”So how can this possibly be any special?” I thought to myself. I was thinking of my previous international experiences: Living a year abroad in France, having a bilingual diploma from secondary school and more than a handful of different camps – the latest one I had even organised 50 kids plus 20 leaders coming to Denmark for four weeks! Yep – I though I knew it all and since I did not start to write the application until 50 minutes before the deadline I had not given the BEST Summer Course much consideration until I sat in the bus going to Tampere, Finland…”How can these two weeks be any special?”
Today, looking back, I have no problem answering that question. Actually it happened gradually. I showed up at the camp-site one day in advance, which gave me time to meet the organisers and get to know the BEST-atmosphere, and I got the feeling that I had signed up for one long party: a the Hungarian, a French and I were all invited to go clubbing that night, but we were all tired after travelling and decided to stay in, which was not as calm as expected. Though no dancing we spent talking and listening to music and among other songs we heard a full 25 minutes loop of “Amazing Horse” – truly amazing!
And then the real action started! The next day, the rest of the participants arrived and with nothing planned until the evening we had to start mingling on our own. Therefore, when we finally started the name games I had already taken the first group picture during an improvised excursion to a nearby lake.
We did not have to wait long for the parties either: I guess it is normal to have a (somewhat) calm first night but that was also my very last chance to get some proper sleep. The following day we started the schedule that was going to exhaust us of all our energy: Six hours of intensive and interesting lectures, a handful of hours with cultural events and then the energy draining pre-partying, partying and finally after-partying. A couple of hours to eat, shower and change clothes now and then but no time to slack off!
The bright summer here in Northern Europe is perfect for staying up late into the night and this made even the parties special: they ranged from the classical Red-Yellow-Green-relationship status theme to the very formal Sit-Sit. I greeted the early rising Finnish summer sun at a cottage in the middle of the woods, Friday 13th dressed as a werewolf and eating “Flødeboller” after the famous International Evening, where each country presented itself to the rest of the summer course.
It was special all right, and I have even learned a thing or two meanwhile: I have learned to smile the Nordic way. I’ve learned to row a Viking boat, which helped build a team spirit and group feeling, which made me proud to be out of a Scandinavian heritage. I’ve learned (and told) many jokes about Swedes, which the Finns find just as funny as the Danes. And despite some difficulty I learned and few Finnish words like “hirvea krapula”, “perkele” and “kiitos”.
To be fair, it was not all fun and games and I must admit I could bring something back from the lectures as well. The theme was “User Experience and Cross-cultural design” and I neglecting the academic part of my Summer Course would not be doing BEST just. I am studying Design & Innovation so the “user experience” and “design” part was not all new to me and looking at my studies in an international perspective and to compare them to my home university was very interesting! It appears that DTU have a broader scope on the design engineering compared to the Finns strong passion for mobile phones – which is not so surprising considering the name of a village ca. 15 km outside of Tampere: “Nokia”…
Furthermore, being on international environment was the perfect opportunity to actively reflect and research the second theme. The “Cross-cultural” aspect and to be able to put my non-formal experiences and training into an academic framework and reflect upon it in an university-setting was in hindsight alone enough reason to make the travel across our Nordic region.
As you can gather I was proven wrong. The BEST summer course was surely a memorable thing. However, the biggest learning might have been the one about the organisation itself. I have done school exchanges, participated at numerous camps, been introduced to a dozen international organisation, spent many of my summers abroad and gotten to know many different people from different countries and cultures. BEST did without a doubt win a special place in my heart:
The name might say it all but let me explain what it means to me:
Board – a group which is open-minded and interested in your person
European – a multi-cultural foundation giving you many new opinions on what you thought as trivial
Students of Technology – young people with lots of energy, a desire to party and simply a bunch of fellows with whom you can laugh at things like “the cake is a lie”.
BEST is definitely something extraordinary and mainly because of the amazing people! On my way home I spent a couple of days in Helsinki and went to the airport at 4 o’clock in the morning just to say goodbye to one of the other participants who was leaving. In the bus back to Helsinki I thought: “I was so wrong. This is very special”.
(Post written by Kristian, after his first contact with BEST – the summer course “User Experience and Cross-cultural design”, organised by Local BEST Group Tampere in summer 2010)