Exactly 4 years ago, I was getting myself ready for what would become one of my greatest adventures. I was packing to leave my comfort zone, heading to -20°C/-4°F and a big blanket of snow.
Let me first say this: 5 months in Finland, that’s a lot of clothes to get in one single bag, FYI.
You know I try to share some personal things on the blog as well, and seeing how I year after after year get a little nostalgic around this month, I decided to hit memory lane. My Erasmus time in Finland was one big adventure for sure! It was a chapter of my life were I got to know myself better and a time were I grew as a person. Time to share a little more about it!
HELSINKI = HOCKEY = HARTWALL ARENA
During those first weeks in Helsinki, we ended up in the Hartwall Arena, the home venue of the ice hockey team Jokerit. Now it’s maybe not that impressive to everyone, but seeing cheerleaders and mascottes in action while a hockey game is happening right after was a complete new experience. A fun one I may add.
TRAINS = AWESOME
In Finland at least! Because yes, you guessed it alright, trains are actually on time over there. On. The. Minute. No snow or storm that stops them. The station below was the stop closest to school, a big shopping mall and the place where my boyfriend stayed. Pretty crazy that I can say that: where my boyfriend stayed. We went to the same school here in Belgium and both made the decision to pick Finland as our Erasmus destination. Long time before we even became a couple. Pretty cool if you think about it.
Jumping on ice … Daredevils we were!
Even if you’re not that into museums, this one you need to check out. KIASMA exhibits the contemporary art collection of the Finnish National Gallery. Think art in combination with out of the box thinking. Not convinced?The building and interior is also pretty impressive. Below a little peek on the entrance of the KIASMA museum.
HELSINKI METROPOLIA UNIVERSITY OF APPLIED SCIENCES
Oh right, there was also school to attend. During our time in Finland, we had some study points to achieve. We could pick some classes (after approval of course) so I went for these:
• Finnish for Exchange Students
• Rehabilitation Engineering
• Professional Presentations
• Working in International Operations
NUUKSIO NATIONAL PARK
huge massive park that spreads over an area of forests and lakes in Espoo, Kirkkonummi and Vihti. This place makes it clear why they call Finland the land of a thousand leaks. Even though it’s not always easy to spot them with all the snow.
Only “downside”: it’s very easy to get lost in this area and a challenge to find one of the few bus stops near the park after your walk. Luckily there are about three marked trails for hiking, several locations where you can have a small BBQ/marshmallow fest, spots to camp out, ski or to pick some local berries and mushrooms. It’s also possible to rent a cabin at Wild North, something we didn’t do but I would love to do one day.
THE HELSINKI ZOO
Who doesn’t love the zoo. The Helsinki Zoo is by far the best one I’ve ever visited. It had to be seeing how I went twice during our stay. Cool fact is that of this place is located on a 22-hectare (54-acre) rocky island, connected to the mainland via a bridge. (see below)
THE WHITE CHURCH A.K.A THE HELSINKI CATHEDRAL
I was/am in love with the way this cathedral looks like. The fact that it stand high up on a platform and you first need to take quite some steps to reach it, makes it that more amazing. If you finally managed to get all the way up (don’t worry, it’s not that high either) and you stand right in front of this building, the massive pillars and great view gives you goosebumps. And com on, how cool is a complete white cathedral if the streets and steps are all cover with a blanket of snow. It has something magical.
SLEDGING CRAZINESS | PERFECT DAY
If I have to pick one of my favorite days in Finland, this one is definitely a possible winner. With a small group of Erasmus people and some locals, we went out to take on and conquer one of the highest mountains of Finland. Small details, Finland is in general really plain. Even so, it was a perfect day. We laughed our asses of and watched the sun going down. Oh and nobody got injured. Only some broken egos. ^^
After tons of snow comes… well wetness. Lots of. But eventually: SPRING!
THE EASTERN ORTHODOX CATHEDRAL
We arrived when the country was covered under a thick blanket of snow and saw it melt down. When spring was finally around the corner, our time was up.
Oh yes, we also have a movie of our day as child’s using the sledge on the biggest mountain of Finland. And knowing Finland is mostly flat, don’t expect too much of it. ;)
Erasmus Finland – Sledding from Aurélie Van Houte on Vimeo.
During my time there, I’ve seen so many places, some of them even multiple times. Some things you should definitely check if you plan on going are The National Park, KIASMA, Suomenlinna (island), The National Museum, The Helsinki Cathedral, Finlandia Hall, The Sibelius Monument, Helsinki Senate Square and damn, much much more. And go to the SAUNA! Almost every dorm, hotel or even household has one. So don’t forget to pack your swimwear. Cause rolling in the snow or jumping into ice cold water are tradition! And there is no escaping.
There you have it. A little dreamy and a little sentimental. But overall, I love to look back on a great adventure. If you ever get the chance to take on an adventure like this: GO. FOR. IT. Seriously. I promise you, you won’t regret it.
Good memories for sure!
Erasmus also meant traveling. So obviously that happened as well. Stay tuned for more pics about trips to come cause I warned you, I’m in a sentimental mood.
Pictures by: Jan Van Brakel, Jef Verschueren, Stephany Van Poecke, Aydin Kintziger and myself.