Finland Cultural Exchange
For many of the Transition Year students from Glenstal Abbey, it was our first time in Scandinavia. As part of the Erasmus +( plus) project, an all expenses paid trip to Finland was due to follow the week after the mid term break. The Erasmus + project had started earlier in the opening stages of Fourth year but we were all well aware that it was a year long commitment. The European funded programme aims to boost skills and employability, as well as modernising Education, Training, and Youth work. It provides opportunities for over four million Europeans to study, train, gain work experience and volunteer abroad. The section that we were involved in was the “Transnational Youth Initiative” designed to foster relations and bridge the worlds of Education together in order to tackle the skills gaps we are facing in Europe. Non- formal learning is one of the fundamental ideas of the Erasmus + programme. It is voluntary learning done outside the classroom and textbook. This was new and interesting experience for all of us as it differed from school life. Our main use of Non-formal learning was through the play itself “Alone It Stands” that we performed both in Ireland and in Finland. You can learn just as much about something through Non-formal Learning just as the conventional way in school.
The members of the Youth Theatre that were previously in Limerick with us to perform “Alone It Stands” greeted us at the airport after a long day of travelling. It was great to see them again after three months but having a Facebook page was key in maintaining strong communication whilst we were in our native countries. The first thing we were introduced to was our accommodation which was a four storey old folks home called “Pikkugarten”. As peculiar as it sounds, it was an experience that not many people can say that they’ve had! .The sheets,duvets, pillows and towels were all provided by our Finnish counterparts and kept us plenty warm during the freezing cold nights. We then travelled to a nearby lake where we were to partake in a old finnish tradition. We spent around 15 minutes in a roasting sauna and then went straight outside and plunged into three degree arctic waters! It was so refreshing and really helped after a long day of travelling.
Over the next few days we rehearsed the play which was based on the main character “Gerry” (Zac Thompson) adventuring through Finland to get to his Finnish wife who was giving birth to their child. He brings his reliable friends “Lanky” (Charlie Murphy) and “David” (Tim Mulligan) along and encounters many obstacles along the way. During his epic journey through Lapland they are watching the infamous rugby match between the All Blacks and Munster in 1978 on a portable TV. Although we didn’t know what was happening in the play at times because some of it was in Finnish, we recognised that when the Finns were over with us in Glenstal, they hadn’t the slightest notion of what was happening as well when we did the play in English! Granted that rugby is an alien like sport to the Finns, I was impressed of their basic knowledge of the game.
After the rehearsals everyday leading up to the performance, we did fun activities such as bowling, days out in the town, treasure hunts and games outside. Despite having a great time, not everything went as smoothly as planned. It is not unusual for conflict to arise in two groups of different cultures and nationalities. And when they did, we were able to come to a compromise and work harmoniously again. Small obstacles like disagreements can be used and transformed into something beneficial, such as an increase in knowledge about cultural awareness.
Long rehearsals hours paid off when we completed our first successful show in the local secondary school. There were a few members of the Youth Theatre who attended that school, so performing for their peers was a bit nerve- racking!
Many thanks to Fiona Quinn and Sarah Molony for organizing this amazing Exchange programme and we hope it will continue into the future.
Photos of our trip to Finland are on the Photos Section of the web page