Traveling in Finland

When I was accepted in Finland for my ERASMUS year, I immediately understood that I was traveled a lot around.

Russia, Estonia, Lithuania, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, everything is close and within range of hands!  But I was looking forward for one travel in particular, the Lapland trip. Dreaming like a child to discover the Santa Claus village, reindeers, sled dogs and snow will.Pollaert3

Unfortunately one of my friends was not enough quickly the sign up day to join us for this ESN trip, so we decided to organize by our self on 2 weeks.

It was the best adventure ever, we book everything and we left in Lapland at -12 degrees only with one backpack. After 15 hours of bus we finally arrived in the flat of a smiling Finnish guy in Rovaniemi! The first activity was meet Santa Claus of course! We also hiking a lot, and visiting the natural history museum! After few day, we moved to Levi, the biggest ski station in Finland! We travel a lot, did a lot of activities likes sled dogs, snowmobile, sauna and everything!

Lapland is full of crazy landscape and pink sky! Each day was different and wonderful because of the snow and trees! I have not had the chance to see aurora borealis at this trip but I have seen some already from Turku last summer!

My favorite part was discovered the life of Lapland peoples, it look a bit different of the rest of Lapland, peoples are more traditional and I found some other food  that I never taste, stuff like kuksa cup, typical old Lapland close in the museum ! Lapland is really more like an old and cold part of Finland, but still amazing!

I learn a lot about this travel, about the country, the culture but also about myself, and my friends!

Text & photo: Estelle Pollaert

”My day as a student in Finland”

Pollaert2We are the weekend of 1st of May, and all Finland looks like waiting this weekend until the last one.

All my Finnish friends told me “it’s Vappu!!”  and my lonely planet guide write “you can’t miss this event” so I was looking forward for that. On Thursday 28 of May we start to partying, “Pre Vappu “ as said, same on Friday, and same on Saturday and we didn’t stop!

I never see so many peoples outside; the best part was to see so different peoples, not only students, but also family and old peoples sharing everything with everybody!

Most of the peoples wear a sailor hat, they explained me that a tradition to wear that at Vappu, it’s also the end of the school year for students; they are graduate so they get this! There was also balloons everywhere, and usually we must eat donuts! Vappu celebrate a lot of things, students, Labour Day, and the coming of spring and it’s a very old tradition in Finland, there is party and picnic everywhere in the country!

On Sunday I went on ESN event at educarium, every student was chilling and enjoys sun around a concert. Around 5 everybody is gone to the hill museum, and a very important speech start. I never saw so much people at the same place In Turku, it was crazy, usually there is nobody, the city is empty and suddenly everyone became!

After that we partying one more time, and on Sunday, the Vappu day, we went on the biggest picnic of Turku, in a park next to the observatory, it was full of students and family, eating, drinking, making BBQ, singing, dancing an explosion of joy !

Finland surprises me every day, the kindness of peoples, your open minded and your extraordinary way to party!

Text & photo: Estelle Pollaert

Curiosities of Finnish people & culture

In February my friend ask me to go to public sauna and ice swimming in Uittamo and we go there.

I was surprised to see so many people swimming in a decontracted way in water at -2 degrees.  I never been in a public sauna before, my student place get one small sauna but this one was totally different. A very big room, with a wood heating in the center and everybody was seating all around it on big stairs, and more you seat near the ceiling, more its warm!

The second thing that surprised me was the ambience, we always say Finnish peoples are shy and quiet, but this place was looking like a Bar! Everybody was speaking loudly, and laughed! And they didn’t hesitate to speak with us! It’s a bit strange to speak and share things more or less naked with people that you never meet before, but it’s an amazing experience! Finnish people get a very open minded relation about the body and nudity, in France it’s totally different, peoples are very modest.

I was also surprised in a funny way about the sauna beanie, it’s something very interesting. Most of the people wear a sharp wool-felt cap, looking like a cute leprechaun, I asked my Finnish friends to know why but they told me it’s more like a tradition because now young people don’t do that again.

After 5 minutes in the sauna (my body was already burning) we went to the ice water.Pollaert1

It’s crazy because I was frozen 10 minutes before to go to sauna and after that I could have a picnic in swimsuit outside at -5 degrees without problem. So, after running to the bridge leading to the sea (because bridge’s floor is metal of course, so my feet was starting to frozen) I was not sure to really want to go to frozen sea, it was dark, and ice floated everywhere, I put one foot, and a Finnish guy told me “No No No just go inside entirely, don’t think go!” and I jump inside. How to describe this feeling, I would say cold but it was better! It’s something amazing and totally positive, you can’t feel this sensation if you don’t do that one time in your life! And best part is when you go outside the water, you can for sure stay outside for a long time, and your body makes smoke!  Anyway, most of Finnish people stay outside, seating on bench with a drink and speaking together. After that we came back to the sauna and did it again two times!

Text & photo: Estelle Pollaert

Places to visit

One of the most interesting places I visited during my time at TUAS was Turku castle. It was great to see how the castle developed over time and the way the people lived within it. They also offer student discount there so it is a relatively small price to pay for a few hours looking around.Chalita5

A day trip to Helsinki is very cheap if booked in advance. I have been there a couple of times and both times cost me 10 euros for a return trip. The trip is about two hours by bus and is definitely worth the trip. I found Helsinki very different from Turku.

With Turku having its own harbor it was a great experience to try a Viking Line cruise. I travelled to Stockholm, Sweden. You can get a return trip for 4 people for about 80euros. Both of my journeys were overnight and I spent the day in Stockholm. I really enjoyed the cruise experience with so many different things you can do while on board.Chalita6

I found the trip a great learning curve to see the similarities and differences between Finland and Sweden. The architecture of the buildings is very impressive and it is a must visit if you have 2/3 available days. There are other places that you can visit using Viking Line that I hope to do before I leave. Estonia is next place to visit.

Seeing the Northern Lights was one of my highlights of my time here. I was lucky enough to first see them from the balcony at my student accommodation which lead me to want to Lapland. There are many trips organized by students and if you cannot go at that time they are happy to help you plan.

Text & photos: Chalita Maimeetuk

Internship

I was lucky enough to have my internship within TUAS. I worked with all the international coordinators. They gave me a great insight into how much work is required to help all theChalita3 students that come over each term. I had to help prepare for large numbers of people coming to events within the university campus. It was great to see all the differences from my own university in Thailand. Everyone was really friendly and helped when I did not understand something. Some days they even shared cake with me. I felt great to work with such nice people as well as learning their culture. Each week I worked with different people in different buildings. There were many similarities in the way they work but with just different students.

Some of the work was challenging as some of the work I had to do around people that were only speaking Finnish to each other so I had to guess some things that were going on.Chalita4

The most interesting part was when the student tutors were filming videos for incoming international students for next term. My student tutor was big help to me when I first got here so I know how important the process is.

I would highly recommend doing an internship within the university. It was a great learning experience and everyone was great to work with.

Text & photos: Chalita Maimeetuk