Monthly Archives: August 2017

Living the camp dream

Hi everyone! I’m studying business administration in TAMK. Currently I’m doing a part of my practical training in the United States in New Hampshire as the business manager for a Girl Scouts camp. I came to Camp Wabasso for the first time last year as a general counselor. I had the best time of my life and really wanted to come back but I also needed to do a practical training over the summer. So being the business manager for camp was the ideal deal for me.

Working at a camp is a lot of fun, and no two days are ever the same. Being the business manager my daily duties might be a bit more boring than the other counselors, as I work in the office for the mostpart and only rarely get to participate the camp activities. But I would not change a thing, I have loved being able to combine camp and my field of study.

My daily jobs include going to the post office to deliver outgoing mail and get mail for the campers and staff. Compared to Finland Americans are very big on sending care packages, some kids get more mail in a week than I do in a month at home. On daily basis I also print out emails from parents to the campers. My other duties vary between days. Some days I have the trading post open, where the kids can buy souvenirs and camp gear, I go to the bank to deposit or withdraw trading post money, I do supply runs and answer the parents’ phone calls in the office. Once a week I have a proper office only day, when I do weekly expense reports for everything we’ve used money for.

It is hard to compare the exact job I have to the way it would be in Finland, because I don’t think it really exists in back home. Summer camp culture is very unique to the States. Work culture itself is different in Finland in the USA. Finnish people are generally really hard working, and a lot is expected from every employee. In Finland, we have less people doing the same amount of jobs especially in the service industry. For me this has meant that I’ve taken more initiative and been more proactive than my employer would have expected of me in the beginning. I feel that hierarchy is more important in the States than in Finland. At camp, it is very clear who your supervisor is, and you should always only report any concerns or questions to your supervisor directly, and not anyone else. The upside of this is, that you get a lot of support from your supervisor, as it very clear for them to know who they are supposed to be supporting.

Because camp life is very different to normal life, I also get to do lots of fun things. I’m lifeguard certified, so sometimes I get to cover someone’s free time at the waterfront. We have lots of campfires and cookouts as well. Camp staff is one big community of forty women living and working together in a small area for the whole summer. While it gets hard sometimes, I have never regretted my decision to come back and am already trying to figure out a plan to come back next year.

 

 

Missing Leeds

It’s been soon three months since I arrived back from my exchange semester in the city of Leeds, UK. I can say that it was one of the best experiences in my life. During that time I travelled more than ever before, met a bunch of fantastic people, and gathered tons of new impressions. I’ve been also struck by wanderlust, and since the end of exchange period I’ve already visited four different countries!

The first morning of school.

Regarding my studies… I can’t say that I learned a lot (at least in my main field of interest). I study film making and specialize on sound design, but unfortunately didn’t really gain any new knowledge in that area in Leeds Beckett University. But I did return with my own film, which I didn’t expect. Never could have I realized an experimental short film as a part of my studies back in Tampere. I had a wonderful tutor who was excited about the idea and helped me to find my style.

Making of the animation bit for my short film”The House”.

All exchange students were so keen on making new friends at the beginning of the exchange period that there was never lack of activity during spare time. Leeds is a very cool city for students. It has it all: pubs, clubs, music venues, festivals, cinemas… You name it. But I wanted to see more – through a travel company aimed for students, and also by our own, we maid numerous weekend trips to different places in England, from Brighton to Edinburgh.

Leeds city centre.
Man United – Wigan, FA Cup Playoffs match.
Probably my favorite place in Leeds and a block away from my house, a cinema built in 1914, Hyde Park Picture House.

I don’t know when will I be back in UK again (hopefully while it’s still a part of EU…), but I do know I already miss living in Leeds.

My home street, Brudenell Avenue.

Halo!

Coming for practical training to Namibian winter for three months was one of the most spontaneous, stupid and best things that I have done. I exchanged summer in Finland, a practical training with a salary and my friends, to an unknown environment and work.

A view over the city of Windhoek

I always wanted to go somewhere exotic for practical training, so I could expose myself to different opinions and culture. When I read an article of Namibia in Rakennuslehti, a Finnish magazine for construction engineers, I knew I should try to get in there. So I contacted the writer of the article.  She guided me to one Namibian engineer and after few emails there was no way out anymore. Arranging everything went fast and without trouble.

I came to Namibia in the beginning of May. The first two months of training went fast, everything was new and exciting. After two months the days have slowed down and certain routines and habits has taken place in the mind and life. Now when my training is soon over, work days have the same pattern, and I feel like I have received the cultural education I came here for.

Namibia is mostly desert and Windhoek is surrounded with mountains, which are great for hiking during weekends. The climate of Namibian Winter is very nice. Even though it is called winter the temperature during days is always above 20°c but in the nights it can go below 10°c. Windhoek has 3605 hours of sunshine in one year (Helsinki has 1858 hours) and after my arrival I have seen clouds five times. I have been lucky to visit some projects like Ai-Ais hot spring spa in Fish river Canyon. I also visited the coast and huge sand dunes in Walvis Bay.

Here is a fancy pic of me on the Dune 7, close to Walvis Bay

 

In Namibia you can hear many languages spoken around you. The official language is English but there is a great amount of national languages. They are Oshiwambo (the heading and greeting in the end), German, Afrikaans, Otjiherero, Khoekhoegowab, Rukwangali, Setswana and Silozi. What I heard most from the smaller languages were Oshiwambo and Afrikaans.

Katutura – “The place where people do not want to live” in Otjiherero

Night life in Windhoek is flourishing there huge amount bars or clubs in the city. There are modern shopping malls with Western brands, good cafes and restaurants. If you still end up hungry you can find locals selling fruits and fresh Braai (BBQ) meat and Biltong dried meat from countless places around the city, along roads and inside stores.  during my spare time I hang out with my boss’s son, he shows me the city of Windhoek, the good and bad in it.

The Grove Mall of Namibia- A big shopping center in Windhoek

My boss studied in Technical University of Tampere and many engineers have studied abroad in England, Russia or Cuba. In work this reflects as enthusiasm for engineering and long hardworking days in the office. In this company Africa time does not exist. Superiors are addressed as Sirs, Mrs’s or Miss’s and dress code is smart and casual. All these might sound strict for a Finn, but after you get used to it everything comes out naturally without thinking. My work is mostly done with a computer with modern engineering programs like AutoCAD, so the work itself is not so different than in Finland.

Likwata  nawa, take care!

Elmer Halonen

Hallo aus Dortmund!

The Semester here in Dortmund has been awesome, very challenging but also rewarding.

On my spare time I’ve been travelling, tasting awesome German products including wine that is so cheap and so so good. I’ve been to Luxembourg a few times, in Holland and also traveled a lot inside of Germany. One of the highlights here were when we went to see ice hockey world championship game in Cologne. Finland vs USA and Finland won!!

My absolute favorite place has been the beautiful Berlin. There is so much to see and so much to do.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle berlin
Berlin skyline

I also loved the beautiful Mosel valey. Mosel is a famous vineyard area in Germany, where the grow the King grape, Riesling.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle trabe trarbach
Traben-Trarbach, in Mosel Valey

Studying in Dortmund has been a bit harder than in Finland. The subjects are taught very differently, more university alike than in Finland. There are very few things that we learn through practice but more through lectures and team assignments. Also people are very grade oriented so to say. Also the lecturers prepare you much more for the coming exams than in Finland.

All in all everything is going well here in Dortmund. The weather has been awesome at least comparing to Finland (for what I’ve heard).

Living in Germany

Summer semester 2016/2017 in Dortmund Germany was unforgettable. I met a lot new people, traveled, my car broke down, bought a new one, learned a lot about other cultures and countered all kind of different situations.

Ruhr Museum in Essen, Zollverein

I think one of the most positive thing was the climate in middle-Europe. We went to Dortmund 03.03. and at the end of March we bought a grill and had a barbecue at our balcony with friends. It was like +25, not too bad after the Finnish climate.

End of March in Dortmund

I studied at FH Dortmund in International business. I think studying in Germany was bit harder than in Finland. My courses were in English so can only imagine how would it be if they would have been in German. I think most of the local students are quite study oriented and quite keen to success in their studies.

Spare time in Germany was filled with traveling, sports, parties sometimes, friends and perhaps some studying sometimes also :).

Local Discgolf park in Dortmund

Working culture in Germany is more hierarchical than in Finland. They are quite serious about their own achievements as a person/employee and want to be recognized for those. Sometimes it also felt that because of the volume of people is so big in Germany (at least if compared to Finland) they can be a bit rude for example in customer service situations. I didn’t really enjoy that discovery.

Classic car Remise Düsseldorf

All in all Germany was an amazing experience and totally worth it!

 

Even late, bonjour la France!

During the last semester, I went in training exchange in my home country, France and more precisely: next to Paris. Now, even though it is a country I know — and with which I keep a love and hate relationship –, this semester was rich in experiences.

… do I really need a caption for this?

My practical training consisted in elaborating a tool for a grocery store, which would help them in keeping track of their environmental impact. This was a very valuable exchange, as in addition to my main project I got lucky enough to participate in the daily life of the grocery store and in a management seminar which taught me a lot about work life. In addition to this, getting along very well with nearly all of my co workers (and with my superiors) was  plus that I enjoyed a lot.

As you can see on the picture, they enjoyed my last day…..! (I blurred the face of my co-worker, don’t be scared)

 

 

Apart from work, my time also was amazing. I met a ton of new people: I have been an activist for animal rights for a long time, and I made sure that this semester was full of events. You can see in the picture below an example of a demonstration that I participated in in Paris and for which I came back home covered with fresh red paint…

Demonstration for animal rights in Paris for the Organisation 269 Life France.

Of course, I cannot write about my semester without talking about the elections for which… surprise surprise, I was also an activist. I participated in my first political demonstration, which I thought would have been less peaceful but turned out to be thrilling. Whether you agree with the outcome of the elections or not, this process was very enriching.  In the picture below, you can see my friend Christophe and I holding our sign, “Vegans insoumis”.

I by the way made this sign! This happened on Place de la Bastille, in Paris.

And to top off my semester, my friend took me to Etretat, an amazing city that I enjoyed beyond words. You can see a picture taken with his GoPro camera on top of one of the hills of Etretat on the right!

 

 

All in all, this semester was a very good time. I cannot unfortunately tell you how different working in France is compared to Finland, as I have not yet had the occasion to work in Finland. But truthfully, this exchange was “formidable“!

Grüße aus Deutschland!

We (Ina and Maria) are doing this postcard together, because we are working in the same place and living together in a same city.

We came to Germany to do our practical training in a private international kindergarten. We are staying in Düsseldorf and the kindergarten is located in Meerbusch, about 9km from our apartment. Luckily the public transport here is very good ant it takes us only approximately half an hour to get there.

The kindergarten has about 65 children, 6 employees and of course the head of the daycare center. There are three different groups; the nursery group (4 month-3 years), the kindergarten group(2-3years) and the preschool group(4-6years). We are working daily, excluding the weekends, from 9am to 4pm, but we work in different groups every week. The staff and the children took us in very well and we could see how ecxited they were that we came there.  The days go past so quickly and there is so much to do. But of course in a good way. We have been here now for four weeks and only three weeks are left. The biggest barrier that we had to overcome was that we had no common language with most of the children. They speak either German, Japanese or Chinese and just a few children understands/speaks a little bit of English. The same thing is with the staff, only 3 of the 6 employees speaks English. So body language is an important tool for us. Fortunately working with children is quite easy like that. We have also learned some basic daycare phrases in German, so communication is getting easier day by day.

Düsseldorf is a big town and there lives 604 527 people. Here is a lot to see and to do for us in the free time. When the weather is good, we have been exploring the city. For example here is a huge park called Nordpark where we usually go for walks and see the beautiful gardens in there. And it is only a a few kilometers from our apartment.  We also like going to the city center, where there is a lot of shopping opportunities and good restaurants. There is also the old town, where we like to go to just hang out and see other people. This time a year here is also a lot of tourists, so expecially when the weather is good, the city center and the old town are packed with people.

The working culture in the kindergarten we work in is quite similar than in Finland. The daily routines and schedule also goes almost the same comparing to Finland.  A couple big differences we have noticed is that only the youngest children takes  a nap during the day. And because the days can be long for the children (even 7.30am to 7pm) the children that does not sleep, might even snooze while playing etc. Also the food culture is a lot different than in Finland. It is normal food in here but the way wee see it, it`s not as versatile and healthy than what we are used to eat in finnish daycares.

  

We are looking forward the rest of the weeks in here and are excited to learn even more from the Germanys culture and early childhood education.

Tschüss,

Ina Schmidt and Maria Salonen

Éirinn go Brách!

I spent nine months in Ireland, more specifically in Tralee.  The town is small, yet it has everything you’ll need: Penneys (Primark) and other shops, lots of pubs ranging from traditional Irish pubs to nightclub-like venues and restaurants. There’s also a beautiful, peaceful park in the middle of the town and it can be used to hang out or for sports.

On the first semester I was an exchange student in Institute of Technology Tralee, studying social care, early childhood education and youth & community work. One semester lasts about 4,5 months, the first semester started in the beginning of September with the orientation week (parties, bbq and all kinds of events every day) and we had some of our final exams in the end of December and the rest of them in the beginning of January. On my second semester in Ireland I was doing an internship at Kerry Parents and Friends Association. KPFA offers residential care and day services for people with intellectual disabilities. Doing an internship in Ireland was also really great, I am happy that I got to experience that.

Sonja Kangas foto.
The famous Blennerville Windmill of Tralee

Tralee is quite small, yet lively town in Kerry. Anyway, without all the other students to spend your time with, you’d be bored. Getting to know other students is easy – IT Tralee has lots of different societies and sport clubs such as rock climbing, surfing and gaelic football, most of them for free. There’s also a water park (Aquadome), cinema and lots of pubs with traditional Irish music.

Sonja Kangas foto.
Killarney

Kerry is one of the best-known counties there on the southwest of Ireland, with lots of mountains and beautiful nature. The national park in Killarney is definitely worth a visit, for sure. Anyway, Tralee is not such a big city, so even from the town centre, you will be able to see the mountains and the beautiful Irish nature. You don’t have to go too far from the centre if you want to see sheep, mountains, cows and get to know the countryside of Ireland.

Sonja Kangas foto.
Tralee town centre

 

Sonja Kangas foto.
Ireland certainly has some of the most beautiful landscapes you could wish for. Ring of Kerry is a popular route going through the coast of Kerry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Institute of Technology Tralee is quite small, but they’ve got a lot of international students from all around the world – there are about 3500 Irish students in ITT and 400 international students. During my Erasmus year in Tralee I got to know people from so many different countries even though you wouldn’t expect that!

Studying in ITT felt more like being back to secondary school again – you need to know lots of things by heart, always attend all the lectures and in the end of the semester you’ll have the final exams. Anyway all my lecturers were nice and extremely helpful, they also helped me a lot with my internship even though they didn’t need to. That’s what Irish people are like – they’re kind, helpful and always up for a good craic (=fun)… and that is exactly the reason why Ireland is such an amazing country.

Sonja Kangas foto.
Kilkee Cliffs

Greetings from Argentina!

Here in Buenos Aires everything is going very well! Our University is excellent and there is qualified professors. They are happy to tell us about their culture in Argentina. We have very much tasks in little groups which is nice way to get to know each other. Most of the other excahange students are from France. Punctuality is the most different thing in the lessons, because in Finland we are so punctual and Argentinians and french aren’t. But now we are getting use to it!

At the freetime I desided to get know other countries in South-America too. Now I have seen Iguazu Falls between Argentina and Brazil. That was awesome. I was there two nights in the hostel “in the middle of the jungle” (that’s how it felt like). Hostel was very comfortable and there was many exchange stundents from different countries at the same time. We had nice pool parties at the night and weather couldn’t be any better!

In the march we finnish exchange students made trip to the Uruguay. We travelled there first one hour by ferry and then three hours by bus, it was easy trip. We spend one weekend there in a little hostel. Montevideo was peaceful city after the metropolis Buenos Aires. We laid on the beach and we had a tasty dinners in fine restaurants. In uruguay there was also tango dancers on the street same than in Argentina.

In the April I and my friend went to Rio de Janeiro Brazil  and we spent there five days. We were suprised because brazilians doesn’t spoke spanish very well. And English at all! In Brazil there weren’t that expensive than in Buenos Aires. We were shopping in the bazar and we swam in the ocean. Cobacabana and Ipanema -beaches was amazing! And one of my favorite was Sugarloaf mountain!

 

I love this new culture and warm weather. I arrived here on january when here is hottest summertime, +36 degrees! It feels so good to be in here when there is so freezing and snowing in Finland. God, I’m gonna miss this already. Lovely South-America, I hope we meet soon again!

Um olá do Brasil! Greetings from the land of the sun!

Greetings from Brazil! The land of the sun! Even though we are at the peak of the winter, the temperature is 28 degrees Celsius… That could possibly sound like a paradise for a Finn! I could say that not considering the time I was born, this is being the eightieth I am in Brazil and yet, it feels very strange to do an exchange to my home country. Living one year in Finland has been a big experience to me and it has made me see my country with completely different eyes.

I am back in the city I was born, João Pessoa, by the northeast coast of Brazil. It pretty looks like any post card you can imagine about the country. Beach, warmth, white sand, and always sunny. And this time, the city has shown itself to me even more beautiful then what I remembered.

I am working at the administrative sector of a traditional construction company in the city. I work as a quality management intern and my function is to check if the company is following up with their defined quality standards and quality management related tasks. One of the things that has mostly caught my attention is the hierarchical culture of Brazil, which is very different from Finland. The higher the employees are in the company’s hierarchy, the more formal they are treated. The strangest example are the CEO and CFO (and other higher positions) who are called by “doctor” even though they are not “doctors”! Even between themselves I caught the employees into saying something like “is Mr. Doctor Anthony going to do this?” (Mr Doctor was an engineer). While the lower you go on the hierarchy, the sense of informality grows proportionally and the workers treat each other more like friends than co-workers.

During my free time, the activity that I do almost every day is to go to the beach, enjoy the warmth, go out and enjoy time with my friends and family. The calm sea, the sea breeze and the smell of the city hit the memory as strong as the waves breaking in to the shore and all those feelings are together with the idea of going back to Finland, which believe it or not, I am already missing.