Erasmus+ Trip to Helsinki, January 2024

17 May 2024

Erasmus+ Trip to Helsinki, January 2024
Erasmus+ Trip to Helsinki, January 2024
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From January 21st to 27th, 2024, eight Year 3 students, along with Mrs. Leoni Hadjithoma, Erasmus+ coordinator, and Mr. Ahmet Aslim from the Turkish Department, embarked on a deeply enriching educational journey to Helsinki, Finland. This trip, part of the Erasmus+ initiative focusing on "Developing European Identity and Soft Skills," brought together participants from across Europe to explore cultural diversity and enhance personal and interpersonal skills.

Detailed Itinerary and Experiences:
  • Arrival (Sunday, January 21, 2024): Arriving late at night, the students were picked up by their hospitable Finnish host families at the airport, which set a warm and welcoming tone for the trip.
  • Day 1 (Monday, January 22, 2024): Students attended a day at a digital Finnish school equipped with modern facilities like screens and iPads for all teachers. The school was impressively maintained, staying clean despite snowy and muddy conditions outside. The day's highlight was a citizenship lesson where Mr Aslim and Mrs Hadjithoma co-taught with a Finnish teacher about 'The Role of the UN in Europe,' focusing on Cyprus's political situation and the UN’s peace efforts. This prompted engaging discussions with Finnish students who were eager to learn about Cyprus and asked numerous insightful questions. Sustainable Dining Practices: The group was impressed by the sustainable practices observed at the school canteen. Notably, using a system to measure food waste at the school canteen highlighted the local commitment to environmental consciousness. This practice reduced waste and educated the students on the importance of sustainability in daily life. 
  • Day 2 (Tuesday, January 23, 2024): Mrs. Tiina Lampula, the Erasmus+ coordinator of the host school, warmly welcomed our group, along with guests from Italy, Germany and Portugal. at the local Youth Centre Luuppi. The morning involved students from the participating countries presenting the top 10 characteristics of their nations. We found interesting facts about each other, identifying similarities between Mediterranean and Northern countries. This was followed by ice-breaking activities that each school had to prepare. We particularly enjoyed completing with each other in teams while trying to identify the meaning of typical Italian hand gestures, improvising stories on the spot, and a 'Can you guess who?' game from the German team, which helped students discover useful information about each other as well as cultural facts. The afternoon was dedicated to enjoying Finnish winter well-being activities outdoors, such as making snowmen, sledging down the hills near our host school, and warming up with hot fruit juice.
  • Excursion to Nuuksio National Park: On Wednesday, the group embarked on a picturesque hike in the snow, encountering a frozen lake and charming woodland huts. It was impressive that we saw signs in the forest encouraging people to carry out mindfulness activities such as deep breathing and noticing the details in the nature around them. Lunch at a local restaurant was a delightful spread of freshly baked bread, cabbage soup, and yoghurt with berries. A cosy barbecue inside tents featured roasting marshmallows over the fire, enjoyed alongside chocolate biscuits, and active participation in a playful snowball fight.
  • Day 4 (Thursday, January 25, 2024): The students participated in a communication workshop to enhance interpersonal skills. This was followed by an afternoon visit to the Fazer Experience Visitor Centre, where they learned about Finnish confectionery traditions and the company’s sustainability practices. The highlight was the all-you-can-eat chocolate-tasting section, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
  • Day 5 (Friday, January 26, 2024): The morning was spent sightseeing around significant Helsinki landmarks like the Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square. The group also visited the Oodi Library, an iconic example of modern Finnish architecture and a hub for community and creativity. Oodi is not just a library but a vibrant public space with facilities for cinema, recording studios, and flexible meeting and event spaces designed to foster creativity and civic engagement. The visit to the Amos Rex museum was notable for its contemporary art and digital installations, complemented by minimalist music that enhanced the atmosphere, adding to the well-being experience of the visit.
  • Farewell Party (Friday Evening): The journey concluded with a vibrant farewell party featuring pizza and a dance showcase where each country's students taught dance from their country, celebrating Europe's cultural diversity and unity. 
  • Cultural Immersion: During the trip, some students and teachers experienced a traditional Finnish sauna, alternating between the warm sauna and the freezing outdoors—a practice known to have cardiovascular benefits.
  • Local Finnish Cuisine: Throughout their stay, the students and teachers were treated to various Finnish delicacies, enhancing their cultural immersion. A highlight was the Finnish salmon soup, known locally as 'lohikeitto,' which they savoured at a quaint restaurant. This creamy soup, rich with chunks of salmon, potatoes, and dill, was heartwarming and introduced them to the simplicity and richness of Finnish seafood cuisine.
  • Carnival Sweets: Coinciding with the carnival period in Helsinki, the group had the opportunity to indulge in traditional Finnish carnival sweets. They enjoyed 'laskiaispulla,' a cardamom-spiced sweet bun filled with whipped cream and almond paste or raspberry jam, which is especially popular during this festive season. This treat offered them a taste of Finnish festive traditions and was a delightful complement to their cultural exploration.
  • Cosy Dining Atmosphere: The restaurants and cafes they visited were characterized by their cosy interiors, often lit by intimate, warm lighting, which created a welcoming and comfortable environment. These spots were perfect for the group to relax and discuss their daily adventures while enjoying cups of rich Finnish coffee and delicious desserts. The ambience in these eateries exemplified the Nordic approach to comfort and design, known as 'hygge,' which focuses on creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.
  • Public Buses and Trains: The group mainly used Helsinki's public transportation network, which includes buses and trains. Helsinki is known for its efficient and eco-friendly public transport system, which significantly reduces the need for private cars and thereby lowers emissions.
  • Walking: The group opted to walk for shorter distances and when exploring the city. This provided them with the health benefits of physical activity and allowed them to experience the city more intimately, reducing the environmental impact typically associated with vehicular travel.
  • These modes of transportation supported the trip's environmental goals and offered the students a practical example of sustainable living practices in an urban setting. By using public transport and walking, they contributed to reduced pollution and traffic congestion, aligning with Helsinki's reputation for sustainability and high living standards.
This Erasmus+ trip to Helsinki provided the students with a profound insight into Finnish culture, enhanced their understanding of European identities, and fostered essential life skills. The Finnish hosts were instrumental in making the experience educational and heartwarming, with their exceptional hospitality setting a benchmark for cultural exchange. The trip’s focus on sustainability also highlighted the importance of environmental consciousness in everyday activities. The knowledge and memories gained from this trip will undoubtedly aid the students in their growth as informed and proactive European citizens. The insights and memories from this trip are invaluable, helping to shape the students into well-rounded and proactive European citizens.


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