Zooplankton Identification Course on Seili Island (Finland) Sep 4-8, 2017

The journey to Finland started off with a frantic search for free wi-fi to access Google Maps to navigate my way from the airport near Helsinki, the capital, to the remote island of Seili, over 200 km away. This may not seem far but it was a feat due to two important factors: 1) September 1st marked the beginning of the off-season effectively reducing services on some bus routes and ferries and 2) many services such as restaurants, shops, ticket booths, are closed on Sundays. With adrenaline and some luck, I arrived safely on Seili a little past 5 in the afternoon.

The zooplankton identification course commenced bright and early on Monday morning, gradually picking up speed as I climb the steep learning curve. It was an amazing experience learning about these microscopic creatures but the most memorable experience was the evening the group spent enjoying the beach sauna. We all met up by the dormitories just before sunset and walked the scenic route which followed the shoreline to the sauna house located on a beach. I walked gingerly with the promise of post-sauna snacks of cider, sausage, and chocolate. When we arrived, the cabin looked very similar to a typical Canadian cottage, a quaint little log house with a chimney where the sauna room was connected to a large living room with a fireplace. However, the moment I walked into the sauna, I immediately understood how important sauna was to Finnish culture. All aspects of the facilities were impeccable, there is a tool for every need you could imagine: feet washing station to keep the interior dirt and mud-free, showers to cool off, towels to sit on the hot benches, baskets to keep clothes dry, ladles to pour water onto the furnace. I was the only non-Finn who partook in the sauna and put my swimsuit on , and to my surprise, was joined by the rest of the ladies, nude. They explained that amongst friends, it was completely normal to enjoy a sauna session with no swimsuit in Finland and that it was not a big deal to see each other naked. This expanded my worldview and forced myself to question why I am still self-conscious about my body while there existed this developed country where young and old alike enjoyed a cultural experience with absolutely zero judgment. This feeling of acceptance and well-being was reinforced further as we did the next logical thing following a steaming sauna: running to the shore for a cold dip into the Baltic Sea. 10/10 would do again.

Lillian Ng
Environmental Technician Fast-Track ’17

~the Emerald island~ By: Kawoos Naserie

Hello Everyone!

My name is Kawoos Naserie from Centennial College on a student exchange program made possible by the GEO program, in Waterford, Ireland. Since my arrival in January 2014, I have been becoming accustomed to the lifestyle and culture that the Republic of Ireland has to offer. Waterford is a small city with a large number of international students from all over the world which include Brazilians, French, Spanish, North America as a whole of course and all parts of Asia so it is much like Toronto, Canada in a way but with an Irish twist. The country is rich with their own Irish history and culture that has no shortage of pubs and long beautiful scenery from large cliffs to beautiful green fields. I have traveled to towns like Cork, Dunmore East, Kilkenny and the most famous, the City of Dublin, home of the infamous Guinness Storehouse. It is true what they say, It really does taste different once you’ve had a fresh pint of the stout made famous all over the world.

I am only in my beginning stages of my travels within the Republic of Ireland and look forward to sharing more of my adventures with everyone soon. I’d love to see some suggestions or feel free to make some comments.