Four adventurous Erasmus+ exchange students, Gabriele Romancini, Gaetano Carollo, Mattia Li Pira, and Riccardo Colucci, bid farewell to the scorching +30°C heat of Palermo, Sicily, and embarked on an exciting one-month journey to Oulu, Finland from October 1 to November 1, 2023.
Despite the stark contrast in climates, these young men saw Oulu’s autumn weather as an exhilarating challenge and promised to make the most of their month-long exchange, even braving Finnish traditions like saunas and ice-cold winter swimming.
“We were ready to embrace the challenge and cherish every moment here,” Gabriele exclaims with a smile.
Their mission was clear: experience Finland’s unique blend of two seasons in one month. This included witnessing the vibrant colors of Finnish autumn and immersing themselves in the snowy wonders of winter. The boys were lucky, they got to build snowmen, go winter swimming and ice skating on natural ice and even admire the northern lights
The Italian students were enrolled at Laanila High School and Svenska Privatskolan i Uleåborg. As part of the exchange program, they were staying with local Oulu families.
In return, these Finnish families’ own teenagers will embark on a reciprocal journey to Sicily next spring, studying at the local Instituto Superiore Majorana in Palermo for a month. This cultural exchange provides a deeper understanding of each other’s lifestyles and traditions.
In addition to their academic pursuits, the Italian exchange students wasted no time in exploring Oulu’s natural beauty, including a visit to Koitelinkoski, Iso-Syöte and Lapland’s border area of Ylitornio where they enjoyed going to sauna and indulged in campfire-cooked sausages. They also had the opportunity to visit Santa Claus and Arktikum in Rovaniemi, 365 Snow Experience in Kemi, as well as Oulu University and Nokia where they gained insights into Oulu’s flagship education, information technology and sustainable development initiatives.
”The warm meals provided by the school are delightful.”
Impressions of Finnish high schools were overwhelmingly positive for these Italian students. They were pleasantly surprised by the well-equipped classrooms, digital books, laptops, and most of all the relaxation rooms and the free school lunches the schools provided for their students.
“The warm meals provided by the school are delightful, although some of the traditional Finnish dishes, such as, for instance, rye bread may look and taste a bit different,” Mattia chuckled.
The Italians admiring the northern lights at Matarengi, Ylitornio, in Sweden. Maya Isomaa
Riccardo revealed they all had to get used to the silent and reserved nature of the Finnish people as the social interaction seems to have different terms in their home country.
The Italians also admired the sustainability of Finland, where they saw how Finns use green and renewable energy sources, such as electric cars, solar panels, and wind turbines. Gaetano especially liked the recycling system, which pays people for returning cans and bottles, and which they don’t have in Italy yet.
They are thankful for the chance to learn about another culture and make new buddies. The boys urge other students to join similar projects. They remark it is a cool way to boost one’s English skills and widen one’s perspective.
Gabriele, Gaetano, Mattia, Riccardo, and their Italian teachers extend heartfelt thanks to their host families and their local partner schools for their warm welcome and hospitality. The exchange broke down cultural barriers and fostered lasting friendships. Italy and Finland, in many ways, stand as opposites.
The tranquility, spaciousness, and coldness of Finland’s environment left the students in awe. It was this charming contrast that captivated them and made their exchange experience even more memorable.
As they navigated this unique cultural exchange, Gabriele, Gaetano, Mattia, and Riccardo were living testaments to the power of Erasmus+ in broadening horizons and creating lasting connections between young people from different corners of Europe.
Main picture: The young Italians had the opportunity to do a one-day job-shadowing at Nokia’s office in Rusko in October. In the picture Riccardo, Gaetano, Gabriele, and Mattia together with their Italian teacher Giuseppa Verini Ferranti.
Text: Tiina Fredriksson