Turku castle

My friend asked me to attend Turku castle with him and his student tutor Pinja. I had wanted to see the city of Turku along with the Finnish culture, so I took him up on the offer.

I was glad I did, we paid the student price with our discount card given to us at the beginning at the semester and continued on into the old castle. It reminded me a bit of a castle we have back home.

A guide tells a story as you walk through, about the middle-ages period in Finland. Throughout the castle are many rooms – some decorated with art and pictures of kings, others with furniture and clothing worn by royals. An enchanting ballroom, church and treasure room, along with models of the original castle structure.

We were told that the building still stands as it did those many years ago. We stopped to wonder what it had been like back then…and then we went off to have some lunch in the café located indoors, proceeded by the gift shop where you can buy anything from post cards to battle armor.

I have also attended other museums while being in Turku, but this was definitely one of my favorites.

Text: Valerie McDermott

My trip to Lapland

I attended a few ESN events since I became more comfortable with my campus and surroundings, including an international food evening, speed friending, club parties and the most unforgettable trip to Lapland, Finland.

I had only heard about Lapland from reading stories by other tourists that had visited. ‘Number one place to see the northern lights,’ one said. The pictures attached to these stories were even more unbelievable. Living in a big city back home, I can only dream of such places. I had to go.

Me and a friend of mine from my home college agreed that we would attend the trip. In our preparations beforehand I never pictured just how great this trip would be and how deeply it would impact my life.

I decided to go on the husky safari, and the snowshoeing adventure (I had already been skiing back home, but if you haven’t it’s a must when you go to Lapland!)

So on the first few days there, while everyone went out skiing, I went for walks with some of my cabin mates and just enjoyed the beauty of the place.

We had many parties, where I got to meet new faces that I had seen before in classes but never spoken to. Everyone became friends by the end of the journey. Spending the week together had a bonding effect on the gang.

But back to the husky trip… when I went it was scary at first. Scary and exhilarating all at the same time! I loved being out in the snow and being able to play with the dogs and puppies afterwards. Also, the snowshoeing, I had been partying hard the night before and we had to make it to the top of a mountain… what did I get myself into? I pushed myself upwards and a friend asked me if I had done this before… I was just determined to reach the top. While others backed out half-way through, I did not give up. When we made it I cheered. It was only a small mountain it Lapland but it felt like Mt.Everest.

My advice to any exchange student that comes to Turku in the future is go to Lapland, they have more than one trip a year and it will be one of the top experiences of your life.

Text: Valerie McDermott

My first experience in Turku

My first experience in Turku was coming from my home in Toronto, Canada to Turku airport. The trip in total lasted 10 hours. I remember taking a taxi to the arts campus and looking out the window at the beautiful landscape, taking in how different it was from what I know. Here I saw no skyscrapers, only forest and small wooden houses, it was quite refreshing.

I had arrived and met someone to get me arranged in the city. I got to my apartment in the student village and was happily surprised that my room was not as small as I had expected it to be. I met my neighbors, one from Italy, the other from Belgium. They greeted me as if we had been friends for a long time. I really liked that I had chosen to live here.

The next day, I attended my first class orientation and met students that I would be spending my semester with. Again, I instantly made friends – everyone was so friendly and accommodating.

School was interesting in the first weeks. I did a lot of self-study but we also organized some group work together in our spare time. I liked getting feedback from the teachers in our contact classes.

What have I learned? I learned that experiences are different in each part of the world.

I learned that coming together with people from different cultures and backgrounds can really open your eyes to new possibilities and I wouldn’t have learned all of that if I hadn’t come to study in Turku.

I am very grateful for this once in a lifetime experience.


Text: Valerie McDermott