WOW! I can’t believe we finished our third weekend here already. For our third weekend here, we decided to go to Tallinn, Estonia. I highly recommend you go to Tallinn if you’re in Helsinki because it is only a two hour ferry ride and you don’t need to go through security or anything; it is so simple and easy. The ferry ride was one of my favorite parts of the weekend. I thought the ferry was going to be a small ferry that you would usually imagine. But boy I was wrong. It is HUGE. It reminds me of a cruise ship because it has restaurants on each 9 floors such as Burger King which I ate on the way there and on the way back. I honestly have not eaten Burger King in the U.S. until I got to Helsinki. It seems to be bigger and more popular than McDonald’s. Another reason why the ferry ride was one of my favorites is because I love the feeling of moving from place to place/country to country. We stayed in the old part Tallinn called Old Town Tallinn which is the oldest best preserved mid-evil town in Europe. We stayed in a really cool place that had huge rooms. My room, which I shared with four other classmates, was like a dungeon. We thought the room would open to a regular room on the first floor but that was not the case. When we opened the door, the room was downstairs so we had to climb down steep steps to go basically to the basement of the place. It was dark, all stone walls, and really authentic. We had a sauna in our room, a kitchen, and a bathing area. I definitely recommend staying here if you get a chance to go here. We explored Old Town Tallinn for three days. The first day we ate crepes at Kompressor which the boys from our trip went to the first weekend they were there. They recommended it to us and it was so good we went there each day we were in Tallinn. The second day we did a walking tour that lasted two hours. I recommend doing the walking tour because you get a taste of what all there is to do in the town and it’s free. On the third day, we explored and went to a couple of churches and castles. One castle we went to, we had to take a tram to get there and it was definitely worth it because it is so beautiful. We ate a lot of pasta while in Tallinn because we found this one restaurant and we just had to go back it was so yummy. Old Town Tallinn has a lot of souvenir shops and restaurants with outside seating areas. We also noticed that a lot of the restaurants had the same food but just in different locations. One thing I found interesting about Tallinn is that the outside of Old Town is super modern and new like a regular looking city you would think of. Overall, it was a great experience being able to go to Tallinn. I highly recommend you guys go if you get a change because it is 1) way cheaper than Helsinki 2) the oldest best preserved mid-evil town in Europe 3) it is culturally eye opening.

Categories: 2018 Trip

The past weekend we went to Lapland and it was an incredible experience. We had the opportunity to stay at this older campsite in Enotekio and have guides lead us through areas I never would have thought to have been. When we first arrived, we had reindeer soup for lunch and also saw a reindeer farm after, which felt a little weird but I was okay with it. Throughout the rest of the trip we hiked quite a bit (13 miles one day), ate some great food, and had the chance to sauna and jump into a 40-degree lake. My favorite thing though was the husky farm. The husky farm had over 200 dogs at the place itself, which was awesome. Also, we were allowed to spend time with them and pet them, and after a while it was obvious nobody wanted to leave.

During this past week, we visited Fazer, a Nordic chocolate and food services company. Fazer is a very well-known Nordic brand, and you can see their name posted everywhere around Helsinki. My favorite thing about Fazer was easily the chocolate tasting room. Essentially what we were told is that we had 10 minutes to try as many chocolates as we wanted, as long as we didn’t take any out with us. So, for the next 10 minutes everyone ate way too many sweets, and afterward felt sick of chocolate. Nevertheless, it was a fun experience and the group still bought a ton of chocolate to take home to friends and family.

This weekend, five of us went to Porvoo, a town about an hour bus ride to the east away from Helsinki. The town was pretty small but had a good character. Also, the buildings were painted different colors that were vibrant and so it looked very neat. For the most part, we hiked around, climbed on rocks, and enjoyed views of the city. Overall, I enjoyed visiting the small town; it was interesting to see how different it was compared to Helsinki even though it was not that far away.

Lastly, this next weekend most of us will be in either Stockholm or Prague, so we actually have fewer days left in Finland than we thought. Nevertheless, I am eager to see the culture differences between Finland and Sweden, and experiencing a new country is always exciting. But until then, we will be finishing up assignments and enjoying Helsinki as always!

Categories: 2018 Trip

Week three consisted of a Russian Business Culture exam, touring Fazer, zip lining, and adventures in Tallinn, Estonia. Since we got back from Lapland on Monday night, this week felt extra short. We began our shortened week with a company visit to Fazer, a Finnish confectionary and food company. We were able to tour their factory and try many of their products! It began with a walk through of their indoor greenhouse where they had many plants ranging from cocoa trees to banana trees. We then watched a brief video over the daily productions of the Fazer factory. The video was aimed to provide an insight of the steps required in order to make products such as their famous Fazer Blue chocolate bar. We were able to view a rabbit made of thousands of egg shells. This was included in the tour because of a very unique product that Fazer offers: chocolate filled eggs. By hand, they remove the inside of the egg, keeping the shell in perfect condition, and then fill it with chocolate. This product is used predominately around Easter and is very popular among Finns. Finally, the tour ended with what we really wanted the most: with all you can eat Fazer products! We were all able to enjoy and sample many of the most popular and best tasting products that Fazer had to offer. After the tour concluded, I ensured that I bought enough chocolate and candy to eat for the rest of my stay in Finland as well as to bring home for my family and friends to enjoy!

Later that day, we all definitely hit the ground running to study for our exam that was on Thursday. Luckily, since it ended early that morning, we had the rest of the day to enjoy! A group of us decided to take a tram to a nearby town and go ziplining! We spent hours in the trees going through courses and ending each course with a zipline down to the ground. I can honestly say it will be one of those days i will never forget when thinking back to our trip here in Finland. We all made fools of ourselves screaming, tripping, falling, and just giving up during some of the hardest courses. Once we made it back to Helsinki, we ate at one of our favorite restaurant blocks and hurried to get back to Omena since it was the night of the first World Cup match. We made it back to the hotel in time and all watched the first game together. After the game ended, we all spent the night hanging out and getting ready to leave the next day for Tallinn, Estonia.

Right after class on Friday, 12 of us had our bags packed and ready to walk to the port and get on a ferry to Estonia. While the boat ride only lasted for 2 hours, the ferry was not at all what i was expecting. It was almost identical to a cruise ship with its size and restaurant options. While in America i can honestly say i may have never had Burger King, there was one on the boat that we all ran to! Once we made it to Tallinn, we had to find Old Town because our apartments were right in the heart of it. Luckily, i had found an apartment complex that had 3 apartments available, which would fit all 12 of us. When we got there and saw our rooms, impressed was an understatement. Each room was ginormous and fit everyone comfortably. One of the rooms was basically a dungeon which you had to walk down stairs to get to. Right at the front was a built in sauna, and a tub already filled with water for afterwards. We then took to getting to know the city and walked around until we found the restaurant everyone had been waiting for: Kompressor!! It was a very reasonably priced “pancake” restaurant. What they call pancakes, we call crepes. In our 3 days of being in Tallinn, we all went at least 3 times!! On Saturday, we had a 2 hour walking tour and were able to see most of Old Town and learn more about the history of Estonia. On Sunday, we went to tour Kadriorg Palace which is a Petrine Baroque palace built for Catherine I of Russia by Peter the Great. In the afternoon we checked out of our apartments and headed back to Helsinki to get ready for our final week in Finland.

All I have to say is that this has been the best month I could have ever hoped for and i’m no where near ready to leave at the end of this week.

Categories: 2018 Trip

This week we went to Fazer. My experience at the Fazer confectionary was a good one. We started by heading to the gift shop. They had all of the candy that Fazer makes. We then went to their green house.  We got to see some of the tropical plants they use in production. It was neat because they had the plants which could not be grown in Finland outside of their facility. We then went to a viewing area to watch a short video on the history of Fazer. We also learned about the founder Karl Fazer. We then went into a meeting room for a presentation from one of the senior staff members. She presented the goals and values of the Fazer. She also presented some of Fazer’s financial statements. They had more than a billion dollars in revenue in the past year. That figure is very impressive. We then as a group played a trivia game where the winner received a gift bag full of Fazer products. Next stop on the tour was probably my favorite. We then went to the sampling area and virtual reality (VR) set-up they had. They had VR headsets that allowed you to see some of their business operations while not truly being there. This was cool because you could pick which products you wanted to see being produced, and how the production line was set-up. Then it was on to the candy taste test. I made it a point to try every candy they had, at least a bite of them. The tour guide gave us 10 minutes to essentially eat as much as we wanted. They had every candy they sold in there.  Truthfully, I was not a big fan of their chocolate. It is very different from the Hershey’s bar I am used to. Their black licorice was truly terrible. I don’t understand how someone could enjoy that one. After the ten minutes was up and everyone had tasted what we wanted, we were all left feeling sick after. After the initial stomach ache came the crazy sugar high. That took a long time to wear off. Overall, I had a great experience at the Fazer confectionary and would recommend anyone to go see it for themselves.

Over the weekend, we went to Tallinn, Estonia. This was an awesome little medieval town. It had a lot of cool shops and restaurants we ate at. We stopped at a little palace far away from the Olde Town square. It was beautiful. I couldn’t go on the tour however because my broken ankle was swelling up pretty bad so I had to take it easy. But I did get to look at it from the outside. As well as, going in the back and checking out the garden and fountains. I would compare this place to New Orleans in the states. It a lot of drunk crazy people doing crazy things. It was fairly entertaining however. During meals you could watch from your restaurant to see all the hooligans pulling pranks in the Square. It was a good weekend. I am looking forward to Prague next weekend.

 

Categories: 2018 Trip

This week was a little bit slower and started when we returned from Lapland. This meant we were all pretty exhausted that Monday night. However, we still made it to McDonald’s for a late-night dinner. Tuesday, thankfully, included a late start to class as well as a trip to the Fazer chocolate factory! This was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

At Fazer, we learned about the business model behind the chocolate, as well as the different branches and sectors Fazer has created. Fazer is a company that manages to be a picture of innovation that is simultaneously firmly rooted in responsibility. I can now see that a company does not have to be a huge multinational company to successfully uphold a strong ethical standard throughout all company activity. Fazer has not succumbed to the unethical shortcuts many corporations choose, and yet still maintains a steady growth. This is admirable and impressive. A favorite part of this field trip included tasting all the different types of chocolate, of course, but perhaps even more enjoyable was having the confidence that what I was eating was wholesomely sourced and lovingly made.

The next couple days were preoccupied with studying for the Russian test, which thankfully was only 9 questions. The Nordic Business Culture class included a couple guest speakers and pretty quick lectures, so it was a better week study-wise as well.

On Friday afternoon, we took a ferry to go to Tallinn, Estonia for the weekend! The ferry was a very interesting experience and I enjoyed the ride there—it was nicer than any plane I have ever been on! When we got to our apartments in Old Town, we went straight to dinner at our soon-to-be-favorite place, Kompressor. Kompressor is a pancake/crepe restaurant that is altogether incredibly cheap, incredibly quick, and incredibly delicious. We went there once each day.

In the few days we were there, we went on a walking tour of Old Town and explored the ins and outs of the beautiful medieval city and beyond. It was incredible to us to see how well the city was preserved in its original form, and how dedicated the local people were to helping tell us about it. It seems as if tourism may be what keeps that part of the city afloat. I think we walked probably 10 miles each day, going to Kadriorg palace, St Olav’s Cathedral, and all things in between. It was a fairly relaxing weekend—all we did was walk in the beautiful weather, drink coffee, and spend minimal amounts of money. I would recommend anyone to go there, especially if they are interested in medieval and monarchy history. To me, this was the most fascinating part of the tour and the town itself! I can confidently say that Tallinn, Estonia quickly became a favorite for us all.

I am very sad that there are only a couple of days left. I hope they are jam-packed with wonderful memories!

Categories: 2018 Trip

This past week we went to Lapland! I think this was the best part of the whole trip. Next year, if the trip you guys go on is Lapland …get excited. In the beginning, I didn’t think I was going to have fun. I really wanted to go to Amsterdam or Stockholm for our group trip, at least somewhere out of the country. Instead, we went up to the arctic circle, where it was cold yes but not as cold as you would think! The flight is up there is funny because you know it’s a small town if only ONE flight goes up there a day. We got a tour guide names Garath (go follow adventure by design on Instagram) and he stayed with us all weekend. Ended up being a super cool guy, living on the land. The ride up there was beautiful, filled with trees and lakes. You couldn’t help feeling a sense of peace and quietness. We started by having lunch at this reindeer farm. You crawl into this hut that is completely made out of wood and grab cute little wooden cups. We ate reindeer soup (sorry Rudolph!) and had loads of bread –(side note) get ready to eat a lot of bread on this trip…it must be a European thing but they love their bread. We then got to go cuddle some husky puppies and meet some of the ones that pull the sled… I wish we could’ve stayed longer there but we ended up going to another one on Sunday (ill tell you more about that).  Before we went to our cabins, we got to see reindeer, some HUGE horses and beautiful old buildings.

Our cabins were surprisingly beautiful and super comfy. Around us is beautiful mountains and a huge lake. The next day we took a 13.5 mile walk…yes insane but awesome! I have never gotten the chance to hike up a mountain so this was a big moment for me. The forest was peaceful…I wish there was a rule where the whole group had to be quiet so we could just listen to the forest.

Sunday was my favorite day. We went on a hike in the morning, where we got a moment to breath with the trees and take a moment for yourself. This was a huge thing for me because you got a moment to focus on yourself. Sometimes on this trip you have a hard time with taking time for yourself because you are with people every second of the month.

We then got to go to a husky farm! On this farm, over 200 dogs are running every day to learn and train for husky racing. I fell in love with a dog named Arun. They have a program where you can adopt a dog after their years of sledding and I hope one day I can adopt one for myself. All in all, Lapland has my heart and always will! Hopefully one day I can go back.

Categories: 2018 Trip

Every week here seems to get better! I have been having such a great time here that I’m dreading the fact that we only have a week remaining. For starters, I’m writing this blog as I am preparing for my trip to Tallin, Estonia! The details of this trip will definitely be explained in the last blog.

This past weekend we had the opportunity to visit Lapland, which is located in the northern part of Finland. We visited to Huskie farms, ate reindeer soup, and hiked daily! This trip gave me a good sense of what Finland is all about. They people who serviced us in the cabins & served as our guides were truly amazing and hospitable. The scenery there was very beautiful & the weather quite chilly. We had the opportunity to sauna there and jump in the lake for a cool down. In addition, we made crepes over an open fire which were quite delicious if you ask me! The hike through their national park was a challenge for me due to my asthma but I still made it to the top thanks to my encouraging group members and tour guide! We also roasted sausages during our hiked and ate some sandwiches we made ourselves.

In addition to our amazing weekend trip, we came back to school to learn some more things at Hanken about Nordic business culture and went to their business lab. While in the business a learned a new and interesting term “ikigai” which refers to why you do what you do or a reason for being. This really stood out to me because it was a vendiagram that encompassed what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what your good at. This is something we should all look to focus on. This is where our passion, mission, vocation, and profession sticks out.

In closing, I would just like to express my appreciation for all the things I have learned thus far. I have been keeping up with my studies but I also get to see the beauty Finland has to offer. I’m not ready to depart Finland and this trip has really gone by quickly.

Categories: 2018 Trip

Week three has been absolutely amazing. We had a three-day weekend, so we were able to visit Lapland. From the moment we landed to when we took off, we had something exciting to do. First, we had a traditional and delicious lunch of reindeer soup and bread. After this, we went to a reindeer farm and were able to use a Finnish lasso. We also went on a hike around 8 PM, but it was still very light outside, so we got to see beautiful views. The following day, we hiked thirteen miles. This took about 6 hours. Along the way, we stopped in a cabin (that is free for anyone to stay in) and cooked sausages over a fire. Later that evening, we cooked pancakes over a fire and used the sauna. We would sit in the sauna for a while, jump into a very cold lake, and go back into the sauna to do it again. On the final day, we went on a shorter hike and were given the opportunity to reflect in the peaceful forest. We also visited a husky farm, and I was amazed by the amount of work that was done in order to keep the dogs happy and healthy. Later, we visited the nature center and learned about Finnish history and wildlife. We also visited a very unique gift shop that had countless trinkets, t-shirts, anything else you could possibly think of. It was nice to be able to escape from the city and simple enjoy the outdoors. At one point, our guide showed us that if we all stood still and stopped talking, it was completely silent. Lapland was an incredible experience, and I’m so grateful I was given the opportunity to visit.

The following weekend, a few of us went to Estonia and spent the weekend in Tallinn’s Old Town. This was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. The winding streets and elaborate buildings were absolutely stunning. Even the doors were some of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen. This area is full of countless unique cafes and restaurants, and there was always something interesting happening. One of the best places we visited was Kompressor. This was a pancake bar that had omelets, snacks and crepes with both sweet and savory flavors. We also went to an Indian restaurant, Spice, that was basically in a basement. We were also able to go on a tour, see important landmarks, and learn interesting facts about Estonian culture and history. I was blown away by Tallinn and its unique character. This trip truly has flown by, and I can’t believe there’s only one week left.

Categories: 2018 Trip, Uncategorized

Starting week three was probably the best way we have started any week in the trip. Why? Because we had a company visit to the ever so famous Fazer chocolate factory. While it wasn’t exactly like the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where everything was made of chocolate, it was still an awesome experience. When we got to Fazer, we went into a large conference room where we listened to a presentation about Fazer, and much to my surprise we learned that Fazer was not just chocolate. The company has four other brands: bakery, food services, lifestyle foods, and retail. It was amazing to see how huge this company is in so many aspects of Finnish culture. After the presentation, we went on a tour of the main building and we got to see this giant atrium in the middle of the building where they made a rainforest type climate in order to grow ingredients for some of their products like certain fruits, cinnamon, and vanilla. At the end of the tour, there were these buckets of chocolate bars and we were able to eat as much chocolate as we want, but we were not allowed to take any with us. We were consuming chocolate like we had been stranded for weeks with no food just eating candy after candy. Some were delicious and some I wish I had not taken a bite of but it was pure bliss standing in that room stuffing our faces. There was this popcorn flavored chocolate bar that I’m going to have to find a way to import into the U.S. when I go back because it was the perfect mix of sweet and salty and I knew the bars I bought will not last long when I go home. All in all, I learned about one the most popular food companies in the Nordics and I was able to eat a bunch of chocolate, so it was a good day.

The rest of the week was focused on studying for our Russian Business Culture test on Thursday morning, but in the afternoon when test stress was over, a group of us went to a ropes course just outside of Helsinki. It was quite the adrenaline rush and work out but being up in the air with all the trees was pretty beautiful. We got to see a whole other side of Finland. The next day after class, we packed our bags and jumped on the ferry to Estonia.

The place we stayed in Estonia was right in Old Town which is a part of the city that looks very medieval and beautiful. The cobble stone street and castle looking buildings were incredible to look at. The town was just rich with history and looked like it was right out of a story book about medieval times. While I loved walking through Old Town, my favorite place about Estonia would have to be the pancake place. Kompressor is the hidden gem of Estonia because it is a pancake restaurant (they are actually crepes but they call them pancakes here) that had a ton of different flavors ranging from savory to sweet. We ate there at least once for the three days we were in Estonia. The second day we were there we woke up and took the free tour around Old Town. We got to learn about the history of Estonia and learn about most of the big buildings in Old Town. Since I had never heard of Estonia before this trip, I had no clue what this country had to offer or what it would be like, but I learned how important technology is to their economy and that they have only been an independent country for 100 years. For the most part we just walked around Old Town, went to some souvenir shops and tried out the coffee shops. It was nice to get out of Finland and explore another part of Europe, but when we got back to our hotel in Helsinki it felt like coming home.

Categories: 2018 Trip, Uncategorized

Lapland was amazing. This past weekend, our entire study abroad group took a trip to Lapland in Finland. Lapland is the northern most region in Finland, and that was clear because the temperature dropped over 20 degrees as we made our way there from Helsinki. We flew into the Kittila airport and traveled to Hetta, which is one the most sparsely populated areas in Finland. On the way, we stopped at a reindeer farm, where I discovered the amazing taste of reindeer soup. Of course, like all other meals I’ve had in Finland, we had delicious bread on the side as well. After lunch, we explored the farm and learned more about the care and maintenance required to look after the animals. We were also taught about reindeer roundups, which includes lassoing the reindeer. To get a better understanding of this tradition, we had the chance to lasso our own reindeer. We warmed up by throwing the lasso around stationary antlers, but we then proceeded to capture a moving reindeer, which happened to be one of the human workers at the farm running around and pretending to be an animal. Surprisingly, my Texas roots kicked in, and I was successful in both rounds of lassoing. Finally, we made it to Hetta, where we made a quick hike. On that hike, across the water, we could see the mountain we were destined to climb the next day. Little did we know how strenuous it would be.

We woke up on Sunday morning, unaware of how much walking we were going to have to do that day. We started off by taking a boat taxi across the lake to reach Pallas Yllastunturi National Park. The boat was incredibly sketchy, with the wooden panels barely holding together, yet somehow, we made it across the water. Initially, the hike was fairly easy, and there wasn’t much incline or rough terrain. We made it to a halfway point, where they asked us if we wanted to keep going to the top. Without any hesitation, we said yes because we wanted to see the incredible views; however, the hike became far steeper, and the journey was much longer than we expected. Despite the pain I still feel in my legs three days later, this hike was beyond worth it. I could see for miles and miles looking from any direction, and the guide told us we were even able to see Sweden from our location. All in all, the hike was around 13 miles long, and my body was exhausted. The Finnish solution to my pain: sauna. The place we were staying at had a sauna right next to the lake. I knew the water was going to be very cold, but I told myself I had to jump in once just for the experience. After sitting in the sauna for about 15 minutes, I ran to the lake and dived into the water. Was it horrible? Absolutely. But was it worth it? I’m still trying to decide. Although the initial shock of the water was cold, once I got out, my body felt very refreshed, and I began to understand why the Finns enjoyed this process so much. To make the night even more memorable, there was a fire in a teepee next to the lake, and we sat around it talking, laughing, and making crepes. That day was definitely one I will never forget.

The next morning, after going on another short walk, we stopped by a husky farm. There were over 200 dogs there, all of which were adorable. I enjoyed learning about how they care for the animals, and spending time with them was much needed after being away from my dog at home for so long. Although I think I complained about the cold and the walking quite a bit while I was there, I definitely loved Lapland and want to go back again at some point.

After an exciting weekend in Lapland, we had to come back to school. This week we visited Fazer, a company with a huge role in the Finnish market. We learned about the products they offer and their plan for corporate social responsibility. Then, we were blessed with the opportunity to taste as much of their chocolate as we could for 10 minutes. I might have regrets about the amount of chocolate I ate in that short time period, but it was fun to try out the multiple brands of chocolates they create and deliver to stores in both Finland and other Nordic countries. It is sad to think our time in Finland is running out, but we still have big plans remaining for the rest of our trip!

Categories: 2018 Trip, Uncategorized