After a long trip for most of us on the previous day, we arrived at the Bjurholm Castor School, where we were made welcome by the school principal, Gunilla Falk, and the school manager, Henrik Bolin. In the versatile school auditorium (the chairs could be lifted to the ceiling, leaving the floor completely free for other activities), we listened to some songs performed by the music students, and we sang ourselves some themes by Abba and Avicii. Then it was time for some Swedish fika, the wonderful coffee and snack break which is so popular there at all times. After fika, the teachers listened to a lecture by university professor Mathias Norqvist on the research being done about maths teaching and learning, while the students attended some classes.
We had lunch at the school canteen, and, when we finished, we had all together a lesson in traditional Swedish folk dances. It was a wonderful ice-breaker. And, after dancing, we were driven to an amazing and (for many of us, especially those who came from warm countries) unbelievable experience: having a picnic on a frozen lake! The families and teachers drove us there, but then we had the chance of travelling on snowmobiles until the picnic spot on the lake. We roasted excellent sausages on sticks, and had hot coffee and chocolate, while watching the incredibly beautiful sunset on the lake.
During the first part of the morning, teachers and students worked together on our assigned projects, all of them about different aspects of life and economy in Northern Sweden, and also, by turns, attended a home economics class where we learned how to bake gingerbread cookies. After some fika, we had a PE class, where our students had the chance to practice ice-skating.
And then we left for the moose farm, where we had lunch and lived another incredible experience: we could learn a lot and see some of these incredible animals, even touch them! It was really amazing. We had a free evening, which the students spent with their families and friends, while the teachers had dinner together at one of the teachers’ home.
The third day of our stay in Bjurholm was spent completely outdoors. All the school went to the ski resort, where we all could try skiing, some of us for the first time. Teachers and students had a wonderful time, learning to ski, walking around and enjoying the breathtaking views, and playing some team games on the snow. We also had lunch there; the school canteen staff had also come, and prepared hamburgers and coffee for everybody. When the activity was finished, we were driven to our homes, where we had some rest before another wonderful dinner with the families or, in the case of the teachers, in another of the teachers’ home.
On the fourth day, we travelled by cars and school bus to the city of Lycksele, in Lapland. There, by groups, we visited a beautiful and interesting museum, a combination of exhibitions and explanations about the old Sami way of life and the history of forestry in Sweden. We could even taste a coffee sweetened the Sami way (with cheese and reindeer meat), try the fried bacon and bread which the lumberjacks used to eat in their cabins in the forest, and even attempt to “manage” some of the mechanical cranes used to move the wood. We had lunch at the museum, and then we returned home. Again, the students spent the evening with families and friends, and the teachers at another teacher’s home.
We spent our last morning in Bjurholm at the school. First of all, after receiving each of us a souvenir gift bag with a T-shirt and information about Bjurholm, we attended an interesting lecture by Christoffer Sai Öberg, the young manager and owner of Nyakers, the famous Swedish brand of gingerbread cookies or pepparkakor. Then (after some fika, of course), we attended the presentations of the projects on the different aspects of Swedish life and economy done by the students. We had lunch at the school canteen, and then we could attend some technology and arts and crafts lessons. Then we went home to have a rest and prepare for the farewell party.
The party was held in the school auditorium, which had completely changed its appearance to host all of us. It looked like a restaurant and dance hall! We had some live music while we enjoyed dinner, and then we spent a long time dancing and having fun all together before saying goodbye. It was an amazing ending to an amazing week, and what is absolutely certain is that we will not forget our Swedish experience. Everybody (not just the teachers in the project, but all the school staff and the families) made a big effort to make us feel welcome and at home during the week. It was absolutely great, and we will meet again soon in Belgium