– global competence

Are you looking for a gap year filled with new and exciting experiences?

Are you interested in international issues or curious about other cultures? Or perhaps you want to explore a new part of the world? Then you’ve come to the right place.

suomeksi  |  på svenska

On this program, we meet people from different cultures, with diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise. We meet decision-makers and visit organizations working with aid and human rights. At the same time, we challenge and develop ourselves and each other.

An unforgettable journey

Together, we plan and prepare for the highlight of the year: a month-long backpacking trip in Southeast Asia. We travel by train, bus, and boat between different areas, meet new people, and visit historically significant sites. Of course, we also take the opportunity to have fun together.

The trip is planned together during the autumn, and the idea is to make it as diverse as possible, both in terms of destinations, modes of transportation, and experiences.

During the autumn semester, we collect, to the best of our ability, money for the trip through joint projects. The school also contributes, but the rest is financed by the participants themselves.

For whom?

We prefer a mixed group, with different ages, genders, native languages, and life experiences.

We believe that you:

  • are interested in your surroundings
  • are brave and ready to challenge your own limits
  • are independent and responsible
  • have a good level of fitness
  • are interested in backpacking – but maybe haven’t gone yet or don’t want to travel alone
  • have the means to finance part of the trip yourself
  • want to meet new people and create unforgettable memories
The study year is perfect for you if you are curious about backpacking but have not gone because you, for example, did not want to travel on your own.

After the year, you will take with you:

  • Ability to work in a group
  • Skills in communication, discussion, and argumentation
  • Knowledge of other cultures and international issues, such as human rights and the UN’s sustainability goals
  • Ability to plan and carry out trips in a foreign country
  • New contacts and social skills
During the trip there will also be time for beach days.

Teaching language

The teaching takes place mainly in English, but also to some extent in Swedish. The school’s main language is Swedish and joint lectures (about once a month) for all the school’s students are mostly in Swedish. In school, in addition to Swedish, you hear both Finnish and English on a daily basis. In practice, we study in a multilingual environment.

Instagram @vnf_backpacking

Course Descriptions

The programme consists of several modules with different themes. The course content is constantly evolving and can also partly be shaped by the participants’ own interests and wishes.

The teaching is mainly in English but also partly in Swedish.


We plan, prepare, and summarize the spring backpacking trip (see separate tab above). Before the trip, we also meet people who have backpacked before and listen to their experiences and tips.

We prepare for backpacking life by going on excursions in the local area, testing equipment and practising first aid among other things.


As part of the travel preparations, we also train in the more practical and physical aspects of backpacker life. We go on joint excursions, try out different activities, and practice, for example, first aid.

Global Cultures

What different cultures are there? How can we learn more about them? And how best to handle cultural differences and communicate with people from other parts of the world? We acquaint ourselves with different cultures, with different senses, and learn more about the culture in the areas we visit.

Global Solidarity

We meet people and organizations working with aid, volunteering, and human rights. What is it like to work with these issues? What challenges is the world facing? What can we contribute ourselves?

Global Sustainability

In the autumn of 2024, it will be nine years since the UN’s international goals for sustainable development were adopted – and we are more than halfway to 2030, when the world’s leaders have promised to fulfill them. What is the current development? How have the events of recent years affected sustainability work? What is being done and what should be done to achieve the goals – and how can we contribute to a more just and sustainable world?

Finland in a Global World

How do global challenges manifest in our local area? What opportunities and responsibilities do we have to help out here at home? We meet people and organizations working on sustainability issues and aid closer to home, for example, in the Baltic States. A shorter trip there may be relevant later in the spring.

Instagram @vnf_backpacking

The Backpacking Trip

The studies on the program culminate in a month-long trip to Southeast Asia during the spring semester of 2025.

The trip is planned together during the autumn, and there are significant opportunities to shape it according to individual interests. However, the idea is to make the trip as diverse as possible, both in terms of destinations, modes of transportation, and experiences.

During the 2024 trip, the group kayaked in the mangrove forests of Selangor.

The goal is to visit historically and politically interesting places, meet new people, and acquaint ourselves with local cultures. At the same time, we try to include plenty of leisure time and fun activities.

The trip is financed by the participants themselves. To the extent possible, we also try to raise funds together during the autumn, and some of it financed by the school.

Instagram @vnf_backpacking

Benjamin Hammond

head teacher for Backpacking – global competence

“As an educator, what inspires me most is seeing my students grow and flourish.”


I am an adventure educator (Community Educator degree: HUMAK, 2023), also with a Bachelor’s in Philosophy (Cardiff University, 2003), and a professional wilderness guide (TREDU, 2017). I have diplomas in holistic education (USA, 2011), and in nature connection (London, 2018). I have further certifications in conflict resolution, interfaith dialogue, wilderness first aid, sea kayak instructing, travel safety, and child protection, amongst others.

Previous and current work experience in this branch

I have been an educator since 2005, working in a variety of school roles: from integrating refugees, to planning curricula, and leading camps. In England I taught a range of subjects to teenagers and young adults, for example: Philosophy, History, English, Nature class. Since 2009 I have been regularly working with international students. I have worked for a variety of education and nature conservation NGO’s and charities, usually in management roles. I have planned and led group camps and expeditions in the UK and Nordic countries since 2011. More recently, my work has been aligning closer with adventure therapy.

My first solo backpacking trip was in 1999, and since then I have been travelling all over the globe with a desire to explore new horizons and experiences. For me, it’s the best way to feel free. Ultimately, this led to me choosing to settle in Finland and raising a family. India and Asia, in particular, have always fascinated me. The mountains are where I find my inspiration, and perhaps my most interesting trip was the year I spent hoboing around my own British Isles with almost no money and sleeping in a tent…

What inspires you as an educator?

As an educator, what inspires me most is seeing my students grow and flourish. Helping them to find their inspiration, power, or unique voice is my vocation. I believe in what the poet Yeats said, “education is not filling a pail, but the lighting of a fire”.

What will your students take with them after their year on your programme?

A confidence gained, curiosity awakened, and an appetite channelled to go out into the world (locally or further afield) to make their mark upon it. All the students should feel that they better understand themselves, others, and their place in this complicated and uncertain world. They should feel more able to not only travel independently and communicate across cultural divides, but also empowered to achieve any of their goals in life.

My greeting/life philosophy/slogan:

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles” – Tim Cahill, travel writer.