From Sici­ly to Oulu: How four Ita­lian stu­dents disco­ve­red Finland’s beau­ty and cul­tu­re

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