Get Finternational course

One of the reasons that I was excited to go to Finland was to experience a different country and culture. I didn’t know much about the culture here so I decided to take the Finternational course instead of the language course. I believed I got more out of learning about the culture then the language. Also because I was in clinical placement so I figured I would understand my colleagues and patient better if I understood their culture. It turns out I was right. The Finnish course started a couple of weeks after I arrived here. Till then I heard only a few things about the culture and the stereotypical people here. I was told the Finnish are introvert, on their own, and very punctual. They also said that Finnish people are not likely to invite people and I have to invite myself – that’s totally normal which for me is very impolite. The Finternational course was really helpful with understanding the culture here and cultures in general. I must say that in the beginning I had some awkward moments when talking to colleagues. For example when there were sudden silences. For them it was normal, for me it was awkward. The courses and the passport there were really nice events and colleges. It helped with experience typical Finnish events and to get to know other cultures. A very nice event was the blueberry pie baking. Berries are very typical for Finland so it was nice to make a cake with berries. At the end of the course I need to write a final report where I talk about the culture differences in my home country and Finland. In order to write the final report, I need to have all the stamps in my passport.

bakingblueberry

Text and photos by Danielle Matser

Traveling in Finland

I’ve been travelling a lot in Finland since I arrived here. I’ve been to Helsinki a couple of times, to visit the city and to transit. I’ve also been to Lapland by bus. I travelled to Helsinki by Onnibus and by train. Both ways have an equal duration, but the bus is usually cheaper. Another possibility is by car, but that is the most expensive option. If a ticket by bus is booked some time beforehand, it can be just 5 euros back and forth. I usually paid around 15 euros. Whether a train ticket is around 21 euros, only for one way. Sometimes the train has a student deal; then it’s possible to travel for only 15 euros return. Both the bus and the train have free Wi-Fi and the travel comfort is high. The tickets for the bus and train can be booked with a credit card. The Onnibus leaves at 3 places in Turku, you can pick where you want to depart during booking. The Onnibus arrives right in the center of Helsinki. From there, everything is reachable by foot. For greater distances there are busses and trams.

The train departs also in Turku, from either the main station or Kupittaa. The stations can be easily reached by bus. The train also arrives in the center of Helsinki. This are two easy options to go to Helsinki.

So about the way to Lapland. I travelled by bus. There’s also a possibility to travel by train and airplane, but I don’t have experience with those. The bus was the cheapest option – because we went with a large group. The bus drove us through the night, so we had the possibility to sleep in the bus. This is not very comfortable, there are a lot of noises around and let face it: your sitting instead of lying down. An advantage of driving through the night is that there is no day wasted for travelling. It may not be very comfortable, but driving through the night is the best option. Either with bus or train.

Text by Danielle Matser

Free time activities

My third week here in Finland has been a week that has had a lot things going on as classes have started this week and as for our free days, we have definitely not let them pass us by. To start the weeks off we decided we would throw ourselves into the Finnish culture (quite literally) by going ice swimming. When we arrived at the lake in Rykmentintie with the outside temperature of -1 degrees the only question going through my mind was why I had allowed myself to get into this. As I thought of having to get into swimming gear to walk outside into the freezing cold to jump into a frozen lake, the only thing I could do was laugh over the madness of it and embrace the experience now that Finland is officially my home for the next four months or so and an experience it definitely proved to be. The effects were not exactly what I expected them to be. I didn’t expect to witness the sensation of feeling totally refreshed and relaxed afterwards, but after experiencing such cold water and then spending time to relax and get the body temperature up a bit in the sauna afterwards; refreshed is exactly how we all felt and weirdly we now understand why the Finnish people keep up this very unusual hobby. It is definitely something I would advise anyone who visits Finland to try, even though I’m sure I would receive the same look that I initially gave to the person who suggested we try it.

Swimming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Monday, our student tutors kindly invited us over to their apartment to make cinnamon rolls and buns which are a typical Finnish tradition. I really enjoyed this as we were able to relax and meet a few different friends of our tutors as well as other exchange students they had invited round. It is safe to say, how the Finns make cinnamon rolls is a far cry from how we do back home. They tasted so good that I was determined to get the recipe from Milja so I could have an attempt at baking them when I get home. The second buns we made were Finnish buns called Laskiaispulla which are buns filled with jam and cream, they proved to be very delicious. Our student tutor explained to us that these particular buns have been a tradition in Finland since 1800 and they predate Christian influences marking the beginning of lent just before Easter. For modern day Finns the buns are usually baked to mark the end of the darkest part of the year. I don’t think any of us have ever eaten a dessert that has an actual meaning to it that we are aware of – a first for most of us.

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Since Turku is our host city we decided that it would be nice to find out a little bit of the history of the city, so we came up with the idea of visiting Turku Castle. We found out that this castle is the largest surviving medieval building in Finland. Building of the castle first commenced around the time of 1280 and the Swedish conquerors of Finland intended the castle to be used as a military fortress. Since that time the castle has seen some very different changes as it’s role became the home of former monarchies of Finland. The day spent walking around the castle was very interesting and it was nice to get a flavour of Finnish culture all those years ago as in the next few months of being here it will be interesting to see how far Finland has come culturally.

group
Text and photos by Aimee Chambers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Public transport

In Switzerland the most common public transport is by train. Even in a small village is a train station. Of course we also have buses, but they are not as often in use as the trains. When I first came here I was surprised that in Turku or should I say in nearly whole Finland are buses more common.

I think the bus system in Switzerland is easier to use than the system in Turku, but that’s maybe just because I am used to it. Whatever, when I first used the bus I couldn’t figure out where I had to leave to bus, because nowhere in the bus was written where we were and what the name of the next bus stop was.

So I was sitting in the bus, and at some point I just got out and found myself in the middle of nowhere. Thanks to my offline map app, I was able to find my way back to my apartment. Now that I know how my bus stop looks like, I am up to get off at the right place.

But when I want to go to a new place, I am still struggling with the system. I usually use the Föli web page to figure out which bus I have to take and where to get off. I figured out, that the bus stops have numbers, so whenever I can, I try to count how many stops I have to pass till it’s mine. And what also helps is to print screen the map from foli.fi. You can see how many stops the bus is going to make.

Furthermore, the craziest thing is that you have to wave for the bus. That’s very uncommon. In Switzerland the bus stops at every station where people stand.

Föli

 

Text and photo by Saskia Kozak

My journey to Stockholm

I was excited. Not only was I going to meet my sister, but also seeing a new city.

Matilda, a Swedish girl who lives next to my room in Student’s village suggested me to book the Viking line ferry. When I first had a look on the internet, I was surprised how cheap the whole trip will be. A roundtrip with a cabin for both ways was just supposed to cost 70 Euros.

After I spoke with my sister about the timetables I figured out, that I have to take another ferry. So the price increased to 100 Euros. But still, the price was fine for me. Due to the fact that I had to book a cabin for 4 people I asked around to find other persons who wanted to join me. Finally Ruben, also a neighbour of mine decided to come with me.

On Thursday evening we met in our floor to take the bus at 7:30pm. When we arrived at the ferry we both were overwhelmed about the ferry. It looked so huge and elegant. The first few minutes in our cabin I felt like a little princess. It looked so luxurious and comfortable. After taking all the new impressions in, we went outside to discover the ferry. On board was everything, even a spa, a club and a small casino.  Of course we also had a look at the alcohol section in Duty free, but the prices were not that low as we expected them to be.

Ferry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a short night and a lack of sleep we arrived in Stockholm at 6:30am. The sky was, of course, still dark and it was snowing. That is why my first impression of Stockholm was not that special. It reminded me a lot of Finland. In Stockholm it was very easy to find a coffee shop, because they are located at every corner. After a warm coffee and a Swedish cinnamon roll we walked a little through the city. My sister was supposed to land at 11am, so I took the (in my opinion to expensive) bus alone to the Arlanda airport. Ruben wanted to meet his friend at noon, that’s why we split up.

When I saw my sister I was full of happiness. Together again. Well, honestly we have last seen each other on the second of January. But it felt like forever! We took the bus back to Stockholm city and talked the whole ride. There was a lot to tell about, the first few weeks in Student’s village, the first few courses at university and of course also the first few nights out. After storing our suitcases in the hotel, we went back to the city centre and allowed us to try one piece of the Swedish pastry called “Semla”.

pulla

It is hard to describe how it tasted. It was a mix of sweet bread with vanilla cream and almond mousse. So far, it was very nice, but for me a little bit too sweet. With new energy we met Ruben to do a little sightseeing tour. We went to the famous Vasa museum where we visited the amazing ship. It looks breath-taking with all the tiny figures made of wood. After five o’clock we had to leave the museum because it closed. Despite the chilly wind we decided to walk to old town via the central station. The walk took us nearly 2 hours, but it was worth it. The houses are decorated with old fashioned clocks and wild growing plants. As soon as we have seen the palace we decided to go back to the centre to have a coffee in Wayne’s coffee to heat up.

Due to our empty stomachs we asked for a device where we can have an affordable dinner. The waitress suggested us to go to Vapiano.

Vapiano

 

 

 

 

 

 

First we wanted to have some typical Swedish food, but the feeling of starving was stronger. So we went to the nearby Vapiano restaurant. Unfortunately there was a waiting time about 50 minutes. However, the warm and windless restaurant had its power. After waiting for nearly an hour we had an amazing dinner. I ate some pesto rosso, which was more than delicious. But by finishing the dinner, it was already half past nine. My sister and I decided to go back to our hotel to fill up our lack of sleep. But we had still so much to talk about, that we did not fall asleep before midnight.

We started the next day with a sight-seeing bus tour, which was definitely not worth the money. But at least the seats were comfortable and the bus was nicely warm. By noon we went back to the city centre to have some food. We found a nice store which is called “coop”. We have a similar one in Switzerland; maybe that is why we straight went into this store. We bought there some salad from the salad buffet and sat in the central station for a little while.

The afternoon we spent mostly with shopping, because Sweden seemed so cheap in comparison with Finland. Also for my sister it was very nice, because we do not have sections like H&M Home or Zara Home. After a few hours of shopping we were again hungry and decided, shame on us, to have lunch again in Vapiano. Fortunately the waiting time was “just” about 20 minutes.

I saw on Facebook that a friend of mine was also in Stockholm. Spontaneous we met them and Ruben in the central station to have a drink. Fabian, my friend, suggested to go to the ice bar, which is, guess what?! – made out of ice. The entrance was 190 which is 19 Euros. My first thought was, that it is quite expensive to just go in. But the first drink was already included. After paying we got some coats and gloves. It was naturally quite cold in the bar. The glasses in which we got our drinks were also made out of ice. It was a nice and special experience. Despite the convincing words from Fabian, my sister and I decided not to go out, instead having a nice lazy evening in our hotel.

The next morning started very early. The alarm clock rang at 4:55am, because Ruben’s and my ferry was supposed to leave at 7:30. My sister’s flight was set at 11:45am but she decided to come with me to the city centre and wait at the airport. After we bought some grocery for the ferry trip, which takes 12 hours, my sister and I met Ruben again. We all went together to the bus gates. The saying goodbye was not as hard as I expected it to be, because I know that I will see her in April again. But a long hug was still necessary.

Ruben and I took the bus to the harbour and decided on the way, that we should ask for available cabins. As soon as we arrived at the check in desk we asked and booked immediately a cabin for us. The way back to Turku was long, but very relaxing. We talked a lot and had a nice time. But still, 12 hours are a long time!

All in all, Stockholm is a very nice city with its different houses and districts. The city seems to have a square for everyone. The only negative aspect is, that there are a lot of homeless people on the streets. Nearly everywhere we had been asking about giving them some money. That was quite exhausting, but as I already said, that is definitely the only negative aspect.

So if someone wants to go to Stockholm from Turku, book for sure a cabin for each way, travel if possible during the night, visit the ice bar, the old town and have one dinner or lunch in Vapiano. =)

Text and photos by Saskia Kozak