Our adventures to Graz, Austria started at the airport right before five in the morning in the middle of May 2018 on a Sunday morning. None of us are early birds or major fans of morning wake ups so we were a bit tired, but very excited and looking forward to the adventures this next week would bring us. First we flew to Frankfurt where spent a good five hours lounging around before boarding on the plane to Graz. The Spaniards were also flying on the same plane and we could notice that they were a part of our project, but at that time they were just a bunch of strangers to us. Oh had we known how fast that would change. Our host families came to pick us up from the airport and we said our brief goodbyes to our peers knowing we would see them soon. I personally lived with a lovely boy, his father, his dad’s fiancé, his little brother and a cat. They were super caring and took me in well, they even gave me a room of my own with a balcony overlooking their pool on the front yard (throughout this week we would learn that the Austrians lived very differently to us). All in all, the traveling went well, my host family was lovely and I was very content with everything. Later on we met up with some of our Finnish friends and some of the other Austrians and got some feelings of the city. We went to visit the clocktower which is based on a hill and we were absolutely drained after walking up all the steps (later on we were wiser and discovered there was an elevator, even though the stairs were a good build up to our weeks theme: sports). Later that night we went to the train station, had a night snack and picked up the Swedish people. My host family had two guests so we took another guest with us and started heading home in the pouring rain.
The next morning we all went to school for breakfast and started our first lecture around 9am. There we were greeted by the principal Ms. Höck who welcomed us to the school and told us some parts of it history and what it is now. The students had prepared a lot of presentations for us and they told us about: the Austrian school system, showed us a tour through the school and taught us some basic German. After lunch we had sports at the school such as: climbing, football and a workshop with members of a local circus school. Everyone got to choose beforehand which one to participate in. Sadly golf was eliminated from that list because of the bad weather. After school some of us Finns and our hosts got together and walked around town. Saw the canal with locks on it and had dinner at a typical Austrian bar/restaurant.
The next morning was the same, we woke up and went to the school to have breakfast. They were very kind and had prepared us a lovely hotel-like breakfast buffet which we got to enjoy for free. After breakfast we went back to the auditorium (where most of the things that we did at school happened). We had created some “performances” as well and took the stage to present our own things. Me and Julia explained and showed the results of the sport survey (that we had sent to all the schools and each countries students and teachers responded to it and with that we analyzed the average sports habits and views of the respondents). Our peers did presentations on Finnish Sports that included some funny ones such as “eukonkanto” (wife-carrying) which was funny to explain to foreigners. Then we headed outside to the rain (sadly it was pouring rain almost the entire time we spent there) to play Amazing Race Graz edition. We went in to small groups that had people from all the countries and went through town. We visited the clocktower again (just with the elevator this time). After lunch we went to the town hall of Graz where we had a guided tour about the history of the city as well as the town hall building. We also got to go inside the town hall and see the rooms they actually work in. They were also very kind enough to prepare us a little snack and we had different kinds of bread with veggies and meats on it and juice. All in all the tour guides and everyone working at the town hall were very kind and hospitable. After that we went with a small group to the supermarket to pick up some supplies ‘cause we were going to my host family’s place to have a small barbeque. We cooked, laughed and jumped on the trampoline of our yard and had a lovely time.
The next morning we went to the school again and had a long lecture from a local professor on the impact of sports on mental and physical wellbeing. Afterwards we got to dancing! I mean, literally! We had a dance class near the school to learn a traditional austrian dance. We had two teachers who taught us the basic steps and how to carry yourself while dancing. We had random pairing and everyone got to dance with everyone (not forgetting the teachers of course). That day we had a shorter school day so I went back to my host home and had some time to myself and took a nap. Later that evening we got together with most of the people part of project to hang out and had again, a lovely time. We obviously had to go to sleep early for the next day.
Thursday was definitely my favourite day of the week and I think a lot of the students participating can agree with me on that. We took a bus from the school around 9am. It took us about an hour to get to our final destination but before that we got to see the beautiful countryside of Graz with all its hills, ruins and even an old time castle. Our destination was every kids dream since seeing Charlie and the Chocolate factory because that was literally what it was, a chocolate factory with all the chocolate you could possibly eat in every imaginable flavour (except for mint..? I mean c’mon everything else but not my favourite).
Outside we got to see goats and we could see lambs and turkeys in the distance too. The factory was something surreal. There was chocolate literally everywhere and we got to see how all the machines work and what kind of different stations there are. After stuffing our faces with chocolate we enjoyed the nature and the fields around a bit more and then hopped back on the bus. Thankfully this day the weather was really nice and we got to see the sun properly. Our next destination was this spa/outdoor pool type of thing where we got to go swimming for hours. There were hot tubs, water slides a pool just made for fake waves and everything fun you could imagine. We swam for hours and all looked like lookalikes to a family of raisins when we got out, but we all had bright smiles on our faces.
On Friday we all gathered at the school again and finished working with the glossaries on sports words and phrases. We also went to visit a local farmer’s market and had our final walk through Graz and then had lunch at the school. We said our farewells to the teachers at the school and all went back to our host families. Later that afternoon me and my host went to Inkeri’s host family’s place and it was absolutely beautiful, they had a view overlooking the hills and mountains from their front yard. Afterwards we met up with other people from the project.
The next morning we just hung around with my host at his place and took a dip in the pool. After packing we left to the airport around four where we met with all teachers and the Spaniards (the Swedes left early in the morning). At the airport we cried, hugged and did it all again before it was time for us to board. We said our final goodbyes to our hosts and left for the plane. We arrived at Helsinki after midnight and all went home.
I think I can speak for everyone when I say that this trip was a success. I gained new friends, got closer with my current friends, learned basic German with an Austrian twist (oida), got to see a lot of different kinds of sports, got to know the city of Graz and all in all I gained a lot of new experiences, I would like to give a special thank you and shoutout to all the teachers who were involved because they did a great job and invested their own time so we could have a fun, interesting and teaching trip.
Text: Vilja Nurminen
Photos: Annukka Kosonen