So before I started this course I had a million of questions about the IWG course at Tredu and I've had a few people email me so I thought I'd answer some of the questions here, hopefully it helps you out if your thinking about applying:
1. Where is the school?
So the school is based in small place called Kuru, its 55km away from Tampere and 215km away from Helsinki. Kuru is super tiny, there's two shops with a post office inside, a pub, a library (with a handful of english books) and a random tat shop. Transport can be a nightmare at the weekends, there is a bus route to Tampere but its not too frequent - its a bit better in the week. So be prepared to be quite far away from anything. The good thing about Kuru...well all of Finland is that you're surrounded by forest and lakes. So in a way there is plenty to do.
2. Where do you stay?
The legendary yellow house. This is where I assume all 22 years worth of guides have lived. It's a stones through away from the school itself and backs onto the forest. Every year the number people living in the yellow house must differ, luckily for me there wasn't many so we all had our own rooms. But I can imagine if a large portion of the course stays here then you will have to share rooms. Most rooms are huge, and storage isn't really a problem. It's pretty basic but it does become home after a few weeks. (and yes it has running water and electricity!)
3. Who will be on the course?
Of course I can't answer that because it changes completely every year but for me it was half Finnish and half international ( 2 French, 1 Spanish, 1 Dutch, 1 Scotsman, 1 Irishman, 1 Flemish and me a Welshie) The ages ranged from 21 to mid 40s - So a really nice mix of different people, these guys will quickly become like family to you. You share some of the best and worst experiences with them throughout the year.
4. What happens If I've got limited wilderness experience?
This doesn't actually matter at all, the course covers so much that there's always going to be new stuff so don't worry about it. Even the Finns come across new things and skills during this course, and they teach everything like you're a beginner. You're there to learn and everybody, especially the tutors respect that. As long as your open minded and willing to try then it'll all be good year. I had spent 3 months in Finland a few years before coming here to study so I knew bits and pieces but most of the things we were taught were completely new to me. Just throw yourself in, if you suck then practise till you don't. And i'm sure if you ever need help then the 15 other people around are more than happy to help.
5. How do you afford it?
Before I tell you how much it roughly cost me I will say - it was worth every single penny. I still feel so lucky to have been able to do it, and when you break down everything that is included over the whole 10 months it's just crazy. The course is super cheap, rent is super cheap, a lot of the gear needed for the trips is provided by the school (shelters, skis, kayaks, canoes, axes, saws etc) so its just personal kit which most people already own a lot of already.
- Food - yeah Finland isn't cheap but it's not a big problem.
- Travel - I flew home once during the christmas period, and other than that it was just travel to my work experience places. Then any time I wanted to go to Tampere the bus is around 22 euros return.
- Gear* - will be different for everyone depending on what you already own.
I think the 10 months cost me around 3500 euros. Some months you spend nothing but food and rent and others you've got trains up to Lapland and a new down jacket to afford so it fluctuates a lot but that's personally what I spent. You could spend less and you could spend much more. But either way, I believe it's worth it.
*I earned some extra money by working for the company where I did my training. I worked there for 3 weeks in December for free but then I worked there for 4 weeks in Feb/March and got paid for it. I was quite lucky that my placement were happy to do that, but it did mean I worked through my holidays but I loved working there so it wasn't too bad.
6. What to pack!
Man I wish I had someone tell me this before lugging half my possessions from the UK to Finland, with weekly packages every few months from home with supplies or gear I need. So, the course is 10 months long, that covers all the seasons..and its not like a UK winter wear you maybe wear a thicker coat. It's an arctic winter so be prepared. Personally I find the outdoor shops over in Finland to be so much more expensive than back home. So I'd suggest getting most of it before you head over but also be ready to purchase a few things whilst you're there too - because Scandi gear is more relevant to the seasons/temperatures.
- Hiking trousers (I spent most of the year in my Fjallraven barents)
- Waterproof jacket (For the Russia trip, hikes, and layering in winter)
- Rubber boots/Wellies (maybe wait till you're in Finland to buy these - I know it sounds crazy but Finland has so many bogs that you quickly trade in your fancy hiking boots for your hiking wellies - ideally with a decent sturdy sole so you can walk all day in them!)
- Nokian Naali Winter rubber boots - needed in order to use the schools forest skis. You may be able to find a second hand pair/or buy off a past student as these cost 170 euros new. But they are worth it - so warm!
- Merino wool layers - THE best things ever. Worth the money, I have two sets and used them on every expedition.
- Compass & map case
Everyone is different but this is what I would recommend brining:
- 2x walking trousers
- 1x shorts
- 2x merino wool layers (can be brought in Finland easily but can be pricey)
- 2x technical layers (when you don't need to be super warm)
- 2x mid layers
- 1x winter trousers/sallopettes
- 1x down jacket
- 1x jeans (Incase you ever leave kuru...)
- 1x winter jacket
- 1x mittens
- 1x working gloves
Then in terms of gear:
- 1x camping mat/mattress (I used both in winter for extra layers)
- 1x decent head torch - and extra batteries
- 1x pukko/knife (Get a proper Finnish one they're better)
- 1x axe (the school does have some if you don't own one already)
- 70l/80l/90l backpack - as big as your happy carrying
- Day rucksack
- Sleeping bag (decent one needed for winter, can be sleeping out in -30)
- Sleeping bag liner
Then you have the weekends off so bring kit for hobbies or things you like to do, I packed my climbing gear, my cycling stuff and football kit. (Theres a small gym/sports hall and a big forest to run/ski round)
And obviously although this is what I suggest you need I packed 4x as much as what's on this list. You do need clothes to sit in class in, go to the pub in etc but its just a suggestion for the general stuff you need.
Anyway hopefully that is useful.