The last week in Finland was an emotional rollercoaster where the fun finally outweighed the schoolwork. We had a pretty heavy load of schoolwork, consisting of a long paper and a class presentation, but the last day of school ended with a nice hoorah when all of the Hanken faculty we have interacted with throughout the trip hosted a farewell lunch for us. That was when it finally kicked in that this trip was coming to an end. However, we still had our upcoming trip to Prague, and the excitement from that masked the sadness from the realization that we are all going home soon.

Two days in Prague was nowhere near enough time to experience the whole city. Prague was, hands down, the most beautiful city I have ever been to. We only got to see the main tourist attractions while we were there, but the entire city was one giant tourist attraction. Every building in Lesser Town and Old Town looked like it had been there for centuries. The landmark that stood out the most, however, was the Charles Bridge. Named after King Charles IV, this bridge is an architectural wonder. The fact that this bridge was completed sometime during the 1400s and still stands today is enough to keep me wondering for hours. I most definitely plan on returning to Prague in the future for a longer period because it is one of those cities where it is just a wonderful place to get lost and wander.

Coming home from Prague was when the sadness really kicked in. Our flight got in around 23:00, and we were getting picked up to go home the next day at 05:00, so instead of deciding to lay in bed and mope around in our sadness, a group of us decided to stay up all night and talk about the good times we had. Thankfully, the discussion stayed interesting and comical instead of nostalgic. Reality never really settled in until I got home and realized that I cannot just message my new friends to meet in the lobby and hang out anymore.

After being home for a few days, I have realized how much this study abroad has impacted my life. I have had some unforgettable experiences with some new lifelong friends. I highly recommend doing a study abroad to all college students. In addition, I recommend doing the trip with nobody you know. In life, it is important to get out of your comfort zone and learn how to adapt, but on a study abroad, not knowing anyone just makes it easier to make some of the best friends you will have in college. I hope to stay friends with my group members for years to come, and I hope that anyone thinking about going on the Nordic Business Study Abroad reads this and realizes how amazing of an opportunity this is.

 

For the final time,

Dean Kaitson

Categories: 2018 Trip

This month has come and gone before my eyes and I cannot believe this is already my last blog post. We finished the trip with a weekend in Prague! A group of 12 of us left early Thursday morning in order to catch our 9am flight to the Czech Republic. We had a full weekend planned from exploring Prague’s Old Town, touring castles, a dinner cruise, and visiting the KGB Interactive museum. The most important part of this mini vacation for me was to just enjoy spending time with everyone during our last weekend. Prague was an absolutely beautiful city, but it was the people I went with that made it so memorable.

I laugh now about the reservations I had before coming on this study abroad, but at the time I was so anxious to meet the other students. I knew that no matter what I would make the best of my time here, but I did not realize how much fun and how many friendships I would form in the process. Being here made me realize that 1 month is too short, and for a few days I seriously considered going on another, and longer, study abroad. But when I really started thinking about where to go and for how long, I realized that any other study abroad would be a letdown. I would spend my time there comparing every experience to my time in Finland, and I already know that it would not live up to my expectations. So, I just need to accept that my study abroad days are over, and that I couldn’t have asked for a greater experience.

After a month of adjusting to life in Helsinki, it truly came to feel like home. With ice cream stands everywhere I turned, an H&M only blocks away from our hotel, and a pizza restaurant just downstairs, it was an easy life to get used to. Pretty much without fail, every morning consisted of a hot vanilla latte from Waynes coffee, which was just down the street from our Omena Hotel. After class concluded for the day, we always somehow ended up getting dinner together, sitting at a park, or just hanging out in someone’s room. With every day so packed with adventure, I’m not sure if I have jet lag or if it’s just plain exhaustion since returning home. All I know is that this trip wouldn’t have been near as fun without the students I was lucky enough to experience this with. Along with the fun we had, we learned so much about international business culture and how to apply it to business decisions and negotiations in the future.

I am so thankful for this experience and for the people I was able to share it with. This truly was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and Helsinki will always hold a special place in my heart.

Categories: 2018 Trip

I write this from the USA, and that is quite possibly the saddest thing in the world right now! I loved this trip more than I ever could have expected and made friends (American and Finnish) that I know I will miss dearly.

The last week in Finland was extremely busy, primarily with schoolwork and travel. We had 2 papers and a presentation due all in the last couple of days, so the crew spent most of our remaining time together in Helsinki studying. This was a little sad, but we made the most of it and worked at a bar while watching the World Cup! On Wednesday, we had a picnic in the park to celebrate being done with Summer School and to spend time together before everyone split up to travel.

Bright and early the next morning, 12 of the 18 of us trekked to the airport to fly to Prague! We got there around noon and were overjoyed to find that it was about 80º F and sunny! We wasted no time, quickly dropped our bags off at the Air B&B and ran off to go sightseeing! That first day, we explored the Old Town square, the Jewish district, saw the Astronomical Clock tower, and ate ice cream in cinnamon dough cones, known to Czechs as Trdelnik.

The next two days, sadly, were rainy and cold, but that didn’t stop us from making the most of each moment. We got the chance to tour Prague castle, go to the John Lennon wall, visit an ice pub, take an evening dinner boat tour, and more. A favorite activity was going to an interactive KGB museum, owned by a Russian man who collected old artifacts. He was extremely entertaining and hilarious to listen to and would act out the way each weapon was used, with sound effects. It made for a memorable and comedic experience for all of us. The final day began with waffles and consisted of souvenir shopping and wandering around. I think that is my favorite kind of day, because it allows you to be pleasantly surprised by what you see, and is much more relaxed, as opposed to booking the whole day 9-5. Tabitha, Taylor and I enjoyed sitting outside a cafe and drinking coffee together, getting the chance to really talk to one another rather than focusing on doing activities. It was such a nice way to cap off the Prague trip before we had to fly back that evening.

The travel experience coming home was a little bit hectic and involved some flight delay, but we made it back safely nonetheless. It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to everyone. How do you go from spending every day together for a month, to nothing at all!

In summary, I am so thankful for this study abroad and the ways it opened my eyes. Finland and its surrounding areas are completely different than anything I have ever experienced, which meant I learned SO much– in classes at school, through travel, and through just interacting with the barista at Wayne’s Coffee. In the car on the way home, I found that I had so much to tell my parents about what I learned about Nordic and Russian culture and business (surprise surprise!). Many of these things were not gleaned from a lecture, but from applying lecture concepts to living in the midst of something completely foreign. I would highly encourage people to go on this trip. It is not your typical study abroad experience to Italy or Spain, and because of that, you can expect to have your world completely shaken in the best way possible.

Categories: 2018 Trip

Week four was the hardest week for me because I knew shortly we would have to return home. I had so much fun on my trip and learned so much that I did not want to come back. I enjoyed myself very much and some of my favorite things were our classmates from Hanken, the town, the food (we had the best bread everyday), and the culture of the Finish people. School during the fourth week ended on Wednesday for us meaning we had four free days to ourselves.

In those four days I just allowed myself to roam the city freely without any direction and just would guide my way back home when I was ready. The town itself is very beautiful and it was quiet then best they were in holiday known as midsummer. This means a lot of the locals were gone, business were closed, and there was not much to do. This was just right for me because it made getting through the city a bit easier without so many people walking or taking the tram and I was able to really see everything for myself and enjoy it personally.

Before coming back I had to enjoy the Finish tradition of going to the sauna! This was also one of the things I will miss from Finland. It very ironic because I didn’t think I would like the sauna at all but it was the best place to think for yourself and relax and just let everything pour off of you, literally.

This study abroad trip will be one I cherish forever. For starters, I came on this trip not knowing anyone and having zero knowledge about Finland. I’m leaving with so much more and I am happy to have gained lots of new friends.

Getting back home was a challenge, due to some complications and long flights that included delays, but we came back safely and was sad that we all had to go our separate ways until we see each other in school for Fall 2018.

If I could do this trip over again I definitely would! There’s so much I want to share with other people about what study abroad has to offer and I can’t wait for them to listen! Most importantly, thanks to Mrs. Panina for making it all happen! Kitos and gig em!

Categories: 2018 Trip

I can’t believe it’s over! This month has been the adventure of a lifetime and something I will never forget! Week 4 started quick and started busy. We had group projects and papers to finish so Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were filled with plenty of school work. During those days, the majority of our study abroad group hung out together and watched some of the World Cup games while working. It was such a great time to bond even more with the people we had already spent three weeks with and it felt more like friends hanging out then people who had just met a few weeks ago. Along with the knowledge of Nordic culture and business, I will be coming back home with some amazing friends that I might not have ever met if I did not go on this study abroad. That made this week much harder to get through since we all had the knowledge that the end of this trip was nearing, but we tried to just push that to the back of our minds and enjoy the time we had left.

On the last day of class, we finished up our presentations and then we all went out to lunch. We were able to sit and eat with the Finnish students that we had class with and some of our professors which was a good time. After lunch some of us went souvenir shopping to find some more gifts for friends and family. We stumbled into a seemingly normal gift shop and started walking around to find that there was a downstairs that was filled entirely with Christmas decorations. This was amazing! It truly felt like I was walking in a winter wonderland and since Finland has its famous Santa Claus Village, it was like being in the middle of Santa’s workshop. I walked out of that store ready for the Christmas season (and its only June!). A little later in the day, most of our group went to the park to sit and hang out and some of the Finnish students came to join us as well. It was a great way to spend our last full day in Helsinki just sitting around in the middle of the city getting to chat with the new friends we made and say goodbye to our home for the last month because the next day we were flying out to Prague!

On Thursday we got up early and headed to the airport so we could fly to the Czech Republic. Walking out of the airport was a true shock from what we had been experiencing in Helsinki weather wise because it was 80 degrees in Prague. Just like Estonia, Prague had an Old Town too so we walked around and saw some really old buildings and beautiful views of the city. The streets are so old they are cobble stone which makes the city look so much more authentic, but it also took a toll on my feet so after the first day I was pooped. I woke up from a restful night of sleep and we walked over to a KGB museum that had great reviews on Trip Advisor. The museum was a pretty small room filled with many different Russian KGB artifacts, and the owner was a very theatrical man who enjoyed sharing knowledge of the weapons used by the KGB. He demonstrated how some of the weapons were used in very entertaining ways with sound effects and crazy movements. When we finished the museum, we made our way to meet a tour guide for a castle tour. We got to see Prague Castle which is this huge area with many different buildings. It was a pretty cool place to get to see and explore the castle and all the area around it. After the tour was over we went on a dinner cruise on the river that goes through the city. It was so nice to get to watch the sun go down on the water while seeing the city on both sides of the boat. The next day, a few of us just walked around the city and bought some souvenirs before we headed back to Helsinki for one last night.

I will never forget this month, and Finland will always be a home to me. I have learned so much about the Finnish culture from the classes I have taken and by getting to interact and make friends with Finnish students. This month seemed like it flew by, and as happy as I am to see my family and sleep in my own bed in America, my heart will always have a longing to be back in Helsinki.

Categories: 2018 Trip

During our final week in Helsinki, we had a five-page reflection and a twenty-minute presentation due, so much of it was spent working on these assignments and watching the FIFA World Cup. We were also able to spend some time in a beautiful park together with some of our Finnish friends. After our last day of class, there was a farewell lunch for us and our classmates. It was great to be able to see friends from previous classes and spend more time with everyone, but it was also very sad to say goodbye and acknowledge that our time in Finland was coming to an end.

A few of us chose to spend our last weekend in Prague, and I’m so grateful that we made this decision. Prague was absolutely phenomenal. We were there for such a short period of time, yet we were able to experience so much. On the first day, I was able to visit an alchemy museum which also consisted of a tower in which Shakespeare supposedly wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Next, I stumbled upon a “magical cavern.” This was really just a building made to look like a cave inside, and it contained very unique pieces of art. I was also able to climb to the top of the Observation Tower on Petrin Hill and see some stunning views of the city. My second day in Prague was even more hectic. We spent some time on the Charles Bridge buying souvenirs from street vendors. One of the most interesting things we did this day was visit a KGB museum. This was just a small room in a random building and seemed to be operated by one man. He was very entertaining and explained most of the artifacts in great detail. It was a very strange experience, but I’m glad I went. We also went on a guided tour of Prague Castle. It’s enormous and has several different parts. Here we were able to learn about the history and culture of the Czech Republic. St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague Castle was incredible and had huge arches, beautiful stained glass windows, and an intricate vaulted ceiling. After this tour, a few of us visited the Lennon Wall and attempted to visit St. Nicolas Church, but we accidentally climbed a tower next door instead. I’m actually really glad we made this mistake because the views of the city from this tower were amazing and didn’t have windows or bars blocking the view. On the final day, a few of us visited Terezin and learned about prisons, concentration camps, and other aspects of life in the Czech Republic during World War II. This was a very eye-opening experience and allowed me to better understand the war from a European perspective. Prague is unlike any place I’ve ever visited, and it’s a place I will definitely visit again when I return to Europe.

I had always planned to study abroad, but I never had any idea where I would go. Finland definitely wasn’t somewhere I expected to visit, but I’m extremely happy that it’s where I ended up. Helsinki is very safe, clean, and organized which made living there ideal. All of the classes we took were very interesting and applicable to my major. Although I learned a great deal in my classes, I also learned a lot about people, traveling, and other aspects of life. The weekend trips we took were unforgettable and allowed us to further immerse ourselves in European culture. I’m extremely thankful I was able to fulfill my dream of studying abroad. It exceeded my very high expectations and had a huge impact on my life.

Categories: 2018 Trip

This past week we took a trip to Prague. I highly suggest going somewhere on your weekend trips and making sure that you have explored as much as possible. Prague was somewhere that I WILL be back to. It has life in It, people everywhere and so much history. I don’t know how people were able to make me leave. I want to someday bring back my friends and family to this place and show them everything I saw. I went venturing on my own this time, left the group to do what they wanted. Some cool things I did are (if you ever wanted to go) the ghosts tour, alchemy museum, the petrin tower, Kampa island, walked around old town, went to the jewish ghetto and museum, went up the clock tower, saw the Prague castle and palaces, and many more. This place amazed me. My ability get around so easily is what made this trip perfect. The fact that I could figure out where to go and find cool hidden places was my favorite thing about It all. We stayed in a cool apartment in the heart of downtown, I choose It (shoutout airB&B). It was the perfect location next to Charles bridge and many more. I count have asked for a better trip.

This past month has been the best experience of my life. Meeting Finnish people, understanding your way around town and falling in love with a city that I grew up thinking about. I never thought that after all these years I would make it here, and now, I know my way around like a pro. I no longer use google maps, I know how to say simple things like thank you, cheers and hello. Leaving this place behind will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The friends I’ve made will become lifelong friend. I hope to one day return and visit them, go to the Nordic business forum and slush. At our last get together, I noticed how much I love everyone that is on the trip also. These people will be your best friends and become your go to people (shout out Kelly and Ana! Don’t know what I would’ve done without y’all). Venturing through Finland, I was happy to feel so safe and at home. This journey has made me more self-sufficient and confident in myself because we are thrown into a place that we have never been before on our own. You learn how to become a world traveler and get around without needing a guide. All of the trips we have gone on, -Turku, Estonia, Prague, Lapland, will be trips that I always cherish. I would’ve never gotten to take this trip or explore as much as I have now if it wasn’t for the leap of faith to go to Finland. If you are ever feeling uneasy about this trip, wondering if you should go or not, take the leap. This trip will be the best thing that has ever happened to you. Not only will you get to experience studying and living in a different country, but you will grow as a person. I will miss you Finland!

 

Categories: 2018 Trip

Week three kicked off with our weekend trip to Lapland, the northernmost part of Finland. Lapland makes up around a third of the land area of Finland but only holds 3.2% of the population. At first, I wondered why this place was a ghost town, but I got my answer when our tour guide told us that winter temperatures reach as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. It was about ten degrees colder than Helsinki when we got to Enontekio, the town we were staying in, and you could feel it with the wind chill. The first night, our tour guide took us on a two-hour hike that he referred to as a “short walk”. It was a beautiful view that gave us a taste of what we would experience the next day for our day-long hike. The day-long hike was “the most fun you never want to have again”. Originally starting the hike, I was expecting it to be two or three times longer than the hike the night before which was about two miles, but this hike ended up being almost 14 miles long. Getting to the top of the peak was such an amazing experience that was very fulfilling and triumphant, but then our guide told us that we had to go back, and I realized that we were technically only half way done. On our day in Lapland, our guide took us on another “short” four-hour hike right after breakfast, and that’s when I realized that hiking just isn’t for me. However, after the morning hike, we went to a husky farm, which absolutely made the trip worthwhile. They had upwards of 200 huskies that were all excited for any type of human interaction. Sadly, we only spent 45 minutes at the husky farm before having to head to the airport for our flight.

After experiencing our first week of Nordic business culture, a group of us decided to take a trip to Tallinn, Estonia for the weekend. Tallinn has been the highlight of the trip so far because it was such a beautiful city. We stayed in Old Town, which is one of the most preserved medieval cities in the world. It is not a very large place, but there is an endless amount of exploration to be done. There is something new in every crack and crevice you manage to walk through. Every night after dinner, a group of us would decide to walk the town and “get lost” just so we could find the next best thing to see in Old Town. That was what made the trip for me because the sun would go down at around 23:00, and that was when we would find the best views from the high points we found in the city.

Week three has been capitalized with these experiences outside of Helsinki, and I know I said this last post, but this has actually been the best week yet. I have seen so much more than I have ever seen before in this one week, and it was filled with experiences with some of the greatest people I have ever met.

Categories: 2018 Trip

This last week has come and gone too fast. We had two papers due this week as well as a presentation, so that kept us quite busy most of the week. We had our farewell luncheon with the Hanken students on Wednesday. Most of the Finnish students were there as well as our Nordic business culture professor. I was full of mixed emotions. I was happy to be spending the day with our new Finnish friends but also sad that it would be our last day together. I think most of my classmates felt the same way.

Thursday morning we left for Prague. Prague was my favorite weekend of the trip. We were in an awesome apartment right in the middle of the old town. We were right across the street from the famous Charles bridge. Prague and old town specifically was like an old medieval town. It was absolutely beautiful. There were awe inspiring churches, synagogues, statues and clock towers. One of my favorite buildings we went to was the old Spanish synagogue. It reminded me of a British cathedral. We also went to the Prague castle. This castle is collectively the biggest one in Europe. It once housed many royals both Czech and German. One of the most famous royals was Maria Theresa who was the mother of Maria Antoinette. Maria Theresa, we learned, was a very powerful queen who gave birth to 16 kids who she strategically married to other powerful royal houses in Europe. The castle itself was awesome, it had a massive cathedral within it that housed a lot of crown jewels as well as the tombs of several royal princes, kings and queens. It also held the tomb of a famous priest. This tomb was the most grand of them all. It almost completely gold and absolutely stunning. For dinner on the last night we went on a river cruise. We ate dinner as we floated down the river which was really fun. Overall, Prague was a great experience and I’m honestly bummed we didn’t have more time there. You could probably stay a week and still not get to everything you’d want to see.

Living in Europe for the past month has been a one of a kind experience and one that I will never forget. I learned so much about different cultures and histories. I met new and different friends that I will definitely keep in touch with. It is such a cool thing that I can say I lived in Europe for a month. The pictures and videos I have from exploring are going to a safe place so I can always see them. Being thrown into a different country far away from the United States is a challenge but it was one that I welcomed. Even the things you think you are familiar with from the States are much different. For example, the restaurant chains we have in the States are so much different in Europe. You also never tip any servers as they already include that on your bill. It was so fun to get acclimated to another culture and become comfortable with your strange surroundings. I would recommend this trip to anyone. Even the people that think they couldn’t do it. Because for those people it will make you grow up a little bit when you are out of your comfort zone. It was a great month that I will never forget.

Categories: 2018 Trip

My time here in Helsinki is coming to an end. I have come love Finland and have learned to embrace its culture. I thought at first that coming to Finland would be challenging and I would get homesick because I did not know much about this country before I came. Now, I can say that Helsinki feels like home. Every time I went someplace else like Tallinn or Turku, I wanted to go home to Helsinki by the second day on those trips. The city is nice, beautiful, unique, and safe. Walking around at night I never felt threatened or in trouble. Each day, the city has something new happening. There is always something to do whether that is just going to the sauna or a new different coffee shop everyday. Finland is unique in that it has saunas. I am so happy to have experienced a Finnish sauna because it really gave me a good idea of what the culture here is like. Like a guy said at Loyly Sauna “So this is how the Finns do it” because sitting in 90 degree Celsius heat is what Finns do every week. It sounds crazy but I have learned to love it and I am actually going to miss sauna’s like these back in the states. I am so glad I chose to study in a Nordic Country versus going to southern Europe. Usually if people go to Europe it’s to Spain or France, but now I can say I have been and lived in Helsinki, a Nordic country. It’s something different and unique.

Besides the sauna’s, Lapland is by far the coolest place I have ever been to and I am determined to come back to hike that 3 day hike and to go to the northern tip of Finland where all three countries (Norway, Finland, and Sweden) meet. I am so very grateful to have been given this opportunity to study here. I wouldn’t change anything about this trip and would do it again if given the chance.

Also, to all incoming Nordic study abroad applicants, definitely choose to plan a trip before or after this program to travel the rest of Europe. You won’t regret it and you might as well do it since you’re in Europe already!!

Categories: 2018 Trip