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Education in Finland & Sweden

Compare the education systems and cultural traditions of two Scandinavian capitals. Find out what makes Helsinki a world leader in progressive education practices and take a firsthand look inside of each of these cities’ school systems.





Let’s get the paperwork out of the way so we can focus on the fun stuff. Your passport must:

·       be valid for at least six months after your return.

·       match your name and birthday on file with EF.

·       have three blank pages available.

Non-US citizens may require a visa—visit to see if you need one.

Traveler tip: Make two photocopies of your passport - one to bring with you and one to leave at home.

Not to sound cliché, but we can’t say this enough: pack light! Check with your airline to see what size bags they allow to avoid paying any fees.

Most travelers find it easiest to go without checking bag. Here are some tips for getting as much as possible into that carry-on suitcase:

  • Wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane and pack the lighter ones. Same thing goes for jackets and heavier clothing.

  • Packing cubes or vacuum seal bags can save space and help you stay organized.

  • Make the most of your personal item by using a tote bag or backpack that you can reuse throughout the trip.

  • Roll your clothes instead of folding them. Pack the bigger items first and use smaller items like socks and underwear to fill in the gaps.

Traveler tip: You'll be traveling on an overnight ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm, where very limited luggage space is available. With that in mind, we highly recommend a carryon for your travels.  

To see a full packing list, check out our Pocket Guide to Expert Travel. Just make sure you don’t forget these: 

  • Passport—bring a photo copy and leave one at home too

  • Visa (if applicable)

  • ATM card and credit card

  • Entertainment for the plane and travel days

  • Purse or small day bag with a zipper 

  • Converter/adapter for any electronics

  • Toiletries

  • Washcloth—optional, but they aren’t always available

  • Medications and a copy of any prescriptions*

  • Comfortable, casual clothingcheck the weather before you pack!

  • Dressier outfit

  • Raincoat and umbrella

  • Reusable water bottle

  • Comfortable walking shoes—for example, one pair of sneakers and one pair of sandals

  • Warm layers

  • Appropriate clothing for school visits

  • EF's emergency numbers

    • ​Calling from within the US: 1-800-873-2250

    • Calling from abroad: 001-617-619-2913

*All medications should be in their original containers. Put medications in your carry-on bag only, in case a checked bag gets lost or delayed.

Traveler tip: In the spring and summer, there is little to no darkness at night. You may want to pack a sleep mask to cover your eyes. Conversely, if you're traveling in the winter or fall, there is very little sunlight during the day.

The best things in the world are free (like watching the sun set over the Gulf of Finland) Still, a little spending money can go a long way while you're abroad:

  • Mo' money, less problems: Budget $50 to $70 per day for pocket money. This will cover five lunches, three dinners, souvenirs, and additional activities. If you’re an especially avid souvenir hunter, you’ll want to give yourself more wiggle room—financially and in your suitcase.

  • Currency: Euro (Finland) and Swedish Krona (Sweden). You can exchange money before you leave, but we recommend just withdrawing some cash from an ATM when you arrive in each city.

  • Tips for tipping: We suggest $6-$8 per day for your Field Director. Your Group Leader will likely collect this money before you depart so that you can budget accordingly.

P.S. Be sure to let your bank know you’ll be traveling so they can put an alert on your account and inform you of any international fees.

Traveler tip: Stockholm is a cash-free city, and many cafes, restaurants and hotels actually enforce a no-cash policy. Make sure you’re prepared with credit cards or digital pay.

Imagine it: you’ve finally arrived. It’s been a few hours since you left home, but your feet are firmly planted on the ground again. Today’s challenge? Fight off jetlag and make the most of the day.

Unless you arrive at night, be prepared to hit the ground running. Staying awake on arrival day is the best way to fight jet lag and adjust to any time difference. If there are other groups on your program, you may wait at the airport for them to arrive. To make things a bit easier:

  • Pack toiletries and a change of clothes in your carry-on for when you land.

  • Stay hydrated—it helps reduce jetlag.

  • Travel in comfort, not necessarily in style, and get as much sleep as you can on the flight before.

Your dedicated Field Director—a physical and cultural guide—will be with you throughout your program. Our Field Directors work tirelessly behind the scenes to coordinate logistics like managing reservations and making sure everything flows seamlessly, so that you can enjoy your time without sweating the details. They are there to acquaint you with each new city and make sure everyone is safe, confident, and making the most of every moment.

You’ll spend very little time at your hotel (mostly catching some sleep), but you should still be aware of where you’re staying and who you’re staying there with.

  • Hotel du jour: Country-hopping means hotel-hopping, but don’t worry; each hotel is safe, clean, comfortable, and equipped with private bathrooms. Hotels are typically 30–45 minutes from the city center via public transit, which comes in handy if you want to check out different areas and blend in with the locals.

  • What to expect: Hotels abroad may feature smaller rooms than you’re used to and may not have air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, television, or elevators. All the more reason to get out and explore.

  • Roomies: Unless you have opted to upgrade your room, standard accommodations mean you’ll be rooming with two or three other people of the same gender, each with your own bed.  You may even take part in an exchange program—that is, rooming with a traveler(s) from another school in your group.

Traveler tip: Electrical outlets in different countries may be different from the ones we're used to. Make sure you research what type of converter and/or adapter is needed for your travels! 

You should expect food and portion size to be different than what you're accustomed to at home. Kick off each day with an included continental breakfast. One lunch and three dinners will be included, too. We work with local restaurants to provide a pre-set menu that includes 2-3 course plated meals inspired by the region, giving you the opportunity to experience authentic dishes. Other dinners and lunches are your opportunity to explore the cuisine as you see fit.

Scandinavia has a distinct cuisine which reflects the local traditions and natural surroundings. Both Helsinki and Stockholm are home to world class restaurants and international cuisines that reflect the diversity of residents who call these cities home.

  • In Sweden, common dishes include Swedish meatballs, salmon, and lingonberries

  • In Helsinki, you will find pickled herring, rye bread, grilled sausages, and cinnamon buns called pulla

  • If you’re feeling adventurous, try the reindeer!

Traveler tip: Fika is the Swedish tradition of taking a break mid-afternoon to have a coffee and pastry while socializing with friends, family or colleagues. 

Since teleportation hasn’t been invented yet, you’ll need these to get from point A to point B (and C and D and E).

  • Flights: Overnight to Helsinki and home from Stockholm.

  • Bus: Main mode of transportation on the ground.

  • Public transportation: Public transportation passes are included in Helsinki and Stockholm for exploration time.

  • Overnight ferry: From Helsinki to Stockholm.

  • Walking: Hands down the best way to explore a new city. Be ready to walk a ton (we're talking 5-7 miles per day) to see as much as possible.

Traveler tip: For the overnight ferry, your larger luggage will be stowed away and you will be able to bring one overnight bag to use for the night. 

You will explore two cities in eight days, so this program will feel fast! In order to maximize your time each day, you will leave the hotel bright and early and return some time in the evening (or later if you’re feeling adventurous). Most days will be a combination of planned activities and exploration time with some days being busier than others. You'll have a mix of time on the bus, walking, on public transportation and overnight ferry to get around. Be prepared to walk between 5-7 miles per day.

You'll be spending 2-3 nights in each city before moving on to the next. Take advantage of the time you have and familiarize yourself with the city, the neighborhoods and local spots.

Traveler tip: Arrival day will feel like the longest day on your program, we recommend sleeping on the plane as much as possible to be ready to hit the ground running.

Exploration time can vary depending on a few factors: the number of planned activities, whether or not your group has decided to add any optional excursions, and general travel variables like traffic. How you spend your exploration time is entirely up to you. You could sit in a café and people-watch, grab a few friends and discover a new part of the city, or do some souvenir shopping. On busier days, you might just have enough exploration time for a quick lunch.

Here is a rough breakdown of exploration time on your itinerary:

  • Helsinki: Half day

  • Stockholm: Half day

There is so much to see and do, so do some research and plan ahead. If you need inspiration, here are our exploration time suggestions:

  • Visit an urban Sauna in Helsinki

  • Visit the Chapel of Silence in Helsinki

  • Explore the food trucks at Hornstulls Marknad in Stockholm

  • Hike to the Monteliusvägen cliff path for the best views of Stockholm

Did you know? There are more than 3 million saunas in Finland and the Finnish swear by the ancient ritual of sauna-taking as beneficial to mental and physical health. 

The Finnish pride themselves on being honest and sincere. They are generally kind and open-minded.

Directness and straightforward speech is common in Finland. People are expected to mean what they say.

Saunas are an important part of Finnish culture, it is done to relax which means that peace and quiet are viewed as parts of the experience. It is customary to go in to the sauna without any clothes, instead you sit on a small sauna towel placed on the bench. 

Swedish culture is very particular about time: if you’re late to a meeting, you will get some subtle looks telling you that you messed up. 

Stockholm is a cash-free city, and many cafes, restaurants and hotels actually enforce a no-cash policy. Make sure you’re prepared with credit cards or digital pay.

Fika is the Swedish coffee and cake ritual that means that the best cafes in the city will be full to the brim in the afternoons, especially on weekends. The traditional fika is with a cinnamon bun, but some cafes do their own variations.

Swedes are very direct; if you ask them how they are doing, they will tell you how they are doing. They will tell you the truth.

Pay attention to personal space. Maintain a little over an arm’s length of distance and limit the amount of touching in a conversation. 

Sweden is one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in Europe. They have a long history of being on the forefront of legal rights for the LGBTQ+ community. 

We’re here to help

Our team has heard it all so don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. Call us at 877-485-4184 between Monday and Friday, 9:00am-5:30pm EST.