For me, one of the main reasons to move to Finland was that I wanted to study in a place that is both metropolitan and yet close to nature. And so far the Helsinki/Otaniemi area proved to be exactly what I was hoping for.
The campus area was already established in 1949 and since then a lot has changed. The once sleepy region is now home to several thousand students. Both, Aalto’s student association AYY and HOAS, the foundation for student housing, offer affordable rooms and studio apartments on campus. But the vibrant student community and the proximity to the Uni are not the only perks of living on campus. For everyone who enjoys the charm of Finnish nature the area offers some gorgeous spots literally just a stone throw away from campus. Currently my favorite place for a quick walk in nature and the chance to zone out, is the Laajalahti Nature Reserve. Protected as a national scenic area since 1979, it’s one of the most important bird wetlands within the Helsinki-Espoo-Vantaa metropolis. A network of trails, duckboards and bird watching towers offer great opportunities to observe the local wildlife or to simply enjoy the quietness and ever-changing beauty of the woods.
Starting from Aalto you can follow a three-kilometer long nature path along the waterfront and its gently swaying fields of reed until you come to an alley of skinny birch trees who will lead you to the mystical woodlands around Villa Elfvik. The Jugend style house at the north end of Laajalhati serves as a environmental education center and also offers a cosy coffeeshop together with a small gallery for additional infos about the area. At its southend the reserve connects to the Espoo Waterfront Walkway which offers another 30 kilometers of walking and cycling paths as well as boat harbors, swimming beaches and scenic spots to launch a kayak.
I thought the area might be at its best on a warm, sunny, summer day. But the first shy snow of the season that came earlier this week changed the landscape and my point of view once again. I’m already excited to see Otaniemi in the middle of winter, when the bay is frozen and snowflakes dance around birches, reeds and pines while ice crystals mesmerize their slender branches.
MA Program Photography