On Saturday the 11th of March at 2:00 in the morning it was time to begin our great adventure to the northern part of this amazing country; Lapland! Every one of the 64 international students that joined this trip  were in time and our long journey in the bus could begin. After around 8 hours we arrived at our first stop; the Kemi snow castle. I think we were all amazed by how much people can do with snow and ice, how they can create accurate statues, paintings and walls and how they built that again every year. After an hour we continued to the next stop; Rovaniemi - the capital of Lapland and the most touristic place I've seen in Finland. Here we got the chance to see Santa, some reindeer, the arctic circle and a lot of shops. Afterwards we continued to our destination; Saariselkä. We got some information from our guides and decided to immediately hunt for the Northern lights after dinner. We were lucky! Even though there were some clouds we saw the aurora after only 15 minutes of waiting!
           

Sunday our program started at 12 so we had the chance to sleep a little. We started the day off with the husky sledge. We learned how to turn and use the breaks on the sledges and divided the group in smaller groups. The weather was amazing, the dogs were great and we had an awesome sledging and cuddling time. In the later afternoon most of us went on a snowshoe safari where you could choose for the hard-core or beginner track. I chose the beginner track but I have to say; I still sucked at it and found it really difficult. I kept falling, standing on my own snowshoes and not being able to get up, but we had fun and experienced the real Lapland with the hills and the super high snow. In the evening some of us went on another amazing adventure; snowmobiling! Even though it was the most expensive activity I would definitely recommend it to others. We drove the snowmobiles in pairs for over 3 hours and it was one of the coolest things I did in Finland. Halfway we had a stop for some warm drinks and we saw even better Northern lights than the day before, it was magical. In the beginning the snowmobile was kind of scary but after a while you get the hang of it and it’s really cool.
          

  Monday we started the day off with cross-country skiing – one of those things all old Finnish people do and us international students decide to join. We got a quick theory class on how to actually cross-country ski properly, did some races against each other and then started the tracks. The track started off with a downhill which wasn’t the best for me since I fell 3 times in a couple of meters and my tailbone was painful for the next month. We skied for about an hour but were all exhausted and sweaty when we got back so were happy to have a nice lunch and some of us decided to go to the spa afterwards to chill. In the evening there was a aurora reindeer safari but since it was really cloudy that day we unfortunately couldn’t see anything in the sky. However we did have a tour with the reindeer and a nice stop with some snacks, drinks and information about the reindeer.

            On Tuesday we went on another bus journey, this time to the amazing Norway. Our guides managed to get some more places on the bus so almost all of us joined on this trip. I thought those couple of hours wouldn’t make that much of a difference in terms of scenery but I turned out to be completely wrong. Norway has beautiful rocks, fjords and way less trees. We divided the group in two and took turns with looking around and going into the sauna and the Arctic ocean! It was a wonderful experience to all run in the Arctic ocean together. However it was also awesome to climb those rocks and catch the wind on top of them looking over those great views. Afterwards we had lunch and started our return trip to Saariselkä. In the evening it was time for the after party of the trip, we had a party outside while it was snowing with some good music to dance to and later you could continue the party in a bar downtown. Great way to celebrate the last evening in this trip.

            On Wednesday it was time to pack all our stuff and have some last hours in Saariselkä, some of us joined the Winter Olympics were we did several sports and games and sled down the 1,5 km long hill. Other went skiing, sledging or to the spa. In the afternoon we drove back to Joensuu to arrive on Thursday around 3 o’clock in the morning, we were all soo tired but all of it was worth it; we had an amazing week!

By Annelot van Rooij