1. It’s home to natural beauty like no other
Outdoor and adventure enthusiasts will not be disappointed by what Finland has to offer. Boasting 40 national parks, covering a total area of 9,892 square kilometers (3,819 square miles), Finland had 3.2 million people visit its national parks in 2018. This is for good reason. From the furthest southern tip of the Southern Archipelago to the Northern Fells, Finland’s entire country is home to natural beauty which is second to none.
Students can navigate their way among the fells -- in a barren landscape or moor-covered terrain- such as in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, where one finds excellent trekking options and even access to lodge-to-lodge accommodations all within walking distance of each other. Often called the ‘Land of a Thousand Lakes’ (in fact there are around 188,000!), this Northern European nation’s landscape is stunning and attracts outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers from around the world.
“Finland’s intricate coastline [...] features around 95,000 sea islands, most of which are small rocky skerries. Sailors say that the waters of the labyrinthine Southwestern Archipelago are some of the most navigationally challenging anywhere in the world,” writes Eeva-Liisa Hallanaro, M.Sc., Environmental Expert, for Finland.fi. In contrast, the most northern province, Lapland, has wild landscape that offers a truly off-the-beaten-path experience for any adventurer, and accounts for about 28% of Finland’s total area, but only 4% of the population. Lapland is one of the best places in the world to see the magical natural phenomenon, aurora borealis (otherwise known as the northern lights)! So it is no surprise it is the perfect destination for students wishing to study adventure and outdoor education.
2. It’s a top 25 destination for adventure
With varied and stunning landscapes and terrain, it’s no wonder Finland is listed as one of the top 25 destinations of adventure, according to US News and World Report. It writes, “People like adventure in their lives. Research shows that a chance to break away from the normal rhythms of daily life reduces stress and improves health and well-being. Studies show that play is as important in adult lives as it is during childhood.”
One highlight is Jussarö Island, in the Ekenäs Archipelago National Park. Here, people can enjoy untouched nature and see the history of the island with a guided tour -- or written into the terrain itself. People can swim, eat at the cafe by the marina, enjoy a barbecue, sit by campfire, relax in the brand new sauna, or visit the old lighthouse, Lotsstuberget lookout tower. From here, there are amazing views of the archipelago and the open sea, especially at sunset and sunrise. And it’s just one place you might get the chance to visit as part of adventure and outdoor education studies in the country!
3. And adventure is always in season there
The call of wilderness and wanderlust is a bug that, once caught, is truly hard to shake. So it’s a good thing that in Finland adventure is always in season. Custom adventures in all parts of Finland are possible. Finland’s offerings of great summer outdoor adventure programming in a variety of sports includes hiking and trekking, mountain and fat biking, rock climbing, paddling, and much more. As an aspiring outdoor educator, there’s no place quite like it.
“Whatever the month, there’s something pure in the Finnish air and spirit that’s vital and exciting. With towering forests speckled by picture-perfect lakes, as if an artist had flicked a blue-dipped paint brush at the map, Suomi (the Finns' word for their country) offers some of Europe’s best hiking, kayaking and canoeing. A fabulous network of national parks has well-marked routes and regularly spaced huts for overnighting, and you can observe bears and elk deep in the forests on nature-watching trips,” writes experts in travel and adventure Lonely Planet.And as well as nature, you’ll be able to base your outdoor adventure or educational experience from dynamic, modern cities such as the capital Helsinki.
4. It’s been named the best country to visit for wildlife travel
In the Global Wildlife Travel Index, Finland was named the world’s best destination for wildlife travel. If you love seeing wildlife in its natural habitat, then set your sights on the Kainuu forest, named one of Europe’s top five best wildernesses for spotting large wildlife. You’ll find open skies and untrammelled snow forest (taiga) in Kainuu, as well as the opportunity to spot bears, lynx, elk, wolves, and more. Rhiannon Batten writes in The Guardian, “If you’d rather go in winter, Wildlife Safaris Finland takes guests out on foot, ski or snowshoe from its ‘base camp’, a traditional log house complete with sauna, to see wolverine, wolf and otter tracks and, if they’re lucky, spot golden eagles, Siberian jays, waxwings or even the northern lights.”
5. Finland is a world leader in education
Moreover, Finland consistently ranks as a world leader in education. Declared as a “miracle of education” by the World Bank, the country’s success in creating successfully positive and productive learning environment includes prioritizing play, minimizing standardized testing, honoring their teachers, and offering free education for all. Teachers and educators in Finland encourage “getting out of the classroom” or finding ways for experiential, hands-on learning. According to the Worldwide Educating for the Future Index (WEFFI), now in its second year, Finland ranks first in leading the way for teaching skills into the future. Essentially, getting outside of the classroom is not just tolerated in Finland - it’s encouraged!
6. You’ll have no problems as an English speaker
English speakers will find little to no linguistic barriers in terms of integrating themselves into Finnish society, as it is ranked seventh for English among all countries for which English is not the primary language, with a ‘very high proficiency’ in English. You’ll likely be comfortable among highly fluent English speakers if you enroll in any academic program in Finland, but “according to the research, the most fluent speakers of English are found among the field of consults, lawyers and those working in tourism,” writes Tony Öhberg for FinlandToday.
According to one traveler writing in Lonely Planet, “Finns are amongst the best English speakers in Europe, apart from the English of course. If you are travelling to Finland and do not speak Finnish, you'll have no problems getting help if you need it in English. Everyone but the old and very young can at least understand English, if not speak it.”
7. Humak University’s Bachelor's Degree in Adventure and Outdoor Education
Humak University of Applied Sciences is the biggest educator in adventure and outdoor education in Finland, and one of the main educators of youth work in all of Europe. The foundation of Humak's unique approach to adventure and outdoor education studies is a multidisciplinary theoretical framework, offering opportunities for self-exploration and challenging experiences in Finland’s wild, rugged landscape. Students gain valuable experiential learning in a supportive and instructive indoor and outdoor setting with highly qualified and experienced outdoor adventurers and educators.
At Humak University, the goal is “theory put into practice.” Students practice designing -- from concept to completion -- outdoor adventures and educational trips in the lakes and waters, forests and fells, and the wilderness of Lapland. In the field and in real time, students learn how to safely navigate and facilitate adventure programming for a variety of target groups. They develop the hard outdoor skills, like using a map and compass, setting up tents and cooking in the backcountry, and the foundational knowledge needed to work with any type of group to evaluate and develop adventure educational activities.
Students work with world-class leaders in adventure and outdoor education, who combine their passion for adventure with academic expertise. Senior lecturer, Tero Lämsä, who specializes in social studies and pedagogical skills in community education and adventure education, says, “My favourite element is water, whether gliding quietly on a lake with a kayak or surfing a perfect wave by the Atlantic Ocean. My passion for the outdoors and adventure education is strongly connected to the environmental challenges of our time and protecting our nature. Adventure education is a powerful method for personal growth and strengthening social skills but it also has a wider significance connected to our entire society.”
Another Humak faculty member, Sini Lahti, a nature and wilderness guide, ski instructor, avalanche instructor, and paddling instructor, says, “I love to share my passion for the outdoors and I am always happy to see the great learning moments and the development of the students.”
Investing in your career and education is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Students who are interested in pursuing a career in adventure or outdoor education, working with youth, non-profit work, community activism, tourism, or social work, should consider the unique opportunities that Humak University can offer students who are passionate about making a difference in the lives of themselves and others. The application period to apply for Humak University’s one-of-a-kind adventure and outdoor education program opens on January 8, 2020 and closes January 22, 2020.
Article written in association with Humak University of Applied Sciences.