One of the coolest parts of the DIS study abroad program is that we have a lot of traveling built into our academic schedule. This past week, I went on a class field trip to Finland. I remember when I signed up for this particular core class on child development, I was kind of iffy about Finland. Some of the other classes planned to travel to London, Paris, Switzerland and other ‘mainstream’ places. I didn’t have any specific expectations for Finland, but as it turns out, Finland is quite amazing.
One of the highlights of my trip was a Finnish cooking class. For those of you who don’t know me, trying new foods is not my specialty. Of course, I opted to bake the bilberry pie (yes, bilberry, not blueberry) instead of one of the unique Finnish dishes. To summarize the experience: I didn’t burn anything; I accidentally measured out a liter-carton of milk into a liter measuring cup because I didn’t read the carton; and I successfully made vanilla sauce on the stove without letting it overflow. I even surprised myself and tried some Finnish meatballs and I liked them! I was very proud of myself — and so was my whole class, because they usually spend most group meals teasing me about being so picky.
My favorite part of this trip was our time at Pekka’s Place, a nature campsite in one of Finland’s national parks. I would not consider myself an outdoorsy person, but I absolutely loved this place. When we arrived, we were immediately greeted by Pekka, a 60-ish-year-old man who, as my teacher remarked, is the real-life version of the Lorax. He showed us around and fitted us all with a pair of snowshoes. I’ve snowshoed once before in my life but never on a frozen lake before. We waddled clumsily through the snowy woods, like a line of ducklings following a mother duck, until we reached the lake. The weather was also ideal — that’s right, it was not freezing the whole time in Finland. I probably could’ve shed my parka if I wanted to.
After snowshoeing, we had an even more Finnish experience. I’ve never been a huge fan of saunas in the U.S., but I’m definitely going to have to try this sauna thing in Copenhagen, too. There’s a whole process: You warm up in a sauna, then sprint to the frozen lake, climb down a ladder, through a hole cut in the solid ice, almost freeze to death in the water and then run back to the sauna or hot tub. I think the Finnish are immune to the cold because they also do this whole thing without any clothes, which is way too crazy for me.
We finished off the night with a great homemade meal, including fresh cinnamon buns for dessert and a class singalong in an outdoor hut. Plot twist: I slept in this outside hut. On reindeer hides. Wearing a sleeping bag suit. It may have been the worst night of sleep, but it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.