Seyed Ali Ghiassi
University of Oulu, Finland
I studied in Finland during the fall semester of my sophomore year. I had many amazing experiences, but I would like to share one of my memorable trips that I took with the University. This Scandinavian Studies course transferred as a GNS class.
After a stop in Kusumo and the ski resort, which I hope to return to, we made it finally to Oulanka National park and the research station. The first night was mainly uneventful, except for my first Finnish sauna experience. I enjoyed the sauna thoroughly and then experienced the exhilaration of jumping into a freezing cold river. Out of the river and back to the sauna and then repeating this system was one of the best feelings I have ever had, and I think I will continue it all week.
Off to an early start at the Oulanka Research Station, we had to wake up around 7:15 in order to arrive at breakfast on time. Personally, I did not think I was going to make it, but I forced myself to wake up and enjoy a nutritious breakfast of bread, cheese, jam, and sugarless cereal. At 9:00, we began our first lecture with Kalle speaking to us about the research station itself. Kalle talked about the area surrounding the station house and some of the history of the station and its reason for being there.
Established in 1966, the station is used to give the opportunity for research and teachings in the areas of biology and geosciences. The station is a part of the University of Oulu, but it is for other researchers and conferences in many fields concerning the wildlife and forestry of Finland. Kalle talked about the unique wildlife we could see in this region and what kind of habitats they came from. After lunch, we began our first hike through the Oulanka wilderness. We began the journey by stopping at what seemed like a small museum and gift shop. Here I was able to take a picture with my first brown bear, though it was stuffed, and it was bigger than I thought it would be.
The scenery of this first path was beautiful and even more breathtaking when we came to the waterfall. Leo told us of the history of the river and the mesas we were standing on, which surrounded the canyon the river it lies in. The glaciers created the canyon millions of years ago; when the glaciers moved and began to melt, they cut out a u-shaped area of the land. This left higher ground on either side of the river giving Finland most of its altitude at these points.
The hike ended soon after this and then it was time for dinner. After dinner, a few of the students and I borrowed some angling equipment from Kalle to go fishing. It was a fun experience but unfortunately luck and maybe skill wasn’t with us. Our empty-handed return only made me want to go try again, so hopefully we’ll have another chance in the upcoming days.
We began our second day with another early start. After breakfast, we had our first lesson with Thomas who is a space physicist from Sodaynk research station. He talked to us about the stars and the greenhouse effect and what it is really doing to our planet. Thomas mainly does work on Revontulet, which is the Finnish term for the northern lights. He taught us all about the northern lights and some reasons why they occur. Thomas showed us many pictures of the northern lights and the beautiful colors in which they appear. Thomas gave us a website where we can check on the probabilities of the occurrence of northern lights in our area and some tips on how we can photograph this phenomenon. A few of us were lucky enough to meet up with Thomas on the bridge the night before and we were able to see a faint but still amazing occurrence of Revontulet.
After class, we left on a bus headed for the Russian border. We stopped first in a small town located near the border and had coffee in one of few main buildings in the town. The storekeeper was a local woman who told us some of the history of the town and its people. She explained that the building we were in was not only the center for their tourist business, a coffee shop, and a lounge, but also used to be a school and town hall. Finishing our coffee, we proceeded into the forest headed for the Russian border. We stopped on a plateau, which gave a beautiful view of the surrounding forest on every side. Leo pointed out the Russian border and the watchtower we could see if we looked closely in the distance.
Thursday was the final day of our expedition, and we made the most of it by taking a 6 km hike along the Karhunkierros trail. This was one of the most amazing hikes I have ever been on, and I wouldn’t have traded the experience for the world. We traveled some distance to get there but when we got there a huge rope bridge overhanging the river greeted us. The hike started by going off in the opposite direction and into the woods. There was not much climbing in this hike simply trekking through the beautiful wilderness and enjoying the fresh air. We saw beautiful trees, new plants, and amazing forest creatures all living serenely together in this forest. Leo and AP gave us the chance to look and listen to the forest and enjoy the landscape with our own minds. We cooked our own lunch and then hiked until dinner, when we returned to the camp for our last night there.
I had a great time and since the hike was finished and we had no class after dinner me and three friends went for our last time to test our hand at catching some fish in the spots Leo and Carle recommended to us. This time out we were more successful and came back with our second dinner that, with a little help, we cooked and enjoyed. I hope that in the years to come I might be able to visit Oulanka again and relive this great experience.