Long Study Tour Part 1: Helsinki

This past week my core course, Health Delivery and Prioritization, had our long study tour. If you have not read about the short study tour core course week, I would recommend going back to that to get a better understanding of what a core course week is. In short, it is a combination of travel with academic visits relating to the field of study and cultural visits. All these combined together help to create a unique experience where you get to see what you have been studying in action. Unlike the short study tour which was in Denmark or Sweden, the long study tour takes students all across Europe. Hence the tagline: “Scandinavia as your home, Europe as your classroom.” For my core course, we went to Helsinki (Finland) and Tallinn (Estonia). Since so much happened during this week, I will split it up into two posts with this first one being about the two and a half days we spent in Helsinki.

 

We flew into Helsinki on Sunday. Since our flight left in the morning, we had to get to the airport by 6am. This was quite the challenge for many of us but we all made it on time and were soon on our way. When we arrived in the Helsinki airport, we were guided by our teachers to a bus which took us to our hotel for the duration of the stay. The bus driver was very informative and as we drove told us about some of the history of Finland, interesting tourist attractions in Helsinki, and Finnish culture. After we reached the hotel we had some time on our own until the next event. During this time I explored the city a little, specifically I went to the new library called Oodi. It is a very cool building with an interesting design and functions. It not only has books but also workshops, sewing machines, and 3D printers. Later in the day we went on a walking tour of Helsinki. We saw many of the main sites and a guide told us the history and stories behind them. Some of the interesting places include the central station, the top of an art museum, the main harbor and of course the Helsinki cathedral. It was a very good tour, but it did get pretty cold when the sun started to go down.

 

On Monday our academic visit in the morning was to The National Institute for Health and Welfare. This was an interesting visit where we learned about the Karelia Project which was designed to reduce cardiovascular disease mortality in a specific region but was eventually implemented on a country wide scale. This provided a good example of health measures that were originally organized and implemented on a community level rather than the governmental level that is usually taught about in class. Our cultural visit for the day was a visit to a sauna just outside Helsinki. Everyone was a little nervous about doing it since no one knew what to expect. Once there we checked in and learned that one of the smoke saunas had caught on fire and was destroyed. Luckily, they had another smoke sauna and electric saunas for us to use. I enjoyed sitting in the warm saunas but jumping in the cold water was not as fun for me. I am glad I did it just so that I can say I had the experience, but I don’t know if I would do it all the time. However, many of my classmates loved it and wanted to go back the next day so it really depends on the person. That evening, we had time on our own and I used it to spend time with my Finnish friend who lives there. This was really fun and I got to meet more Finnish people and learn more about their culture. We had these cakes for a holiday that is celebrated all over Europe, like Danish Fastelavn. If you have not heard about this next Finnish custom, I would look it up. Finnish university students have jumpsuits that they were based on their major and they decorate them with patches. They are very cool to look at.

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On Tuesday we had a  visit to KELA. KELA is the Social Insurance Institution of Finland. We learned about how Finland provides social security to their residents from the sick, to the unemployed, and the students as well. While commuting to this visit we had a mishap and went several stops too far on the tram and had to get off and go the other way. We still got there on time and in the process we got to see more of the city. After this visit we had some more time on our own. A group of us decided to take a visit to Suomenlinna which is an island just off the coast of Helsinki. It served as a sea fortress during the 18th century when Finland was under Swedish control and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We only had 2 hours and as the ferry only left around once an hour we had to go through the island tour relatively quickly. But, it was definitely worth the visit. There is a church on the island which is also a lighthouse. Finally, we went back to the hotel and took a bus to the harbor in order to take the ferry to Tallinn, Estonia.

To be continued…

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If anyone has any questions for me please feel free to reach out. Thank you for reading through another post and have a good week!

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