21-year-old Katariina Kojo, a volunteer from Häme’s district of the Finnish Red Cross travelled to Austria for the Red Cross’ friendship camp for two weeks in July 2016. Now Katariina shares with us what she experienced and what she learned about different cultures.
Destination: I participated in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements’ International Youth Camp with a special focus on friendship, so called friendship camp. It was organized by the Austrian Red Cross.
Purpose of the trip: To meet youth Red Cross volunteers from all around the world, learn about new cultures and also learn about Red Cross.
Languages used: Mainly English. The participants in the camp spoke over fifteen different languages.
Weather: It was warm, usually between 27-30 °C degrees. Some rain showers and lightning occurred too.
Living arrangements: The camp was on a boarding school. We slept, ate, cooked, danced and studied at the same building almost all the time.
Why did you decide to go for this trip?
I had no plans for summer and when I noticed there was a chance to go to the camp, of course I wanted to! A friend of mine has also been there before and he told me that the camp is awesome and I should go. So I did!
What surprised you the most about the culture and cultural differences?
One of the most surprising moments took place while I was baking Finnish cinnamon buns during so called national night. The differences between in baking culture of Finland and Central Europe were much bigger than I though. For example other participants did not understand that someone could measure sugar with deciliters. In the end I had to search on Internet how much sugar weighs and tell the amount for them in grams. Also, others had never heard of fresh yeast. Also some other ingredients were a bit different as well. After all, the cinnamon buns were quite tasty anyway.
If you could change one thing about your experience, what would it be?
I would take with me more suitable clothes for the warm weather. Though I knew it will be hot, I still packed too few shorts and tops in my backpack.
Had you any feelings of homesickness?
Sometimes the tight schedule, constant socializing and a lack of sleep made me miss home in order to spend time just by myself. However the other participants made me feeling like a big family so my homesickness was not bad at all.
How has the trip expanded your worldview?
You can never learn enough from other cultures or know too many people! It is a priviledge to know people for all around the world. The fact that all the campers are also volunteers for Red Cross makes the principle of universality very concrete. It also inspires me to volunteer even more in Finland. Together we are a powerful universal network!
What were the highlights of your experience?
All the new friends I got! The motto of the camp was “Be part of it!” We all really were part of it, we were a great team. I know that some of the participants are also reading this: I miss you!
Katariina’s tips for travelling: Be open-minded and do not expect everything to go as you’d prefer. Sometimes it happens that you have to stay out when it rains or spend 12 hours at the airport. At first that kind of things might sound annoying but can actually turn out really nice experiences!
Text: Katariina Kojo
Photos: Markus Hechenberger and Holly Kellner / The Austrian Youth Red Cross
You too want to travel with the Finnish Red Cross?
Keep your eyes open on the Finnish Red Cross website and social media channels, and ask your local Red Cross officers if they know any youth trips coming. Then just do the application, don’t overthink it and just be you!