– 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.

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 program is perfect for those who are curious about backpacking but haven’t gone yet because, they for example, haven’t dared to travel alone.

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

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

A back alley in Southeast Asia can look quite different from those we are used to in our own country. Images in text: Anna Härmälä

Course Descriptions

The studies consist of several modules with different themes. The course content is still under development – and the hope is to shape much of the program according to the participants’ own interests and preferences. The teaching takes place mainly in English, but to some courses might be 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.


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.

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