Let’s Eat! – Kotka 2023

November in the very North part of the world is notoriously said to be grey and gloomy. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be colorful, full of life and laughs, smell good and taste even better. Yes, that’s right.

Fourth day (Group 4) of practical lessons at EKAMI (photo: Valéria Pinto)

We just need some special ingredients: creativity, excited, smart students, committed teachers, a good partner, nice recipes and voilá: a delicious educational and fun project is born!

That’s what the Let’s Eat! project carried out by Xamk’s Talent Boost team was last autumn, between 7 and 30 November. The project was designed to introduce international students to Finnish dietary habits, cuisine and ingredients (in Finnish).

That way, they make the most out of them, making smart grocery purchasing decisions, avoiding processed food and reducing food waste. As an immigrant myself, I know how easy it can be to succumb to the temptations of foods rich in fat, salt and sugar that come from what is called comfort food.

There is also the challenge to find the energy and stimulus to cook for oneself (if you are alone in Finland) and the illusion that eating cheap industrialized products is the only choice to keep the budget under control.

There were two theoretical lessons where international students from the first year of the Nursing degree program learned a little about Finnish nutrition and cuisine, designed their food pyramids in groups learning more about nutritional values in food. Therefore, they can have a more balanced diet in the attempt to enhance their daily health choices that will affect them short-, mid- and long-term.

Buns / sämpylät (photo: Valéria Pinto)

The next step was a series of four practical lessons where students learned by doing. They were separated into groups of four and each group prepared a different dish. The menu was easy, tasty and varied: mushroom soup, buns, salmon soup and blueberry pie (with vanilla ice cream). After the dishes were ready, students and teachers sat down to taste the fruit of their work and it was … NAM (to say it in Finnish)!

It is extremely important to highlight that the success of this project is a result of great cooperation among all the parts involved, especially the lead teacher Erja Pohju, a Home Economics retired teacher with decades of experience, and Anna-Liisa Luova, our Finnish language teacher at Xamk. Our partner EKAMI provided us with the kitchen infra-structure in their Katariina campus in Kotka.

Salmon soup / lohikeitto (photo: Valéria Pinto)

Erja says about the experience that “the students come from many different countries and continents. However, what they had in common was that they had great interest and motivation to learn about Finnish food culture and nutritional recommendations”

Erja, who is also a participant in another Xamk’s Talent Boost project called Englannin kielibuusti 50+, also said that “my experience with the project was new and interesting. The content itself is familiar to me, but teaching mostly in English was a new and perhaps exciting experience for me”.

Some of the students’ comments were (answering the question “what did you like most about the project”):


“Everything. Because I liked those Finnish foods. And hats off for the efforts that you all make on behalf of us. Kiitos paljon.”

“I got to experience Finnish food that I was afraid to try before. And it tasted far better than what I expected.”

“It gave me the opportunity of being able to cook some Finnish foods and their recipes.”

International students ready to eat together – Group 1 (photo: Valéria Pinto)

Two aspects that were clear from the 39 comments about the project were the importance of doing things together and learning by doing.

Students really enjoyed the project awarding it 9.5/10 and wanting more: thirty-three international students from fourteen different nationalities expressed their desire to participate in another Xamk’s Talent Boost project called Matti maailman keittiöissä, a reverse cooking event where international students cook for Finns.

This project is “in the oven” (pardon the pun) for the near future. Seventy percent of the fifty-seven participants of Let’s Eat! also expressed their interested in having an afternoon in the forest next autumn learning more about the mushroom picking culture and Everyman’s Rights in Finland. So… stay tuned for more in 2024!


Click here to watch a 30-second video with some highlights of the project.

And if you have some ideas and suggestions for projects in the future, please contact me via valeria.pinto@xamk.fi and let’s co-create great things together!

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