Journey into the cold – Exploring Finland

From 10 to 15 December 2016 the first COLAM meeting was held in Finland. COLAM stands for “Champions of Languages and Minorities” and is an Erasmus+ project where students of minority schools from 6 different European countries discuss the social, cultural, economic and linguistic context  of living as a minority.

Four students of our school went to Finland to find out more about the participating countries. Vera Schölzhorn and Victoria Albertini of the economic branch and Markus Zingerle and Christine Strickner of the sports branch represented the German-speaking minority in Italy. Other participating minorities are the Swedish-speaking Fins, the Kashubian-speaking Polish, the Romansh-speaking Swiss, the Gaelic-speaking Scots and Welsh-speaking students from Wales.

When we arrived at the airport of Helsinki, our host families picked us up. The school is located in Kaunianien in the outskirts of Helsinki. On the first evening we got to know each other with lots of icebreakers, small talk and teambuilding. Then every group introduced their minority with a profound presentation. By the way, we had the best one… The main focus of our preparations in the “Förderunterricht” was laid on the cultural identity and the status of being a language minority within Italy. We collected data concerning bilingual encounters of the inhabitants of our province, f. ex. bilingual road signs or overlapping cooking traditions and made films presenting our school and our area.

 On our second day in Finland we took part in some workshops at the school. We played typical children’s games and learned some typical dances of each country. In the evening, we went to a Finnish sauna and had some traditional Finnish food. On Tuesday we took a sightseeing trip to the old town of Porvoo and at 6 pm we saw the spectacular annual Crowning ofSt. Lucia at Helsinki Cathedral, which is actually a Swedish tradition.

On Wednesday, we were split into groups and created films portraying the status quo of each minority group. We also prepared a traditional plate of our minorities. Of course, we made ”Südtiroler Apfelstrudel”, the Scottish made short bread, the Welsh made Welsh cookies, the Polish made “Pirogi”, the Swiss had brought special cheese, bread and sausage products from their home country and the Fins made typical Finnish cinnamon muffins. we spent our last evening with our host families and enjoyed the beautiful wintry landscape of Finland. We eventually had to say goodbye, but first we ate our self-made dishes and watched some typical songs or some popular videos of our home countries on YouTube together. At the end we felt like a big family with more than just one language.

We really enjoyed our trip to Finland and back at school it felt somehow different, having experienced different world views.

The next episode, which will take place in Poland in March, will definitely also contribute to a broader awareness of cultural diversity and its benefits, both for the “Erasmus” students and our school!