Melissa McAnapsie, a student of Bray Institute of Further Education, travelled to Finland through the Erasmus+ VET mobility programme. Here she discusses the time she spent in Helsinki, her experience of her work placement and the many reasons she would recommend Erasmus+ to all VET learners.
I applied for Erasmus+ VET work experience as it is a great opportunity to spend time living and working in another country. It was based in Finland, a country I had never been to but was hugely interested in, so I applied as soon as the application was open. I filled out the necessary paperwork, and followed it with an interview to show my interest in the programme. A few weeks later, I was told that I had been accepted and I was so happy as there were only four places available!
When I received the news that I had been accepted for an Erasmus+ work placement, I began preparing. As I was going to a cold climate and wanted to take some trips, I had to pack for snow and winter weather. We took a flight to Helsinki which took about three and a half hours. When we arrived, we took a 40-minute train directly to the city centre where we would be based. Our accommodation was a one-bedroom apartment for two people sharing. It was clean, modern and in the most perfect location - right in the city centre but on a quiet street.
On our first morning in Helsinki, our host guided us to Luksia College, who we partnered with for our Erasmus+ programme. We learned about the education system in Finland and enjoyed a tour of the college. They gave us a lot of information regarding our stay in Finland and great tips on what activities to take part in. Each of us gave a presentation on our home college and local area. The college was amazing, and we really enjoyed the day there. Our host was really helpful over the course of our trip. She kept in touch with us in a WhatsApp group, and provided us with all the help we needed while living in Helsinki.
My placement was in Helsinki Airport in a company called Jamie’s Deli. It’s owned by the famous English chef Jamie Oliver, and I was ecstatic to be part of such a huge company.
As the placement was based in an airport, we received an airport tour and learned so much about the airport industry.
There were between six and seven staff, including myself, working in the cafe/deli. My role was to prepare food in the kitchen alongside the chef. I also worked front of house where I learned to prepare and cook pizzas and serve customers. In addition to this, I received barista training! I’ve always wanted to do this as it is a great skill to have while travelling in the future.
The staff I worked alongside came from many different countries including Indonesia, Somalia, Mexico, Finland, England and Thailand. While working with them, I learned a lot about their cultures and work history travelling the world.
The work placement through Erasmus+ was extremely beneficial for my future as it is amazing to have it on my CV, and I learned a lot about myself and what I want in the future.
During our time in Finland, myself and the three other Erasmus+ students booked a trip to Lapland for two nights. We got reasonably priced flights directly from Helsinki to Lapland which is two hours by plane. We stayed in shared accommodation in the popular town of Levi, and our accommodation was just a five-minute walk to the slopes. While there, we went skiing, took a Northern Lights tour and learned the basics of building an igloo! Although the night was too cloudy to experience the Northern Lights, the trip was well worth the money! We also went on a husky ride, fed reindeer and took some great photos. This was a once in a lifetime trip and I enjoyed every second of it.
On the first weekend off from work, I travelled alone to Tallinn, the Estonian capital. I booked a direct ferry which took two hours. I booked a luxury hotel in the capital as it is extremely cheap in Estonia compared to Finland, so I treated myself. The old town where I stayed is a medieval town with so much history. I participated in the free walking tour and learned so much about this beautiful city. I also enjoyed some of the local food, including delicious elk soup!
While we were in Helsinki, we went to an ice hockey game. This was very new to all of us and we had a great night. The atmosphere was amazing. We also took part in a free walking tour of Helsinki, and visited the local attractions. During our time in the city we sampled local food like reindeer, went out for cocktails and sampled the local beer. It is such a quirky city with so many coffee shops. We took part in a couple of traditional Finnish saunas which included the popular one called Allas Sea pool. This was an amazing experience.
On our last day in Finland we all met up for the last time. Our host brought us for coffee, and we reflected on our stay. We visited a couple of museums in Helsinki and went for lunch. We gave our host some nice gifts from our country and thanked her so much for our experience.
Overall, the trip was amazing and I experienced it to the fullest. I was sad to leave my work placement and all the new people I became friends with. I absolutely loved Finland and will return in the future. Taking part in Erasmus+ is something I would definitely recommend to future students. It was a great learning experience and I am so thankful for the Erasmus+ programme.
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