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By Julianna Sim
Looking for something meaningful to fill your winter vacation? Why not try applying for International Helsinki Days in Finland?
International Helsinki Days is an international seminar organized annually in Helsinki, Finland by the Student Union of Hanken School of Economics. Every year, it is joined by about 35 students from all around the world. Besides giving the participants a valuable opportunity to understand Finnish business culture, economy and Finnish lifestyle, it is also a valuable platform to make new friends from all walks of life.
Fortunate enough, I had this opportunity to join this program in early February 2012. Being held for the 25th time, it carries a theme of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Economically Challenging Times for this year. Frankly, I am not a winter baby prepared for the deep winter in Nordic countries. However, the pre-departure-fear for the very cold weather just vanished when the plane touched down on this beautiful place with fine hexagonal snowflakes falling all over the place. Oh dear, it was just so lovely white…
During the one week of our program, a wide variety of interesting activities such as Helsinki city tour, corporate visits to interesting Finnish international companies, guest lectures, famous Finnish sauna, Valentine’s Day Dinner and many more activities were organized. We also got to experience the beautiful nature of Finland, spending an evening at a cottage in the traditional Finnish way. It was indeed an unforgettable experience waking up to catch the sunrise in such a snowy land.
Every participant would have their own host, with whom they would stay for the entire week. I was hosted warmly by two sweet Finnish ladies who offered a comfortable accommodation from for the entire week. We had a wonderful time sharing each other’s culture and experiences as well as own traditional food. Quality time well-spent together has created long-lasting friendship despite the culture differences.
I would say that for most students, the best thing about this program is that we only had to pay for our trip to and from Finland, bus ticket which is about 30 euros for one week and also part of the meals. The accommodation, most of the meals and the costs for the seminar during the week is well covered by the program. Many thanks to the organizer of International Helsinki Days for such wonderful program! If you were to go, just bear in mind to bring along warm clothes for outdoor activities as it can get as cold as -30C, some smart casual clothes/cocktail dress for the superb Valentine’s Day Dinner, suitable clothes for corporate visits and most importantly passport/visa. Not to forget also some traditional food and beverage from your home country. For one of the event, we had access to the kitchen to make preparations for our own local food. It was a fantastic memorable night cooking together and sampling a variety of food from many participants from different countries.
For International Helsinki Days 2012, our applications had to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org before mid-December 2011. Besides some basic information, one could choose to be creative and include video clips, pictures or other media in his or her application. A description of one self, reason to be chosen for the seminar, expectation from the International Helsinki Day as well as a picture of oneself had to also be included in the application. Further information of the program can be found at http://www.shsweb.fi/shs/shs/ihd_-_international_helsinki_days. As only limited number of participants is accepted each year, it is always advisable to be prepared early for the application.
One thing to comment on the Finns is that they may not really smile much, perhaps due to the cold weather, but they are truly sincere and helpful. There are always people asking if you need help with directions and also with heavy luggage. There was someone, whom I did not even know the name, who helped to carry my heavy luggage all the way from home to the railway station in such cold weather! Such warm hearts have made the winter coldness much more bearable. People are also much disciplined in terms of traffics, queues and tidiness. Cheers for such a civilised society!
Want to join the program too? Heartfelt good luck and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did…