Our first week at Lybecker
The very first thing that shocked me when we arrived at Raahe suprisingly was not the cold weather – it was the fact that everyone here seemed way too comfortable with it. Tuulia and Henna cheerfully greeted us at the airport and I can speak for us all by saying that we couldn’t stop staring at her ballet flats that drastically contrasted with our own heavy winter boots. They must be very optimistic people those Finns, I thought. Wearing summer clothes when all you can see, feel and breathe is snow and… more snow. Their hearts must be really warm for this to work out.
Our apartments were way more comfortable than we had expected them to be and the three of us finally settled down after a long journey. I was pleasently suprised by how nice our „guardians” were – Pekka kindly drove us all the way from Oulu to Raahe and Tuulia and Henna helped us not to get lost in the maze that was a Finnish supermarket, where we bought all the necessary things we needed. They helped us to get comfortable in our apartments and answered all of our questions. Tired from the journey, we went to sleep, excied for the adventures the next day would bring.
On Monday we first walked to school, experiencing Raahe’s snowy (and cold) beauty for the first time. The sunrise was hours away, but it was not dark as light was reflected from the infinite mountains of glistening snow. As my teacher Ieva and classmate Ketija kept talking about getting frozen, I thanked myself for buying a face mask earlier this year.
We had a tour around Lybecker to get to know the school better and a conversation over breakfast with Pekka afterwards about the differences and similarities between Lybecker and our school. As impressive as the new Mac computers and all the technical equipment here is, I was still more suprised by the fact, that they can have doughnuts for breakfast. Doughnuts. God bless this place.
Afterwards Ossi spent the day with us – showed us around the city and told us about all the nice places we could go to. The sun was shining and Raahe looked very beautiful despite the cold wind that never left us no matter which way we turned. We visited a few cozy shops and tried to get used to the place we would call home for a while.
When it got dark, Ieva, Ketija and I went to a Chinese restaurant on top of a building that probably dreamed about being a skyscraper. Ossi had told us that a few people had killed themselves there and maybe that’s why riding an elevator to the top floor gave me chills, but we all know that no scary story would ever keep me away from getting Chinese food. We ordered very delicious desserts and had a wonderful time talking about all things important and meaningful to us as well as planning out our actvities for the week.
On Tuesday we had our first class – Graphic Design. Ketija and I got assigned to make a brouchure about vocational schools in Raahe, so we got down to business and started to create the layouts and edit the pictures while exchanging ideas and suggestions. What suprised us that day was the amount of breaks in Lybecker – breakfast, lunch and coffee break, but on top of that amount, we found out that each of them could last as long as an hour, sometimes, engaged in a conversation, we would forget the time and stay at the cafeteria even longer than that. As students, who are used to having only one forty minute break for lunch per day, we were pleasently suprised by this change. We also noticed how quiet the other students were, but later Ossi told us that it’s probably because they are too shy to speak English.
After school we decided to go to Oulu to visit the art museum there. After a long bus drive and what seemed an even longer walk we ended up being dissapointed, because suprisingly the museum was closed, even though there hadn’t been a single word about it on the internet. As Ieva made me and Ketija laugh by cursing at the cold wind in Latvian, we made our way to the city center and our only goal by now was to find a nice place to eat and stay warm. We ordered noodles at a wok place and spent the rest of our day browsing different shops and looking for souvenirs for our loved ones. I found peppermint oreos in a tiny shop that reminded me of a wonderland because all I could see there were soft pastel hues and candy. That means my day was good.
Wednesday started off with a welcoming meeting organized by the teachers and the student council here at Lybecker. They introduced to us different activities we could try here at Raahe and answered our questions. After that Ketija and I spent the rest of the schoolday at our Graphic Design class while Ieva went to Oulu again only to find out that the art museum is closed… again.
We spent our evening at Ieva’s place drinking tea and talking about our experiences and impessions of Raahe and the people we had met so far.
Thursday seemed to be very promising and full of new impressions because Ketija and I as well as Graphic Design students from Lybecker, their teacher Mira and our lovely driver Eeros went on a trip to two universities – Oulun Ammattikorkeakoulu and Game Lab. We found ourselves being in Oulu again but this time with a clear plan.
Oulun Ammattikorkeakoulu left an impression on us with their goal to get their students into workplaces as soon they graduate and we were suprised to hear that they even make music videos there. However, our excitement dropped a bit after attending a presentation which was entirely in Finnish so we couldn’t really understand anything. They ended it like professionals though – with an amazing Star Wars inspired video which made us all laugh.
After that we had lunch and went to Game Lab – a school that helps the students not only to learn how to design graphics, code and script the games, but also teaches them how to work in teams. As their leader said, teamwork is extremely important when it comes to creating a game and the students get to experience that while studying here. The system they have there really intrigued us because it is based on the idea that the teacher only points you in the right direction, he doesn’t fix things for you or directly pin-point the flaws of your work. The students, as the leader said, learn and so get better by making mistakes. That philosophy really stuck to me, I think that kind of mindset is something we could all learn from. The presentation was very interesting and happened to be in English so me and Ketija were truly happy about that. What suprised us after that was the fact that none of the students who came with us asked any questions about such an interesting subject. We asked a few things we wanted to know and Ketija then got to try out a new game a few of the Game Lab students were developing. They were very friendly and seemed to really love the things they do there, so that created a lovely and creative but also relaxed atmosphere, which we loved very much. I noticed that Ketija was extremely impressed by the visit, which was not that big of a suprise because I know she loves gaming a lot, and later that night when we talked about our future plans, she said she would love to study in a place like that.
On Friday we had 2D animation. This class reminded me of our school a bit more than Graphic Design because our teacher Pekka was talking to his students and offering help from time to time as well as showing a tutorial on how to do the assignment. The atmosphere still felt more quiet than the one we have gotten used to back in Latvia, but, as we understood it, the students just concentrate on their work and don’t want any distractions, which obviously is a good thing.
When we got back from school, we went to the market to buy a few things we needed to make sushi. We had invited our newfound Lybecker friends over and hoped to have a nice evening. I had found out they all like sushi almost as much as I do, so a sushi night felt like the best idea. At the market we had our first encounter with the strict laws on alcohol here in Finland – it turned out, that both of us had to have an ID but Ketija had forgotten hers at our apartment. We explained our situation and thankfully the cashier was very understanding. After we had spent an hour and a half trying to find crab sticks, we realized that those probably are not available in Raahe – nobody had heard of them here. When our friends came over, we all had a very nice time together and I feel like we got to know each other a bit better after that. We heard the most famous Finnish songs and even attempted to read in Finnish which made our friends laugh a lot. We had our sweet revenge by making them read something in Latvian. It all turned out beautiful.
When I first entered the halls of Lybecker I instantly felt that the school is a safe place for everyone who comes here. As I became closer to the students I found out that my intuition didn’t lie – they told me that no matter how one looks or feels like, no matter what they like or dislike – everyone here is accepted the way he or she is. That in my opinion is one of the most amazing things about this place. There is no fear or judgement, everyone can be their true authentic selves and that is what an art school should be like.
Writer Anna Ābola comes from Jaņa Rozentāla Mākslas skola, Riga, Latvia and studied in Lybecker for 4 weeks