I teach students how to become their own teachers

3 life lessons from Lapland

A few weeks ago, I went to Lapland to visit a friend of mine that was studying there.
I usually bring back a few souvenirs from my travels, but now I’m bringing something else, something I’d really like to share with you.

Adventure or peace of mind? 2-225x300

One of my main interests in life is adventure.
Since I was a student, 10 years ago, I constantly sought adventure instead of comfort.
I went wake boarding, paragliding and parachuting
I ran at marathons, did 2 years of Krav Maga and a bit of kick boxing
I traveled to the Sahara desert, to the Polar Circle and to Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs.
Reflecting back, I realize I gained something from my travels
Something more important than all the souvenirs I’ve brought home.
It’s not life experience, even though I got plenty of that
It’s not a deep understanding of human nature (even though travelling to faraway lands helps in this endeavour)
It’s peace of mind
It’s a peace of mind different from the zen like peace of yogis or from the finitude of old people
It’s the understanding that I’ve lived my life and that if something happens to me now, I know that I’ve lived it fully, every moment that I was given.
It’s a bit counterintuitive, arriving at peace after travelling and doing adventure sports, but it’s there.
It’s there and it built a solid foundation for my personality.

Having an active life helps keep an emotional balance

IMG_4265-300x225Near Oulu, a small town in the center of Finland, I’ve jogged for 7 miles at below 0 degrees.
The air was cold and I felt it with every breath.
Even though it was hard, the place was amazing!
A forest with big trees, frozen land below my feet and a trail used for ski touring.
After the run, I felt relaxed and balanced.
I thought the feeling will pass when the endorphins released by my body would run their course, but no, my whole day was great and it all began with that morning run.
Whenever you feel down, discouraged or you just want a better day try running in nature for an hour, even half if possible.
Physical exercise helps keep your mind sane in this century of distractions.

The best educational system in Europe

Did you know that Finland has the best educational system in Europe? (according to the PISA study, presented on BBC)
I visited one of their schools and I’ve talked with a lot of students there. I’ve got a lot of input, but I knew I had to do something different.
If you want to get the highlights the school system provides, you need to speak with the exchange students.
Erasmus is a student exchange program in which students attend school in other countries for a semester (and the exams get recognized in their home country).
So I visited an Erasmus dorm and spent a lot of hours chatting with the students there.
It seems that the main practical difference between other school systems is that Finland promotes weekly group projects.
Instead of homework, you have a practical project that you have to finish with a team, every week.
This provides you with a lot more than understanding of the course. You experience team dynamics, you learn to lead and to be led and you create something with the help of your colleagues.
I was enthralled by the idea!


1381382_755030237846522_200533221_n-300x225In the last few years, I’ve added a lot of experiential games to my courses, games through which the student reaches his own conclusions, without getting directly taught.
The next step is implementing some ideas that I got from Finland to teach the students more than the subject they think they are being taught.
I don’t want to leave you with a conclusion here, just with advice.
Travel! Travel a lot and, after you’re tired, travel a bit more.
Because traveling is more than seeing new places.
It develops your mind
It makes you feel fulfilled
It provides peace of mind
PS: I’m very curious what you’ve learned in your travels. Please write below one idea that you had during one of your trips.


  • tidewatertilly

    Vaida, I think I would love what you do. You love to help people find out about themselves and how they tick so they can find a niche and not feel so alone and wonder why they do the things they do. You help them find their way. I am a teacher and have had a little experience being up in front of people so I could present the information and I would love doing little exercises with the group to see how they would interact together with those who are their opposites. Any advice?

    • Hi,
      I’d recommend you join a local Toastmasters group. It’s a public speaking & leadership organization that will enhance your training and presentation skills.

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  • Hi Bogdan,

    I like your life lessons – and fully endorse them.

    The value of exercise in natural surroundings is well supported by research – most recent of which I spotted in Runners World: for stress reduction trail running is apparently 12.4% more effective than urban running. From personal experience I’d put this closer to 50%.

    Weekly group projects make for a better education. I believe this. I think you also need to dig a bit deeper. I do not know if these details apply in Finland, but I suspect that the projects are more co-operative than competitive (and so don’t create a sense of failure), I suspect that some of these are of lasting value (eg improving school grounds) rather than being pure assignments, and I suspect that the projects are usually reviewed (at task and process levels) to maximise learning from them.

    Travel – yes. But there are so many different ways to travel. Your style where you really get to meet and listen to local people must be one of the best ways to travel.

    That’s a lot of value in one article! Thank you.


  • Sherkina Adams

    I’ve never been outside of the USA, I plan on traveling once my kids graduate high school and attend a college of their choice. It seems exciting to me I’m eagerly awaiting.

  • Katherine

    I went to Jamaica…I went to Mandeville and saw an orphanage there. I remember wanting to return to give the kids some toys. Dunn River Falls and the road with all the bamboo trees. The food tasted different (if you tried to replicate it in U.S.) I love all kinds of ethnic food. Ive been to the Bahamas to see family. It is true you become alive and not just existing. I’m originally from California and miss it so much. Florida is now where I reside and I’m looking forward to leaving here one day or maybe I’ll spread my wings and travel abit more.

    • edithelimanning

      I was in Jamaica and it was lovely

  • Ashutosh Dixit

    I live in India, and visited the Kashmir Valley a few years ago. Two words: Beauty and Terror. Kashmir is one of the most beautiful places on the earth, once described by Emperor Akbar as ‘Heaven on Earth’. But the atmosphere there is always one of fear and uncertainty. My experience there, full of breathtaking beauty and exciting adventures as it was, was tinged with fear, as daily news of rioting and terrorist incursions and curfews came in. I came away saddened by the realization that we humans manage to mar such precious natural beauty with our politics and wars. Why can’t we enjoy the wonders and bounties in peace? What will it take to achieve that? Something to ponder…

  • edithelimanning

    Ashutosh, the reason peoople cannot make peace with nature and one another is because, people are inherently selfish and territorial. I totally agree with you and it too saddens me to see such beautiful lands marred by politics and war, it is soo sad. I am French and I have been to several different nations due to my work as a prof of marketing and I believe that travelling brings us closer together and helps us to understand each other’s cultures. the more we understand one another, perhaps, the less we will fight one another. If everyone in the world was kind like Eli Manning, I believe there would be world peace and places like Kashmir would have only their beauty without the terror; Dr Reagan Edith

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