When deciding to travel over J-Term, Drake students usually choose to travel to a tropical location with sandy beaches and clear blue water or at least someplace warm. This J-Term, some Drake students opted for the cold and snow and traveled to Finland.
Trent Grundmeyer, assistant professor of educational leadership, and Elaine Smith-Bright, an adjunct instructor in the School of Education’s leadership and counseling department, chaperoned the Finland J-Term experience. This opportunity exposed Drake students to Finnish culture, gave them an opportunity to see one of the best school systems in the world, and allowed them to perform a service-learning activity, which included teaching English to Finnish students.
Drake students also had time to experience Finland and some of its customs. One Finnish custom is ice swimming. Step one: enjoy a hot sauna. Step two: wade into an icy cold body of water. Repeat! Students reported it was a rejuvenating and adrenaline-pumping experience. Some students chose to experience dog sledding and got a crash course on leading a sleigh with a team of sled dogs. For miles they rode these sleds through snow-covered forests, experiencing the beautiful Finnish landscape. Students reported enjoying the rise and setting of the sun that was only up for less than 4 hours.
Students sampled common Finnish foods including snails and reindeer meat. Many of the students were surprised to find these new delicacies delicious and were also surprised to find common American foods like chocolate cake and standard burgers and fries.
Education student Erin Dobey suggests to future students, “Do it if you want to be challenged with your traditional thinking of what you think education is, it will critically challenge you to think about remolding traditional notions of what education is and how it should be used.”
The students, although cold and tired, admitted that traveling to Finland was one of the best experiences they have ever had.