenlinna is a romantic island with a sea forthress. Its construction began in the mid-18th century, when Finland was still part of Sweden. You can reach it easily by public transport ferry from Market Square. It is a whole day programme, and if you listen to me, you have to see the sunset there. You are sitting on one of the rocks and enjoy the impressive view and athmosphere. I recommend you to go there weekday because in weekends it is probably crowded.
These are only a few interesting places and it is an absolutely subjective recommendation, however we tried to suggest to you the places where everyone might have fun. Of course, there are more popular tourist attractions beside we mentioned abow. All in all, We hope, our short collection was useful for you and we wish you a good time in Helsinki.
Around 65% of Finland’s total land mass is covered in forest, it’s no surprise the Fins have a strong connection to nature. It’s hardly possible to find a Fin who doesn’t appreciate the beautiful environment. This high percentage of forests means that there is around 4,2 hectares of forest (an estimated 13000) for EVERY Fin!
The forest has something magical. The first day we were here as Erasmus students we could not stop looking out of the window. All this nature! At home we live in the countryside, but we had never seen anything like this! The forest keeps going on and on…
To conserve this unique landscape and nature of the country, Metsähallitus (Administration of Forests) established the national parks all over the country.
These parks are large areas of nature conservation. They ensure that Finnish ecosystems and biotopes are maintained and give people the opportunity to go out and experience nature. They offer marked hiking routes, trails and sites to build campfires. For the longer hikes there are even shelters and huts that nature lovers can use free of charge.
Since the first national park was founded in 1938 (Pyhätunturi) there have been added 39 more. The total combined space of national parks nowadays makes up for 9.892km² or 2.5% of Finland. An estimate of 1.7 million people visits the national parks annually. Which is not bad for a country that only has 5.5 inhabitants.
When you take a time to look at every national park in Finland we can observe a real diversity and a big developed biodiversity. By the way, we can separate it in 3 big categories:
·Little Terrestrials Parks: In major cases locate in the South of the country, these parks have the mission of protecting a wild zone reduced by the urban areas of or cultivated areas. That category regroups a swamp, a geological curiosity or a non-exploited forest. Between 10 and 60 km2, the size still not that big. E.g.: Liesjärvi National Park.
·Riparian or Sailors parks: These parks are essentially a group of islands without inhabitants, they covered really little surfaces. That’s not officially free national parks, but the inconvenient for visiting it is the needing of have and use a boat –which can be payable-. E.g.: Linnansaari National Park.
·Lapland Parks or Koillismaa: These are by far the most visited, even if their gigantic surface relativizes attendance. They practically all have an area much larger than 100 km², or even 1000 km² (The aggregate area of only UKK, Pallas-Yllästunturi and Lemmenjoki parks represents 6 420 km², or 79% of the total area of the parks.
Did you know that in Finland there is something called Everyman’s right? Probably a lot of people heard about it, but what is it?
As we already mentioned the core of the Finnish culture is about having a close relationship with nature. The concept of Eveyman’s Rights means that you can walk freely in the forest. But is it just that? No!
Walk, cycle or ski in outside areas, except private gardens and land which is in a certain use, for example fields or other cultivated areas.
Spend a short period in areas where access is allowed, for example to put up a tent. But respect people’s privacy and don’t put it up too close to someone’s home.
Collect mushrooms, berries and flowers
Catch fishes with a rod and line. In winter you can do it through a hole in the ice à ice fishing
Walk on the ice during winter and go boating when the ice is melted.
You may not:
Harm the environment or bother other people or animals or birds while breeding season
Harm the trees or cut them down
Pick up moss, soil, lichen or wood
Leave your litter in the nature.
Use a motor vehicle off road without the permission of the landowner
Go fishing and hunting without appropriate permits
Violate the sphere of privacy of people’s homes
The Everymen’s rights give the same possibilities to everyone, it doesn’t matter who you are and where you come from. And it’s great because spending time in the nature contributes to a sense of well-being and it slows down our life which is too often too stressful. And the most important thing! It teaches us to value the small things in life – and that’s something which we forget more and more in our society.
Experiencing the everyman’s right in Nuuksio national park
In 50 minutes by car from our campus, we were in an incredible conserved area away from the city. Nuuksio National Park, a forest and lake paradise just 30 minutes away from the capital of Helsinki.
We went on a weekday, so no one was there. We hiked trough beautiful paths during 10 kilometers. The time past so fast because we were enjoying the views and the company so much. We had
lunch in a small island in one of the lakes that had a fireplace. We started the fire and grilled our sausages just like Fins do. Have you tried it? They were very tasty!! It was a very good experience, highly recommended!
We had been in Finland for almost a month when a once in a lifetime experience happened: Lapland.
We left on a Wednesday evening by night train and arrived in Rovaniemi Thursday morning at 7:30 am. We had our own cabin in the train so we weren’t disturbed during the night. Sleeping was a difficult quest and Leen and Rani ended up sleeping on the floor while Freya and Bente lied on the seats.
When we arrived we decided to put on more layers as it was much colder than down here, we had some breakfast and we started our adventure with a walk to the centre of Rovaniemi. After a half hour walk we got there and found somewhere to sit down for a bit and Skype with our lecturer, Juha. As we could only go to the home we rented at 16 o’clock we wasted some time in the city centre, had lunch and bought some food for the next 2 days. After that we found the bus towards our house.
Once we arrived at the home we decided to take a nap as we were already very tired and did not want to fall asleep during the reindeer sleigh ride.
At 8 PM we got picked up at our house and we were all very excited, we had already seen the Northern Lights. It was not the clearest vision because of the light pollution but that didn’t make it any less spectacular and beautiful. We also knew we were going somewhere without lights so it would be more clear to us soon.
Once we arrived at the ‘secret location’ of the reindeer safari, we got paired up for the ride. Rani and Freya sat together up front and Leen and Bente sat in the second sleigh. The three reindeers were called Willy, Yussi and Pikki, the third one had 2 other people who we didn’t know. After an amazing ride under the stars and in the forest of about 40 minutes we arrived at the destination point where a big tipi stood. Inside was a cosy fire where we sat for a while, drinking some hot berry juice and roasting some sausages, all while getting information about the location and the wildlife. To close off the night we got to feed the reindeers with their favourite treat: a mix of fungi and algae.
On the second day we went to Santa Claus Village, where we took a picture with Santa himself, got our reindeer driver’s license and grabbed something to eat.
Around noon we went on a husky sleigh ride. Before and after the rides we could pet the huskies through a fence and at the end we were allowed to get in the puppy pen and snuggle with them. The ride itself was beautiful and it was amazing to see how obedient the dogs were. We honestly didn’t want to leave.
That evening we went ‘Aurora Hunting’ and saw the Northern Lights even more clear than before. Rani and Freya also had an fun time jumping in the high snow, feeling like little kids again. On the way back to the starting point we were being transported by a snow train: a snowmobile with 3 carts attached to it. When we were almost there we crashed because our driver wanted to take a shortcut and didn’t take into account that the snow around the readymade path was very soft so we sank into it sideways. We all had a good laugh and luckily no one got hurt.
Our last day in Rovaniemi consisted of walking around the city, buying souvenirs and a visit to the Arktikum museum.
All in all we had an amazing time, it was a great adventure and we wouldn’t change a thing.
Rani Servranckx, Bente Van Looy, Freya Rostron & Leen Natalie Hofmans
Ruka, Lapland. Snow falling softly, gentle down on the ground and forming a smooth, thick bed of fluffy substance. The first thing you want to do when you see it is dive into it and crawl around. What do we have to do to make a winter trip in Lapland with 18 international students happen? We must all work together and divide the tasks for the trip and planning of the trip.
The adventure started with the preparations. We got an overview what and when each activity was going to happen during the week. We discussed about the roles within the group and then every student got a task. There were ‘day-leaders’, ‘kitchen masters’, ‘accommodation queens’ and more. We had an overall leader, and this time this was one of our students. Our teachers were only local guides when we would arrive in Ruka. We had to organise everything with the least help as possible.
Not only the day planning is important. Some of the challenges were waiting for us in the snow in Ruka. Before we went, we learned about hypothermia and frostbites, and not only theoretical. Like always in this course, the method of learning by doing was used. We practised how to secure somebody who has hypothermia in our classroom. We can already say, we were lucky and nobody had to be secured during the Ruka trip. But still it is important to know about these methods when someone will be in danger. After all the preparations and packing, the trip to Ruka could start.
It was Sunday morning around 9 o’clock when all our students and their luggage was in the bus off to Riihimaki. It was a long and tiring journey up North: Bus, train, train… 3 o’clock it is getting darker… Train, bus, 4 o’clock pitch black… Stop for some food… bus. Finally, we arrived at the cottages 2 hours later than planned. We prepared the beds, talked a bit and fell asleep to be energetic the next day, for our first day of winter sporting.
The first day we went snowshoe hiking. The leaders of the day decided to walk 8 km in total and have lunch in a nice hut next to the mountains top. We had two groups of 9 people. The ‘faster’ group and the ‘slower’ group, which meant one would go first and arrive at the hut and start the fire and the second would wait and walk slower to get to the hut. We got our equipment at the Ruka rental shop and started hiking. Nobody forgot the compass or map, so we were able to train our orienteering. Everybody who wanted to lead the group through the snow was welcome to do it. In our group, the day leader said: “We don’t want to do an easy way so there will be some challenge.” Therefore, we had to find our own way without following a certain path. We trained to use the baring on the compass and it worked all well. Heading for the lake, that would be in the middle of our way to the hut, we found it. It was already frozen so we were able to walk over it our leader said. But next to the lake there was a swampy part which was not fully frozen, and it made “gggrchhhhh” sounds and one of our group members got her feet wet, up to her knee. This was a somewhat critical situation, since we had to find the hut and fire to warm us fast now. Cold temperature and wet feet are something you really have to take serious because it can get very ugly. If we wouldn’t have had spare socks with us, the chance of a frostbite would have been very high. Luckily, we were prepared and we could walk further to find the hut.
We walked up the white and fairy tale looking hill in front of us, but it was not always easy to find the right way. It was exhausting to walk through the swampy area. And the snow was high and difficult to hike through. To walk in the front needed a lot more energy than to walk in the back because the path was already made by the people in front of you. But we reached the hut and enjoyed the lunch before we climbed to the top of the ‘mountain’. (Actually, Finland doesn’t have any real mountains, since a mountain has to be above 1 km and the hill in Ruka is 500 metres. Just a nice fact.) From the top, we had an amazing view over the area. We were almost able to see Russia, but the clouds averted this. After this beautiful viewpoint, we walked back to the village and then again, we had a little stop close to the end and reflected the day. Back home we cooked dinner, went to the sauna and fell washed-out but happy into a deep sleep.
Without too much sleep, the next day started. This day the activity was going to be cross-country skiing. Almost nobody did it before. For the students who were used to stand on Alpine skis, it was very difficult, because it is completely different from downhill skiing. Everybody got it in the end and managed to ride the long thin skis down the trail. When there was a “big” slope which we had to ride down from, nearly everybody fell, but all came back without injuring. We had a lot of fun.
On the third day, we again had a new challenge. This day, everyone could choose between learning to ski or snowboard, and two of our students could get intermediate training because they already were able to ski or snowboard. There was a big difference in the level of experience, but there was a lesson fit for everyone because the more advanced skier and snowboarder could teach the other group members together with the instructor. They started on the baby slope, but at the end of the day they already went of the blue and sometimes red slopes. Even though the snowboarders fell dozens of times, they also picked it up really fast and joined the skiers on the slopes. We had a lot of fun helping each other and improving our techniques but also just playing in the snow together.
Last but not least, we were invited to a secret place for a meeting with the teachers somewhere close to the huts. With a little drawn map we navigated us to the spot and got a snack and a warm drink. This was the final reflection of the trip and a goodbye to the teachers who were going to stay in Lapland.
We drove home in the busses, trains and busses again, all worn out, sore from the sporting but content. Someday some of us will be the overall leaders for these trips and plan everything alone or with someone else. We learn a lot!
For our study we need to do a project, Schools on the Move, with different targed groups. There were tree targed groups (childeren, young adults and adults) that did two different days given by the students. There were 8 instructors for 60 childeren, 6 instructors for 40 young adults and 4 instructors for 20 adults. We had one week to prepair the first days and one week to prepair the second day. We write a short text about the different targed groups.
We worked in a group of 8 instructors with 60 children of 12 years old. We set some goals for the activity days as gaining communication skills, social skills and team work skills. All the different activities prepared for them made them work on those goals.
Our planning was well made and we didn’t have many struggles with it,
everyone took responsibility for the time, the rotation of the groups, their own game and the atmosphere.
The first day appeared more difficult than the second day, as we didn’t know yet how the kids characters were and how they would behave, aswell as their teachers. Also the structure of our activities and routine was not clear then.
Eventhough we thought trough nearly everything, we had to learn and experience that it is not possible to think of everything and you have to be prepared for unexpected things to happen. The language barrier e.g. was a big challenge for us which we didn’t expect to encounter. We also improved ourselves learning about all the new activities and ways to teach kids, in our future work-life we will definitely take these experiences with us.
To me the Schools on The Move project was a great working experience. Working with so many different people and cultures with diferents ways of thinking and also put in practice our new gained knowledge with Finnish children I enjoyed!
The second target group was mixed up from two HUMAK courses from another campus, Kauniainen. The students of age between 18 and 40 study either Sign Language or Cultural Management. As both courses started their studies together but got study wise separated shortly after, the goals of the two activity days were to bring them back in contact build trust and gain communication skills.
After receiving all the needed information to create a group forming and teambuilding event, the group of Adventure Sports students developed the first activity day for the 40 expected students at the campus in Kauniainen. The activities and exercises mainly took part outside.
which worked out perfectly, thanks to the weather, showing itself off from its best side. Even though the number of students appeared smaller than expected the ones who participated clearly enjoyed the day!
For the second day, the group of instructors had to face some unexpected challenges. The group of participants had shrunken to its smallest due to the distance the students would have had to travel to participate. Luckily a few Adventure course students who had a day off, jumped in and volunteered to participate aside the Kauniainen students. The second day turned out to be as successful as the first and besides fun and a good atmosphere, the groups took some new gained friendships with them.
Four of us organized the activity days for Wilderness Guides from Kiljava Institute. A group of 20 people with ages from mid twenty till sixty years old. The group was studying together for three months now, learning mostly technical wilderness guide skills. During their studies, they didn’t really get into teamwork, roles in the group and getting to know each other in different situations. Of course, these were perfect goals for the activity days!
The two days both had teambuilding and having fun as a goal, but the days had different themes. The first day was all about ‘trust’. During the day the activities builded up from easier trusting games, both indoors and outdoors, to more challenging activities such as catching and lifting each other, leading and following while being blindfolded. The atmosphere was good and the group obviously had quite some trust in each other and gained even more during the day.
The theme of the second day was the ‘roles in the group’. More problem-solving, working together with the whole group and reflecting on the roles in the group. Even though less people showed up (only 8 from the 20 – the group was unfortunately really busy with their own projects), the schedule was a little adjusted and the group had some nice challenges they managed really well. Saving a treasure from an acid lake, building a tower with marshmallows and spaghetti, conquering a low rope parcours for example but also trying not to laugh when somebody pretends to be a cat right in front of your face – yes, there was also room for a lot of fun. And that’s also what the group realized; that it was so much fun to do activities like this together and that they would really like to to this more often. Mission accomplished!
In the first week, we already learned a lot. This was also necessary because the second week we would already go on a hike trip in Lapland.
In this first week, we tried out the trangias at the beach next to the school and prepared a meal. Another day we put up the tents and the tarps in the forest, so we would know how to do it when we were hiking. We learned how and what to pack in our backpacks, what necessary clothes are and how you put on different layers. We needed to make a food plan. In this food plan, we thought about the right amounts of food to bring, so we don’t have too much or too little food. Finally, we learned how to read the signs on the map, for example how far the walk is from point A to point B.
We started the second week
We packet our tents and necessary material for the hike and we left to the train station. After a long long long way up to the north, we finally arrived to Kemi. From there, the journey was still three hours, until arrival at Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. After arriving, we knew how to put on the backpacks the right way, and we started orienteering ourselves with the map and compass.
When we arrived to Hietajarvi, the first camping spot, we had to show our skills mounting the tents and tarps. We learned new practical skills, like chopping wood, using the knives for getting the fire started, pooping in the wild without harming the nature and learning about the National Park and “every men’s rights”. In the mean while we had nice company of A LOT of mosquitos. Even though they told us, you don’t need your insect repellant 😉
The second day started with some group dynamic exercises, which included some nice massages. It is always useful if you are an instructor and want a cohesive group, gaining trust in each other and want to get everyone in a good mood to start with a good exercise. Later we had a workshop for orienteering skills, it was about how to situate yourself on the map via your surroundings, and not to only trust the marked paths but also to double check on the map.
During this day, we experienced how it is to be a leader and to be the last man of the group. We have seen and felt the importance of supporting all the group members, adapting to others group members and taking care of each other. There was space for experimenting with new (leadership) behavior and finding your role in the group.
After a very nice walk through the beautiful nature of Finish Lapland and seeing reindeers we arrived at our second destination. We were all happy with the sauna and we could sleep in a warm hut. What a treat! This evening we got more responsibilities and made our own schedule for the next day, were we had to calculate a good wake up time, time for cleaning the hut and getting yourself ready for the hike and enough time for the hike.
The third day we went across rivers helping each other and climbing Tappuri’s mountain. We had to discuss what’s the easiest way to climb to the top and to go down. The last part of the hike trip we walked without an instructor and we needed to use and show our new technical skills and leadership skills.
The fourth and final day of our hiking trip was the most independent day. We walked 8 km alone within groups of 5 people, were one was the leader. We had to cross a river, using our learnt abilities for helping the others and working together in a group.
After we came back from the amazing hike trip, we had a couple of days off to reload our self with new energies for the next adventure sport kayaking.
The first kayak session was plant in the pool where we started to train the wet exit. We were excited but not everybody was comfortable to capsize the kayak. Many of us never did this before, so it was awesome to see people getting out of their comfort zone. Everybody succeeded the wet exit and we had a lot of fun. In the afternoon went for a canoe paddle training to get familiar with the lake and getting use to paddling.
The rest of the week we gain a lot of skills in kayaking. Think about basic techniques like paddling straight, making turns, making a float and paddling backwards. After that we also practiced how to move your kayak sideways, how to stop, sweep move ect. We also needed to practice the wet exit in the lake! Nobody know why exactly but some people where so excited about this exercise that they started to practice earlier than planned. It was great that they knew how they could get out of the kayak so it turned out to be fun!
Then the rest of the group also needed to get their clothes wet and we all trained the wet exit in the cold water. How did we get warm again? SAUNA for everybody!!!
Climbing & Low ropes
This last week we have been busy with climbing. Comparing to the hiking on the ground and kayaking in the water we are now working on getting skills with highs. We got to partner up with somebody and started with the basics of belaying outside on the school ground.
The next day we went together with the finish students to the wall climb hall at Helsinki. For some of us it was new, so we started with a step by step method and the people that already knew about the climbing where helping to teach the others. We learned that climbing is built on trust and believing in you self. Furthermore, it is very important that you stick to the safety rules and focus all the time on your belaying and climber. The feeling of falling down and the experience of climbing to the roof is an emotional and strong skill, and useful in adventure education. After the morning, we had been working on our own at different types of climbing; there was top rope climbing, bouldering and a wall with self-belaying. It was a successful experience and most of us plan to do it again.
Another form to climb is working with slack lines and low ropes. We have been challenged by different low rope exercises that mean that we need cooperation, communication and trust in each other. Then we had to build our own low rope parkour where we figured out that we could create a fun and save climbing area by our self. We learned different forms to hang the low ropes in the tree. This is very valuable to our skills and teaching knowledge.
The last weeks we learned a lot. It’s very motivating to learn and practice this methods and new skills so we can take them home to our countries and introduce them over there.
During the week before school started all Erasmus students arrived at Kiljavan Opisto campus. Day after day the group got bigger and by the end of the week we were with 18 exchange students from different nationalities. It was really interesting to get to know all the different people and their own background stories. To get to know the environment where we were going to spend three months of our life’s we immediately started doing activities with the whole group in the weekend like hiking, cycling, sporting, etc. In the beginning it was really hard to live with everybody together on one floor and share everything, it was something that not everybody was familiar with so it took some time and planning to get used to it.
WEEK 2: START OF SCHOOL
Finally school started and we were all curious about it because we had heard a lot about the course and we could finally learn more about the next months and our study program. When entering the classroom both excited and a little bit nervous, the teachers made us feel really welcome from the very beginning. After we got the basic information about our studies and the use of online communication platforms the real classes could finally start.
We got to know that we were going on a hiking trip to Pallas National Park in Lapland the week after, that seemed so close for everybody that we all got a little bit stressed with the preparations. But later in the week the teachers helped us a lot with planning everything to the smallest details, for example we had to make a food plan for the whole week, got a list with all the equipment we needed and learned a lot about safety that could help us during the trip.
WEEK 3: PALLAS
On Monday the whole journey started and it turned out to be a long day and night. At first we had to do the final packing of our bags before we could leave with the bus to catch the train later on. Everybody left campus really prepared and looking forward to the week in the National Park. After a long train- and bus ride we continued the trip by foot. During the following days we walked circa 33 kilometers full of ups and downs. We ran into several kinds of problems, some a little bit bigger than the others, but we were always able to solve it as a group.
The trip was very captivating for all of us because we got to practice a lot of skills, got to know each other but also ourselves. Everybody experienced the trip in a different kind of way but it made us a better group. And even though we’ve learned a lot and it was a school trip, we still got the room to enjoy the amazing nature and it’s gifts like the snow and the reindeers!
After another long trip back home we enjoyed the small luxuries like a hot shower and our cozy beds a lot more.
Going on an Erasmus adventure in Kiljava has been a great experience for all of us. We had the opportunities to experience the Finnish culture and to meet new people from all over Europe. We now know for sure that we will miss the Finnish traditions, such as eating cinnamon breads or going to the sauna totally naked on daily basis. A lot of our Erasmus students went first to our private gym or private swimming pool, to go chilling after that in the sauna. Your body feels totally great when you do that!
During our Erasmus programme, we had the opportunity to travel a lot. We travelled in Finland to Lapland and to neighbour countries, such as Russia and Estonia. We saw the northern lights, as well in Lapland as in Kiljava on our own roof! We could experience the joy of nature in our ‘garden’. It was a privilege for us that we could go walking around the lake, into the woods or on the beach at the moments that we wanted. But the best experience that we had this semester was that we made friends for the rest of our lives.
Of course, going on Erasmus has also a difficult part. At the end of the programme, we have to say goodbye to everyone and to the environment and we must go back home. These weeks are now our last few weeks, so after three months of Erasmus, we are making ourselves ready to go home again. The flights are already booked and the last days of school will start next week. After our last week of school, we will go back to our earlier life, which will feel very strange in the beginning. We will all go back to our families and back to our home countries and we have to leave our new life and our new friends behind. We must go back to reality. Going back to reality will not be easy and can cause a few problems, such as an Erasmus dip. But no worries, we provided a few solutions for these problems!!
The first thing that you should definitely do, is keep in touch with all your Erasmus friends. Just because you can’t walk into each other’s rooms or go to the gym or sauna together, doesn’t mean that you can’t stay in contact with each other. You can use all kinds of communication for this: Facebook chat, Skype, WhatsApp or even letters.
The second solution for the Erasmus dip is bringing your Erasmus memories back to your home country. You can for example put pictures or postcards from your favourite places in your room. Looking at this pictures and postcards will give you some happy moments during the lonely days.
The third solution is travelling. You have friends now from all over Europe! That’s a great chance for you to travel and to meet your friends’ hometowns. You can also invite your new friends in your own city and host them!
The next solution to get rid of your Erasmus dip is getting a new tattoo! Five out of twelve people here in Kiljava Opisto already have an Erasmus tattoo. This is a lifetime reminder on the wonderful time you’ve had during your Erasmus adventure. These tattoos are also nice to show each other when you planned your next reunion!
Next, you have to remember that you can always go back to the place where it all begun. Come back to Helsinki and to Kiljava Opisto, with your friends or alone, and experience the adventure all over again. You are now an expert in the Finnish culture and your friends will love to be guided in your ‘hometown’.
Our last solution is talking with people back home. Of course, you will feel lonely the first few days or the first few weeks, but when you tell all of your Erasmus stories to your friends back home, you can experience the best moments again. This is surely also a win-win-situation, because they will definitely hear all of your experiences!
As we already told you, the first weeks will be hard and difficult. Don’t be sad when you experience these difficulties. Think about the perfect moments that you experienced, the beautiful sunsets that you saw and the best friends that you made and you will feel soon happy again! We will miss you, but we will also meet again soon!