Going on a student trip to Lapland was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did my journey to the far north of Sweden provide me with new things to see, but I also got to do a lot of things I would never be able to do at home. And the best part? Sharing these new experiences with fellow international students made them even greater.

Even a bus drive well exceeding 20 hours didn’t hamper the mood. After leaving Gothenburg on a bright Sunday morning, the other students and I spent the time by watching several movies and talking with each other, occasionally stopping for food and toilet breaks. Sleeping in a bus was never easy for me (after all, Dutch people are known for being tall), so the following night was a little rough. However, that was quickly forgotten when we arrived in Kiruna the next morning.

Not long after our arrival and subsequent breakfast, me and a few other group members were picked up for a ‘combi-tour’: a ride on a dogsled and driving a snowmobile. It was empowering to ride the snowmobile against a backdrop of snowy mountains, while watching the sled dogs’ fluffy tails, as they pulled us across a frozen lake provided a calmer, but equally impressive, experience. After returning to the hostel, a couple of friends and I checked out Kiruna’s church (voted to be the most beautiful one in Sweden), the house of Hjalmar Lundbohm (Kiruna’s ‘founding father’) and the city park with its ice sculptures.

The following day, we got a tour through the famous Ice Hotel. Many rooms there have their own decorations: for example, a Frankenstein-themed room sported lab equipment made from ice and in another room guests could sleep in a frosty London Underground train. Other sculptures, such as the unicorn in the foyer and the giant fish in the hotel bar, were just as breath taking. After departing from the hotel, we visited a Sami couple on their reindeer farm, where we fed the antlered animals and learned about Sami culture while sitting around a cosy campfire. Once we concluded our business there, we headed for our next destination: Abisko, where we spent the night barbecuing in a tent.

While we intended to visit the Norwegian town of Narvik the next morning, the road was unfortunately closed due to bad weather. So instead my friends and I decided to hike through Abisko National Park. Due to our stubborn refusal to get snowshoes, we sank away in the snow plenty of times, although the incredible vistas more than made up for it. Not long after we returned to the hostel, we got to visit a sauna near a frozen lake, a location which enabled us to cool off by jumping in the water (through a hole in the ice). Undoubtedly, it was one of the most intense things I’ve ever done.

I spent the last day of our stay by climbing a frozen waterfall in Abisko Canyon together with a few other students who had signed up for the ice climbing. Using two ice picks to latch onto the waterfall and the spikes under your shoes to climb up is pretty intensive, but that makes it all the more satisfying once you get to the top.

Scaling the waterfall was the last thing I did before we went back to Gothenburg by bus, briefly stopping by the Arctic Circle on the way. Looking back, I had an amazing time doing the different activities, while making new friends and strengthening existing friendships. The only thing I regret was that I didn’t get to see the Northern Lights due to cloudy weather. But that gives some others and me a good excuse to return one day: several of my friends showed interest in that idea. To be continued?

Written by Joris van Venrooij