Irina Ostonen, project manager of International Language camp «Aurinko»: "My own children jointed the camp and they have grown there as members of our big camp family."


Aurinko is a language camp, founded in 2000, and one of the main projects of the NGO "Ingermanland Training and Scientific Center", a center founded by Finns living in Russia.

The project was implemented as part of the cross-border cooperation program and supported by the governments of Finland and the Russian Federation. It is aimed at strengthening the
interaction between Russia and Finland in the field of education and culture, popularizing Finnish and international English, as well as increasing interest in the culture and history of both countries.

- Please tell us a little about history of the project. How did it develop and grow? What have you achieved?

I got my first pedagogical experience when I worked in the Finnish national gymnasium «Taimi»
for primary school and preschool children. Since 1995, starting with the support of the Finnish side in cooperation with initiative parents and teachers, we organized a retreat camp in Finland and Sweden.

In the 90s, it was difficult for parents to imagine that the child would spent holidays somewhere abroad, so our success directly depended on the trust of the parents. At first, only children of Finnish origin from «Taimi» were taking part in our camp’s trips, but then other children supported this idea joined our big family.

Now we are rapidly and widely growing. New young professional teachers come to our team. Our entertainment program becomes even more eventful, more and more workshops are organized by counselors appear and the greater amount of children from all the countries are interested in cooperating with us.

Since 2007, in accordance with the invitation of the Finnish side, the camp has been located in the Punkaharju region on the picturesque island of Valoniemi - in Russian, Cape of Light. The name of our camp Aurinko is translated from Finnish as "sun". From this moment our program is filled with trips to the Savonlinna city, the Olavinlinna fortress, visits to the Lusto Forest Museum, as well as water excursions around Lake Saimaa. The camp is located in a unique, environmentally friendly place, which is famous for its amazingly beautiful nature, many attractions and obtains the status of the national landscape of Finland. One of the advantages of the camp is its proximity to St.Petersburg, the average travel time is only about six hours by bus, including crossing the border, which allows you to arrive at the camp by dinner time.

- What seasons do your work?

The extracurricular program is full of quests, trips, games and competitions. In order for the child to learn more about the culture of Finland, we organize interactive excursions when children visit the ancient Olavinlinna fortress, sail a boat on the nearby Lake Saimaa, get acquainted with the animals of the Manila farm, and immerse themselves in the art world of the famous Finnish artists. The program also includes a visit to the famous Finnish sauna and barbecue. Aurinko is a year-round camp, and at any time of the year children spend a lot of time outdoors.

- What language or languages do you speak in the camp?

As far as Aurinko is an international camp children visit us from all over the world and speak many languages. They are studying English and Finnish with native teachers and also used to speak English with the stuff and foreign group members.

All of our group leaders speak English and many other languages due to theirs studies abroad.

- Please tell us about your program. What skills and knowledge do you give to children?

We are teaching children English and Finnish in the form of interactive language lessons with native speakers who speak only English. The goal of such a practice of a foreign language is to teach children to listen, understand and use a foreign language in the process communication. The majority of our children confirm that they get rid of the language barrier very quickly in such conditions.

At the same time, we always take into account the age of children and their level of language proficiency. However, if a child encounters some difficulties while communicating with a teacher, children from other countries will always provide a friendly support. Almost all the members of our team have degrees in Pedagogics. The professional teachers of the English language - Nicola and David - are graduates of Oxford and Cambridge. We always welcome when teachers work with us regularly, because children get used to them. Our team unites together creative, enterprising professionals in their field, talented in building relationships with children and parents. Some group leaders grew up in our camp and know how it all began and successfully convey main ideas of our camp.

- If you have different programs or several different camps, please tell us some words about each of them.

Our international camp is also located in Cz Republic, Teplice and in the Great Britain, Salisbury.

The town Teplice is one of the oldest resorts in Europe, known for its healing springs. This summer shift combines a warm mild climate with a large excursion and entertainment program. It is a great chance for children and youth to spend time abroad, enhance their knowledge of English and practice it with foreigners.

Our camp is located at the Panorama Hotel with double or triple occupancy with a beautiful mountain views. It is a four meals a day in the hotel restaurant. There also is a thermal aqua center with toboggans, geysers, fountains and a mountain lake of Barbora with equipped beaches. On the territory of our camp, there are a football field, volleyball court, tennis courts, where children can play active games and take part in the program prepared by our team leaders.

There is also an exciting excursion program included: Tours in Teplice, Prague, Dresden sightseeing tour, Trip to Prague Zoo, Excursion to Czech-Saxony Switzerland, Visit to the K?nigstein Fortress.

Aurinko camp in the Great Britain is located in the hospitable town Salisbury, an hour's drive from London. Children are accommodated in comfortable double-triple rooms with the constant communication with foreign students, immersion in the language environment 24/7. Our camp in London offers the best English language native teachers who would help children to take a fancy for this language and beautiful country.

Full Board meals are included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Supper and, of course, our outstanding entertainment program with favorite counselors!

- Please tell about timetable and the most important activities and events within a day and a program.

The first part of the day children usually spend studying English and Finnish and doing various interesting handcrafts. Our talented and creative group leaders, who organize teambuilding activities, masterclasses and many other events aimed at joining children together, entertain the rest of the day.

Children are usually involved into Quests and Orienteering, amusing Shows, concerts and discos, different Competitions and Relays, and Intellectual games and quizzes. Among other events our children usually visit Water park Kes?maa, Rope Park Lekotti, Amusement park Tykkim?ki and do Horseback riding. They also usually visit Olavenlinna fortress, have a trip to the famous ridge and the interactive forest museum “Lusto” and visit Manila contact farm.

- Different children go to different camps. What children would like your camp? Who is your target audience?

Different children of various ages and families come to our camp, and very often from bilingual or foreign families. All of them are united by a great desire to learn something new, spend free time with benefit, and get acquainted with the culture of another country. We consider each participant in the program as a person who can be instilled with a desire to learn foreign languages and learn to how to adapt for the foreign country. Of course, we are waiting for those who want to learn both languages: English and Finnish. There are no restrictions on the age or ability of the child. On the day of arrival, children take part in a distribution language test. However, there is no reason for worrying if the child have only started studying English, we have a group for beginners.

- Why should parents and children prefer your camps to all others?

A friendly team of teachers and many years of experience in the field of children's leisure for children unforgettable shifts with a carefully designed educational and entertainment program.

A professional photographer also works in the camp. Therefore, we publish daily photo and video reports on VKontakte.
For regular customers we have a loyalty program. Therefore, each subsequent trip of the child to the camp is more profitable and attractive at a price.

- How do you test and choose your leaders, teachers, counsellors and trainers (pedagogic staff)? What criteria do you use?

Selection of group leaders is organized in several stages. Firstly, we review and select resumes according to the main criteria of our organization.

We usually focus on the presence of working experience, foreign language knowledge, and any practice of working with foreign companies or studying abroad. A major benefit is the presence of pedagogical education. However, the personal qualities are of great importance too. We usually pay great attention to the openness, sincere desire to work with children, love to them, and the ability to interact cooperatively within the team.

After that, we invite the candidates for the skype interview. If everything went well, the candidate is offered to meet personally meet with the project managers or with one of our counselors.

The counselors’ training takes place in the form of teambuilding events. We believe that relations between the counselors determine relations between children; therefore, we strive to eliminate possible misunderstandings in the team and build friendly atmosphere between them.

- What is your mission?

The main goal we are adhering to is comfort and an affectionate atmosphere in the camp; we have many children who visit us for the first time or at a young age, that is why we tend to make them feel comfortable and gain great memories. It is important for us that each child would have an opportunity to open up, and be remembered. For this reason, we do not have large groups, or any group divisions and we do not increase the number of children per shift indefinitely. We have everything done for children, especially the warm and sunny atmosphere that matches the logo.

- How many of your clients do return?

More than 60% of the children and their parents choose us again. More than 90% of children choose New Year shifts to come back again, and during the summer shifts children choose to stay for the whole month or even two. Relatives of children who have already visited Aurinko always recommend us to friends and send their children back. The percentage of new children is also large.

We tend to adhere to a non-verbal individual approach, find the contact and use all the possibilities to create trustful relationships with a child. Therefore, many and many children end up growing up within our big family starting with little beggars and ending with mature and outstanding individuals.

- Would you send your own children to your camp if you were an ordinary client?

Personally, I have sent my children to this camp and they have grown there as members of our big camp family. For the moment, they have joined our team and now, they are ready to continue our common cause and promote our main ideas.

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