Already more than two weeks have gone by since two buses full of tired exchange students and ESN organisers returned to Turku at the crack of dawn after an eventful week in Lapland.  Our journey started a week before on a bleak Monday evening when 101 exchange students, 7 organisers, more than 100 suitcases, backpacks and other bags and two bus drivers left the grey south hoping for a winter wonderland.  After hours of sitting, sitting and more sitting, quick stops at gas stations and then more sitting we finally reached the Arctic Circle where Santa was waiting to greet us. A quick hello (in many languages) and then we were off on our way to our final destination, the beautiful Levi.

Santa's sleigh is always ready.

The scenery at our destination was snowy but the coldness bearable, once again we had been lucky and avoided the freezing temperatures of – 30 degrees Celsius. Still, the cottages where we stayed each had a lovely sauna to keep us warm after days full of winter activities: snowmobile safari, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, sledging, husky safari… just to name a few. Many learned or at least tried to learn downhill skiing with our (un)professional ESN skiing teachers. Some even seemed to find a new hobby.

Sunset at the slopes

One of the most expected things on the trip this time (as well as all the other times) was seeing the elusive northern lights, which are created by a firefox (not the browser) running on the hills and hitting snow with its tail. Or so we were told by our snowshoeing guides. Snowshoers were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them, at least through a camera lens. The snowshoe route went through a silent forest and a solemn river where we could see a sky filled with stars, more than I have ever seen in my entire life. Luckily for those who did not participate in the snowshoeing safari the firefox was running or at least walking briskly in Levi as well. The lake seemed to become the most exciting gathering place for a few nights. For some, the northern lights shone. And they even looked green without a camera.

Some blurry northern lights from the snowshoeing safari

The lake seemed even more popular than Rock Café Hullu Poro. Still, the karaoke managed to tempt many aspiring singers on Thursday night. During night time, apart from the lake and the bar, the cottages turned into meeting places either for partying or just hanging out. Despite this, no one seemed too exhausted to take part in the daytime safaris. No one guided their husky sledge into a tree or crashed their snowmobile and went bankrupt because of that.

No trees were crashed into

No one crashed into a tree during husky safari

All in all, the week was full of wonderful moments. We managed (for the most part) to stay without any big accidents. No one got lost in the wilderness of Lapland. No one got hypothermia from rolling in the snow. No one disappeared on their way to their cottage. I even managed to write three sentences of my Master’s thesis. A very productive week, indeed. And one that I will not forget. I am sure I am not the only one.

Once again, a big thank you for all the participants!

Lots of love from the ESN team.