Innovation Camp in Estonia: happy encounters, lively discussions and traditions

After a one-day rest, I was (again 😀 ) getting up early to go back to Estonia for the Switch on! Innovation camp, 4 days during which Finnish and Estonian students would meet and find innovative ideas linked to the Lights on! Project. This time, we took the train to Helsinki and then the metro. In only one month, I will have taken almost all the public transports in Finland: bus, water bus, ferry, taxi, train, metro, last week I’ve also taken the tram in Helsinki and I am planning to go to Lapland at the beginning of November by plane 🙂 . img_1678

On the way to Estonia, I met some teachers and students from Humak. The first day was aimed at discovering Varbola and Lõhavere. Two Estonian students explained us briefly the story of the sites (this time, in English!) and we did a game at Lõhavere. At least, now I know I’m not good at archery! We had also to light a fire, and do a kind of “agility game” by passing through a rope reeled around two trees without touching it. This team game was a good idea to begin to get to know each other 🙂 . After this, it was time to check in at the Vanaõue Puhkekeskus, same place as for the entrepreneurs ‘tour. This is a really nice holiday center, in the middle of nature and near a river covered by a layer of fog in the early morning 🙂 . I’ve enjoyed tasting Estonian food there, and even if desserts often looked really weird at first sight, I’ve almost tried them all and they were tasty 🙂 . And now, I am able to pronounce Hyvää ruokahalua perfectly! img_1828

My task was the same as for the previous trip, taking lots of pictures and videos from students during their workshops and other activities. They didn’t really appreciate it so I had to be quite discreet, but after some time, they just knew me and stopped looking at me strangely (well, let’s say most of them did 🙂 ). We’ve had twice a “get together activity” arranged by some Estonian students from Viljandi University. These games consisted in a competition between teams which had to be the most creative as possible (like creating and drawing rules to spend these 4 days happily together, and then make them guess by the other teams. Or trying to sell a simple chair in the most creative way and so on). There was a really good atmosphere and I think everybody had fun, I’m happy to have participated 🙂 . img_1998

The workshops (students had been divided in groups) began on the second day. I missed the first one as I attended the project group meeting with the different Lights on! partners, which was very interesting for me. It gave me the opportunity to see how complex this project is (there are so many things to take into account!) and all that has already been done since its beginning. We also discussed about what would happen in the next weeks. I am proud to be part of it and I think sending my motivation letter to Aino (the project manager) was really one of the best ideas I’ve ever had! As she works in Helsinki, this meeting was the first occasion I had to meet her, and I have to say she is very very nice 🙂 ! img_1996

During the 3 other workshops students have had, I went from one group to another to see what they were doing. At the end of the 3 days, they have presented all their final ideas and there were interesting ones, I was impressed 🙂 . img_2309



During these days, I’ve learnt so much about Finnish traditions/habits, mostly thanks to Timo, Iina-Maria and Minna (Humak teachers), not forgetting Mari and Kattia, my roomates 🙂 . Everybody is always happy and ready to explain them to me, and sometimes I am quite surprised. For example, I’ve learnt Finnish people buy “trolley” of beers, already prepared on the ferry, as it is a lot cheaper than in Finland. Or that they can get a special authorization to buy a lot of alcohol in Estonia if they can prove they have an upcoming wedding. img_20160913_195106

I was also explained that when someone offers you coffee, you shouldn’t say “yes” but just say “only if you make some for you” (well, for this, it’s quite similar in Belgium), but what I found funny is that when the person says the coffee (or meal) is ready, you have to ignore until maybe she/he repeats it for the third time. Because if you get up immediately, the person will think she/he hasn’t been fast enough (if I understood correctly). This is a big cultural difference, as in Belgium, if you act like that, it will be taken for a huge lack of respect and the person could get irritated. So it is still hard for me to believe them, I don’t think I’ll take this habit… 😀  Another discovery regarding culture was sauna, I tried a wood burning sauna, I didn’t want at first but some Estonian girls encouraged me, and I don’t regret it at all, I’ve loved it and I can’t wait to go again 🙂 . Iina-Maria and Minna also told me during a walk in the forest that there were still wolves and many lynxes in Finland, and that wolves eat dogs and cats, I had never ever heard about that! img_20160917_172054

This was the second part of my Estonian week, I was quite tired after this but I really enjoyed it. Again, I met lovely people and I’d love to go back one day to this beautiful country 🙂 .

In my next post, I’ll tell you about my visit to Rapola, another Lights on! Site with one of the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen 🙂 .