Helping Hand Experience at NBRC (09.-13.5.2017)

Text By Iida Pyykkö, Ilja Vuorinne & Mikko Keski-Laturi                                                  Photos By Ilja Vuorinne & Sanna Kujala

We started our congress journey from Oulu the weekend before North and Baltic Regional Congress. We worked night and day in Oulu and at the congress in Oulanka but it all really was worth it!

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Preparing toasts for the participants

After the Oulu weekend, we were ready for the congress and excited to meet the participants at the University of Oulu where the opening ceremony took place. We, the helping hands, were welcoming our guests and doing some preparations already in Oulanka. Meanwhile, the Orga team opened the congress and after that participants were also lectured about the reindeer herding in the northern Finland.

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From the opening ceremony at the University of Oulu

The first day, we arrived to the snowy, winter-wonderland-like Oulanka. First, after the long trip, we had a small chaotic feeling but we managed to find rooms for everybody and were ready to start preparing the sitsit. Some of us were working as waiters during this traditional Finnish student event but it was still very fun, especially when we saw all the participants enjoying the party and atmosphere. We noticed that the sitsit was the final ice breaker and people even were asking if it is possible to organise this unique event again.

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“Sitsit”, a tradiontal finnish student party

During the evening program, we were working in the bar or in the party room as DJs but had still a lot time to time to get to know other congress participants all around Europe and show them some sauna traditions, for example. Sometimes our night shifts lasted until 7 am so we were working hard during the congress week.

The second day started with the workshops. In the evening, we experienced a true EGEA tradition, the Cultural Fair. And what an experience it was! Delights and drinks from all over the Europe and such an amazing atmosphere during the whole night. This was a great way to get to know EGEA spirit, later EGEA classics like Moskau and Schatje mag ik je foto? took us to the EGEA flow on the dance floor.

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Cultural fair mayhem

The next day, it was time to explore the nature of the Oulanka National Park, before starting to prepare the Finnish night. This was a highlight for us as we started to Finnish our dear participants with Finnish names. After this Christening ceremony, there was a bunch of Finns, such as Pirjo-Riitta, Kyösti, Vale-Tiina, Minttumarja, Molla-Maija and Matti & Teppo, hanging around the Oulanka Research Station for the rest of the congress.

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Excursion-day scenery

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Hanging out in a traditional Finnish ”kota”

Last day and more workshops for the participants. In the evening, it was time for a closing ceremony where we received our certifications with a huge applause. At this point we really felt how people appreciated our work at the congress, and wow, what a feeling after all this! Later that night, another EGEA tradition, the BDC. We could sense that this was something that people had been waiting for. And we could see why. If you want to see what it is all about, sign up for the next EGEA congress!

We didn’t sleep during the last night so in the morning, tired but full of enthusiasm we partied all morning long, had time to admire final winter landscapes in the bus and said goodbye to all our European friends in Oulu before heading back home.

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The whole congress crew – organisers and participants

Eastern Regional Congress 2017

By Mikko Keski-Laturi

Eastern Regional Congress (ERC) 2017 by EGEA Praha in Hrachov, Czechia was my first EGEA congress ever. The congress week taking place in the beginning of April (31.03.-05.04.2017) was intensive and full of program and truly a great experience! EGEANs from 28 entities representing 18 countries got to learn during the congress about the heritage of military areas, how opening of a former military area to the public can be managed. As a case study, we had the Brdy former military area, now a protected landscape area open for public, located very close to Hrachov.

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ERC 2017 group picture (Photo Aneta Seidlová)

After having explored Prague for a couple of days, it was time to head to the official opening of the ERC 2017 at the Faculty of Science of the Charles University (Univerzita Karlova). Before the opening ceremony, we had time to see the Albertov Street campus of UK, for example the magnificent map collections and just relax at the university in a summer-like atmosphere. During the opening ceremony, we learned a lot, for example, about the Brdy former military area and why to call Czechia Czechia and not Czech Republic anymore.

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Opening ceremony (Photo Aneta Seidlová)

From the opening ceremony we continued our way by bus to Hrachov, a small village in the Bohemian countryside, that was now going to host more than 100 EGEAns during the congress week. Our accomodation, RS Star Line, was located in a beautiful place next to a river and surrounded by woods. During the congress days, we were studying the heritage of military areas from various perspectives covering both physical and human geography during lectures and workshops. Also events like regional meeting, EGEA fair and training sessions about different topics, such as low-cost traveling and dumpster diving, took place during the congress.

One of the highlights of the congress was the excursion day. The congress participants had a chance to choose one excursion out of five options having different focus to the Brdy area, such as hiking on the Brdy mountains, visiting a former military base and exploring the nearby cities and towns. I participated to the Přibrám city excursion.

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Mining museum

During the day we visited the Přibrám Mining Museum (and even went underground there which was super exciting!), had a lecture at the Přibrám city hall by the municipality representatives about effects of the Brdy former military area for the city, had delicious Czech pastries in a local café, and finally climbed all the stairs up to the beautiful Svatá Hora pilgrimage site.

The congress contained also a lot more than the official part. During the workshops and free time we had time to enjoy the heat wave embracing Czechia and chill outdoors. The evening program was fantastic consisted of, for instance, Military Night and orienteering, Czech Night with some live music, Eurovision talent show and of course, a wonderful EGEA classic, the  Cultural Fair.

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For me, the best thing during the congress was definately to meet old EGEA and to get to know many new ones from all around Europe! I had never visited Czechia before so it was also great to see Prague and Czech countryside and learn about the Czech culture and nature. Not forgetting the Czech food and the excellent beers!

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Catalan Experience 2.0

By Mikko Keski-Laturi

Boom Boom Boom – what an adventure Catalan Experience 2.0 (04.-08.03.2017) by EGEA Barcelona was! During five days in Catalonia, we participants got to live like Catalans, see Catalonia’s beautiful landscapes and meet EGEAns from all over Europe.

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Catalan Experience 2.0 crew enjoying the warm Girona (Photo Marina Codorniu Matas)

Before heading to the event location, Pineda de Mar, we had a walking tour in downtown Barcelona. After the Finnish winter, it really felt like summer in this sunny capital of Catalonia!

kuva 2.1After the Barcelona tour, we took a train to Pineda de Mar, a coastal town by the Mediterranean, and headed to our accomodation, Sant Pere de Riu.

The beautiful atmosphere of this place and the legend of Santa Marina de Pineda de Mar really mesmerized us. The absolute highlight of the first day was the salsa master class during which our international EGEA group was engrossed by the Latin rhythms.

The next day, we headed for a hiking excursion to the peak of Turó de l’Home in Montseny. The views from the snowy mountains were breathtaking – you could see even the Pyrenees, Montserrat and Barcelona from Turó de l’Home.

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One part of exploring Catalonia during the excursions was getting lost but we always made it back to Pineda de Mar J After spending the day in fresh mountain air, we were ready to become true Catalans during the Catalan Night. Porron, Caga Tío and sardanas – just to name a few fascinating aspects of the Catalan culture we got introduced to.

On the third day, we went for an excursion to the towns of Girona and L’Escala. Girona is an amazing old city in the Northern Catalonia and I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the old town and the views over the roofs of Girona! From Girona, we continued to Punta Montgó and L’Escala on the coast. Again amazing views to the Pyrenees and to the Mediterranean!

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Back home in Pineda de Mar, we were ready for an EGEA tradition – the Cultural Fair. This time, we got to enjoy the bounties of Catalonia, Czechia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy/Veneto, Latvia, Lithuania (aka Andalucía), the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

The last full day of Catalan Experience 2.0 we spent in Pineda de Mar. During the day we were exploring the town in varies activities, including searching for a Roman acqueduct and chilling on the beach.

In the evening, we got to release our inner master chefs as the organisers taught us how to cook fideuá, a typical Catalan dish. Such fun and so delicious!

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The last day I left Pineda de Mar quite early and visited Barcelona. On the flight back to Finland, it was quite a coincidence to meet some of the organisers from EGEA Barcelona who were going to have an exchange with EGEA Joensuu! Hopefully their trip to Finland was as good as mine was to Catalonia! Catalan Experience 2.0 was a very good event – I feel so happy of being Catalan for five days and definately want to visit Catalonia again! I really recommend EGEAns to participate to the next Catalan Experience! 🙂