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Diaconia University of Applied Sciences Helsinki, Finland

Blog entry 2 - Time to travel!

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 | Diakonie FH Helsinki

In the meantime, it is the end of September and some things have happened again! When you do an Erasmus- semester, you definitely go on more trips… where do I draw a line for that? When I will return back to my good old Germany, I definitely have to travel and see more of my own home country. Yes, in your own land you travel bizarrely quite rarely. If you ask the Finish “Have you already been in Repovesi-national park or have you already visited Tampere, Turku or Rovaniemi?”, then most of them will say “No”. I’m the same when someone asks me about some German destinations. I no longer want to stand for that!

Anyhow the last two weeks weren’t boring and flew by quite quickly. On the 16th of September I had my first exam. Here in DIAK they work with the block course principle, a few weeks of theoretical studies, then a few days of exam preparation and lastly then the exam. We survived!

As a reward we went on a trip over the weekend. As we just shortly got the Information that we wouldn’t have university on Monday, we planned spontaneously a trip to Tallinn and Riga. So, we sat in the ferry to Tallinn on Saturday morning.

Moreover, the Finish like going to Tallinn. Most of them take an empty suitcase with them on the journey there, which will be richly filled on the way home – No! Not with clothes, the Estonian fashion is not as beautiful as all that – with liquid hard liquor, because that is quite expensive in Finland. So, we arrived for lunchtime in Tallinn and visited the historic city first. “Save the camera, enjoy the view”. Yes, you say it, I thought, but however I couldn’t deny one photo. After travelling for 4 hours with the bus, almost at midnight we reached the Latvian capital Riga. The first “Wow-effect” already waited for us on the opposite site of the bus station when we saw a huge blue illuminated bridge. Yes, Riga is a dream and I liked it even more than Tallinn.

On the way to our hostel we met two Latvian girls and asked cautionary if we were on the right way. The English language is unfortunately not so much in the Latvians blood, but on the other hand the helpfulness. Despite the language barrier, the girl tried obviously anxious and excited to explain us the way. “And than that and that and that and that”, she explained us with devoted gesticulations to the left and right! We found the way almost immediately!! Funnily enough, we met another German girl in our room (Germans are literally everywhere!!), with whom we went likewise on sight seeing the next day. She came from the direction of Vilnius in Lithuania and then wanted to move forward to Tallinn and Helsinki. That’s just the beautiful thing, that you don’t dither so long on journeys, but team up shortly, no matter which nationality you are.

Riga really has plenty to offer and is famous for its big market halls next to the train station – a visit is therefore a “must” for every non-vegetarian. However, people who do not have strong nerves for such an experience should march through it more quickly. I was impressed by the church with the golden domes. Not just from outside but also the inside. The Russian Orthodox church was all over decorated with gold. Like in Tallinn people were kneeing in front of the images of the saints and kissed them, what I’ve never seen in this way before. And of course, I shouldn’t forget to mention the memorial of the Bremen town musicians, a present from Riga’s sister city Bremen.

But the highlight was definitely the view from the tower of an old university towards the river Daugava. The moment was magical – too bad that a photo couldn’t capture it.

A little tip: on the brink are the free sightseeing-tours, which are meanwhile offered in almost every big city, at least in Riga and Helsinki. I can really recommend them to every enthusiast, they are worth it!

When we came back to Helsinki, we already immediately went on with the program. Our school had a project day, a “learning festival”, where many different courses were offered, from salsa through African language and guitar courses up to cooking lessons. The trick here was, that not only the lecturers taught, but the students and the lecturers should take over the participant role – quasi a role reversal. We German exchange students were allowed to teach a bit German…

My lecture timetable enabled me besides the salsa course, also to take the African language course from Julia, which however issued an unimagined challenge to me.

The so-called click language (Xhosa) didn’t only train my face-, but also my stomach musculature. And Julia let us also plunge into a completely different world by the common singing in African, it came so from the heart. She even dressed up African style!! She explained us a tale of the Ubuntu. Children should organize a competition, in which the fastest one who gets to the tree may keep all its fruits. Subsequently the children asked him: Ubuntu, how can one of us be happy, if all the other ones are sad? – The DIAK has many students from African countries who settled here in Finland and left their families back partwise. Many had to learn Finish from the scratch. And I speak from everyone’s soul, who has already tried to learn Finish, that there are easier things in life. However, I was enough with kiitos (thanks) and antekksi (sorry)!

Finally we had weekend again!! Thus, the next trip was planned – true to the motto “no wasting time, who knows when we get the chance to do that again?” We rented a small car and dashed off to the Repovesi national park next to Kouvola. I’m not lying by saying that that was probably the most wonderful thing I had seen for a long time. The Finish landscape is stunning!! Oh, I can find no words, it was so gorgeous! Inge, our Dutchwoman, would now say “lovely”! To feel so really Finish we grilled sausages there – the Finish national parks have almost all public barbecue areas – barbecuing there is quasi a national sport.

We pulled ourselves with a rope on a boat over a lake and wiggled on a chain bridge over a ravine. Last but not least we went swimming in the lake. That was almost the coolest thing, literally, what I had experienced so far. The feeling after the bitter water was indescribable, you feel like a new born and full of energy, no wonder the Finish like bathing so much. There I was a little bit proud of myself that I didn’t back down, after all we weren’t alone in the water…

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