Finland was fantastic!

I applied for the SIP program to Turku Finland as I felt the program (Professional Services and Productization) would help me to market my business. I studied Travel Services Management and I’m now a travel agent. So this program was a catch as providing travel advice is providing a service, and I wanted tips on how to market a service. You can imagine how excited I was when I heard I got through.

Arriving in Finland I was very moody and grumpy, as I connected in New York so I was travelling for more than 24hours. But when I got on the train from the airport to Turku, I instantly relaxed. The cuntryside was lush and green and there was this calm that captivated me. Being a country girl, I’m always drawn to communities rather than cities, so seeing Turku wasn’t all that built up gave me something to smile about. The train ride from Helsinki to Turku was really relaxing and provided some really good sightseeing.

In Turku, I had some problems with my pre-booked accommodation but soon found myself helped by a local. Finnish people can appear intimidating and blunt, but once a conversation is started, they really warm up. Thankfully they’re kind and helpful, so I was out of my accommodation rut in less than 5 minutes of conversation with the local. This was the beginning of many other local encounters that made my trip amazing.

At school (Turku University of Applied Sciences), the classroom discussions were so enriching. Altogether we were 12 students and 2 lecturers representing 11 countries! You can imagine the cultural exchange that took place. We bonded well. In fact, my favorite moments in Turku were all moments when we got together. Outside of school, we did social activities including dinners, museum tour, city tour, picnic, shopping, and a boat tour to Stockholm, Sweden. We also had lunch together, every day we tried a new canteen. The food was absolutely scrumptious and ridiculously cheap! With our student cards, we got lunch for as little as €2.80. A buffet meal consisting of coffee/tea and bread, salad, entree and sometimes dessert. And you’ve got choices, always 2 or 3 entree items to choose from.

Other than the super cheap student lunches, I was amazed by the transportation system. People bike/cycle all around. Whether they’re going to work, school or party, they cycle! Yes, men in tuxedos and ladies in stilettos cycle all about. Cycling is so common, cyclists have their own section of the street to cycle on and a tonne of places to park. Other than that, it’s so easy and fast to walk about (even though I got lost a bit). From where I stayed, walking to school was the same distance as taking the bus so I often walked. It was sad to leave all that behind – little to no traffic 🙂 to come back to the hustle and bustle of Toronto 😦

All in all, I had a wonderful time in Tuku. The program was amazing and I now have friends from all over. I highly recommend this program and cannot say thanks enough to Centennial for such a great opportunity.

 

My Flight to Finland

The flight to Finland was interesting. I had to make a stop over at Iceland and Norway. I chose to fly with Iceland Air. My flight didn’t leave Toronto on time. I was freaking out when it struck me that I might not make it in time to get on my transfer flight. There was a nice Canadian couple in their early 30s going to the UK to teach sitting beside me who assured me that everything will be okay. They had us go through security checks again. Iceland is the start of the Schengen Area.

Important lesson learned: REMOVE LAPTOPS FOR SEPARATE SCANNING

They ended up holding my transfer flight until I got on. Thank god. I was freaking out by then. I wasn’t sure what I would have to go through if I missed my plane. What would happen to my luggage? But everything worked out. I was the last person to get on the plane. I was sitting beside a Russian couple that didn’t speak English that well. There was plenty of time to get on to my final plane to Helsinki.

I ended up getting randomly selected for extra security check. I don’t like to be patted down but I accepted the fact that it was necessary for security reasons. The fellow was very helpful afterwards in directing me to where I needed to go for my final plane. The last plane to Helsinki, Finland was very small.

I had a very nice Swedish-speaking Fin in his mid 30s sitting beside me. We talked about a whole range of things from comparative politics and education policies to policies on immigration and integration of diversity. It was the most stimulating conversation I have had in a very long time. He was quite surprised when I told him I only think of myself as Canadian.

It was the first time I met a Swedish-speaking Finn. He felt they were more “open” and many ways better than the other Finns. As I met more Swedish-speaking Finns, I began to see that they saw themselves as more open and thus they were more open. The Chicken or the Egg?

I then asked around and found my way to the bus stop for inter-city travel. I got some help from a couple of Finnish students going to Turku. The just told me to follow them. I arrived in Turku a few hours later. I asked one of the Turku students to borrow their phone to call my tutors Pinja and Alice to pick me up and take me to my dorm. Tutors are students assigned to exchange students to help with the transition.

My initial impressions of Finland:

It is very similar to Canada. I was VERY DISAPPOINTED with the temperature. It was very warm in Finland. It was +5 degrees, which is a lot warmer than the -25 degrees in Toronto when I left and I was North of 60. So much for purchasing a Canada Goose jacket. The sun had already set at 3:30 PM which was very strange. Sunrise was at 9:30 AM.

Alice and Pinja were very nice. They got me to my place. Pinja had a car so that helped a lot. They gave me my keys and showed my around. We went to Hesburger (Finnish McDonalds) to get something to eat. We chatted for a bit and then Pinja dropped me off home. There was a tree at the dorm with shoes strung up on it. I thought it was vandalism, Pinja thought it was art.

That was my first day.

-Ragu

Finland

Hello again from Turku Finland.  It has been a while since i last blogged because ive had some major projects and an exam this week and i spent the last week (our reading week) in Poland visiting a few cities and most interestingly Auschwitz.  The days are getting longer here and it is no longer dark by 4pm which is really helping with productivity, no more being in bed at 6pm watching movies.  As well the weather is getting slightly better which means more time spent outdoors with friends.  This next week i again wont be able to blog because ill be spending 8 days in Lapland northern Finland where a group of 70 students will be staying in 4 large cabins at a ski resort called Levi.  We also get the chance to go to a husky farm and experience dog sledding, and baby huskies recently bred.  Even snowmobiling and meeting reindeer is all an option before we finally head home, but not before stopping at the Ice Castle (thats right an entire castle made out of ice).  On an academic note the schoolwork really picked up rapidly and i spent many hours doing projects and studying, but after this next week it will fall back down until april when i have a couple more exams.  So until then, Moi Moi.

Overall Party/Tradition

Overall Party/Tradition

Traditional overalls for all students in Finland. You wear them to the club/party events and at every outing they have patches that are relevant (Recent Caribbean night had a patch with captain Jack Sparrow on it). You then sew them on to your overalls and wear them like badges collecting as many as you can. This makes for a very interesting way to get out and meet people and most importantly, an absolutely awesome souvenir. (don’t mind the messy room:) )

Turku, Finland

Moi! from Finland.  Much like Canada the weather here is quite cold (reaching -28 last week) and the snow is often and constant.  The only difference is that the weather doesn’t stop anyone from going about their day.  Both myself and the large group of friends i have made already (coming from other schools in Spain, Italy, Austria, France and even Fleming College) managed to go out on the town every week Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Being a student here you get perks and free entry to almost all clubs and pubs on those three days so partying is a huge part of our weekly lives.  I even took a day to go hiking in the city of Ruissolo where we ended the day ice swimming and relaxing in the sauna (the water was 0.5 degrees celsius and the sauna was 104).  However aside from all the fun im having here, i still have to go to school.  The good news is i only have to go three days a week, the bad news is that its about 35 minutes by bus and 10 minutes walking, so my travel time exceeds the time im actually in a class.  All in all this trip can only get better with numerous events and other trips (Poland, Russia, Lapland and Estonia) being arranged almost monthly for exchange students.

Michael Tchoryk