Ms Sinikka Laakio-Whybrow / Ms Merja Laine,
Language Teachers and Project Co-ordinators
Kaarina Senior High School, Finland
WHAZZUP? – The Face-to-Face Meeting
Kaarina, Finland, 15 – 23 May 2010
Two partner schools of the AEC-NET Award winning project WHAZZUP? had the unique chance for a face-to-face meeting in May 2010, when 15 students with their energetic teacher, Ms Geeta Rajan, from St. Mark’s Senior Secondary Public School in New Delhi India visited Kaarina Senior High School in Finland.
The Indian delegation had prepared well for their arctic expedition with suitcases full of thick clothing, only to be welcomed by an usually warm and sunny heat wave in Finland. Interestingly, though, they described the temperature of plus 25 degrees Celsius (which for people from Finland is considered quite hot) as pleasantly cool, after the heat of 40 degrees in Delhi.
During the 8-day stay, students shared everyday life with their host families. Appreciating the diversity of our world, embracing new customs and lifestyles – even surviving challenging culinary differences; all of this helps to educate the young into becoming informed and tolerant global citizens. Compared to the crowds of New Delhi, the relative emptiness of Finland was surprising. The Finnish hosts had to work hard to explain to the lively Indians that an apparently empty road doesn’t mean that you can walk in the middle of it!
Apart from homestay, observing and participating in lessons at school, learning some Finnish, sightseeing, local sports, as well as nature trails and collaborative tasks were all part of the itinerary.
Finnish host Taina Nurmi observed, “For most guests, the traditional sauna evening at the seaside was by far the most memorable adventure. Many of them even ventured for a dip in the cold sea several times in between the sauna baths.”
Another highlight of the week was the whole school assembly with colourful cultural performances by students from both schools. The Indian bhangra dance received a roaring applause. The assembly was finished with a touching performance of ‘We are the world’ by the Finnish choir with Utkarsh Bhardwaj from St. Mark’s Senior Secondary Public School . Pictures from the assembly can be seen on the Kaarina High School website .
After teary good-byes at the Helsinki harbour, the Indian group carried on to Tallinn, Estonia, but hopefully, friendships and connections will continue in virtual social networks.
Rhythem Raswant of the Indian delegation said, “This was a great programme and experience for all of us. We got to learn many things about the Finnish and Estonian culture and lifestyle. We are indeed fortunate that we got the privilege to visit Turku, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia, both of which have been declared as the Cultural Capitals of Europe 2011.”