What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘Finland’?
The country of a thousand lakes, sauna, nature, cold weather... ESN Uni Turku likes to help Erasmus students to get more familiarised with the Finnish culture. The 60 fastest and luckiest ones get to experience a wonderful weekend at the seaside with a wooden sauna, beach, some games and a party!
The weekend starts on Saturday morning, when the full buses depart from the Turku Cathedral. Some ESNers are already at the cottage by that time getting ready and finishing with the last preparations. Everything must be perfect! The cottage weekend is one of the biggest event organised by our section, and the most loved one.
At the cottage we present ourselves, tell a few words about the section and the programme, and have some food. After lunch, the Amazing Cottage Race begins! The aim is to introduce Finnish culture to the foreign students and, of course, to have lots and lots of fun. We try not to focus on the fact that it is a competition; the winners are not the people that have the most points, but those who had the most fun during the event. Because what could be better than positive emotions and happiness?
There are several checkpoints, usually 6 or 7. The traditional ones are Fear Factor, Finnish quiz, Finnish map, korvapuusti baking and wife carrying. During the Fear Factor students get to try some traditional Finnish food, such as mämmi, salmiakki, leipäjuusto and many other typical dishes. People try to guess the flavors – their eyes must be closed during the food tasting. Guesses are sometimes very funny, because some of the dishes are very unique, it is hard to guess the ingredients. At the Finnish quiz the participants find out a little bit more about the mysterious and cold country. They are also asked to draw a map of Finland and illustrate the associations that they have with it. People draw Angry Birds, wild animals, magical Aurora Borealis, lakes and many other things that Finland is famous for. Wife carrying is a fun activity too; however, we don't give any prize similar to the one that the winners of the real competition get. One of the students' favorite activities is baking korvapuusti, the traditional cinnamon buns. Everyone gets to make some dough and our group leaders explain the whole process of baking this delicious treat. In the evening we all eat them as a dessert. Yummy! Some students go rowing on the boat before or after the Cottage Race. It is very nice to sail along the beach, especially when the weather is nice.
In the evening, we prepare the special Finnish 'SPA' treatment – the real sauna, heated by using wood. The bravest ones jump in the sea, like Finnish people! At night it is time for the huge party, we all gather in the biggest cottage and have lots of fun. The DJs are flexible and can adapt to everyone's taste. The party continues until the last person gets tired and sometimes it even turns into a pyjama party with the cinnamon rolls, if there are any left by that time.
The next morning begins with the best activity: waking everyone up. No matter how tired the students are, they help us clean all the cottages. We take the last pictures at the sea, have breakfast and prepare to go back to real life in Turku.
The ESN actives love this event just as much as the exchange students. Everyone gets to experience a real weekend in the woods, at the seaside with sauna and some cultural activities. Many people found their best friends during this trip. It is a great way for the Erasmus students to spend a lot of time together, to bond and to have fun. We encourage everyone to join the event, and usually it gets fully booked in less than a minute! Hopefully, this traditional event will take place in the future and help new students to get to know the Finnish lifestyle better.
Written by Alina Dubinina
ESN Uni Turku is one of ESN Finland's 16 sections. See more on their website.