”In which Läsäkoski are you going to work this summer?” This is what you can hear students studying forest product technology asking each other as early as January. There are two things worth noting here.
1) In which Läsäkoski are you going to work this summer? If they want to, all forest product students are able to find a summer job. That’s why the question is formulated the way it is, rather than the traditional: ”Have you found a summer job?” I’m mentioning this as a little tip for those trying to decide what to study.
2) In which Läsäkoski are you going to work this summer? A mythical place, Läsäkoski only exists as a summer job location for forest product students. Läsäkoski is the Loch Ness Monster of small towns. Everybody’s heard rumors about it, but no actual sightings have been verified. People talk about it either as a monster that ruins your life or as an exotic and refreshing surprise. But where is Läsäkoski? What makes a place Läsäkoski-ish?
I wanted to find answers to these questions. My first step was to interview several forest product students who had reported Läsäkoski sightings. Based on those interviews and my own experiences, I formulated a Läsäkoski index, which describes how well a place meets the criteria set for the mythical Läsäkoski. In practice, the Läsäkoski index is formed by the following two variants
1) Distance to Otaniemi in Espoo – the closer to Otaniemi the place is, the less like Läsäkoski it is. Culture shocks of various size are also part and parcel of the Läsäkoski experience.
2) Leisure activities – the fewer leisure activities the place has to offer, the more like Läsäkoski it is.
Armed with the Läsäkoski index, I embarked on a quest to identify true Läsäkoskis among ten potential candidates. Here are the shocking results.
Distance to Otaniemi: ~280 km. The second longest distance in the study. This gives us two Läsäkoski points.
Leisure activities: When it comes to ways to spend your free time, everything is possible. -1 Läsäkoski point.
Inteviewee comments: ”You can’t talk about Läsäkoski and Jyväskylä in the same sentence.” -1 Läsäkoski point.
Läsäkoski index (0-7): As the interviewee’s comment suggests, Jyväskylä hasn’t got what it takes to be a Läsäkoski. Score: 0/7.
Distance to Otaniemi: ~60 km. Nearest to Otaniemi. Zero Läsäkoski points.
Leisure activities: As you don’t have to move out of Espoo, you can continue to spend your free time in Otaniemi. This is the most popular summer job location among Otaniemi’s forest product students, which means carpooling is possible and you also get to hang out with other forest product engineers. Zero Läsäkoski points.
Interviewee comments: ”Lohja, LOL! When we were moving there, we came across an old-timer walking a sheep on the road.” This comment was made by a summer employee who moved to Lohja for the summer. It’s a sign of severe culture shock. One Läsäkoski point.
Läsäkoski index (0-7): Lohja is far removed from a true Läsäkoski. Score: 1/7.
Distance to Otaniemi: ~430 km. The furthest location from Otaniemi in this study. Three Läsäkoski points.
Leisure activities: Dependent on your hobbies. Gyms and golf courses have been tested and given a stamp of approval. -1 Läsäkoski point.
Interviewee comments: ”I once bumped into a local icehockey star, Oskar Osala – naturally, on the golf course. All in all, Vaasa was a very pleasant experience – at least for one summer.” This comment reveals a total lack of culture shock. -1 Läsäkoski point.
Läsäkoski index (0-7): Vaasa doesn’t come even close to Läsäkoski. Score: 1/7.
Distance to Otaniemi: ~230 km. One Läsäkoski point.
Leisure activities: Enjoying sauna and the Lake Saimaa scenery. One Läsäkoski point.
Interviewee comments: ”No complaints, Lappeenranta is a proper city.” “Or actually, the journey back to Otaniemi was too long.” No complaints, no Läsäkoski points.
Läsäkoski index (0-7): Lappeenranta is too much of a city to be a proper Läsäkoski. However, some slight atmospheric similarities to Läsäkoski can be found. Score: 2/7.
Distance to Otaniemi: ~85 km. The second shortest distance in the study. Zero Läsäkoski points.
Leisure activities: The Puuhamaa theme park – the best day of the summer! 1 Läsäkoski point.
Interviewee comments: ‘“Located 2 km from the Hämeenlinna motorway and 1 km from Puuhamaa, the village has a population of 4,000 and a center with three shops and a couple of bars. With the motorway being so close and express buses running to Kamppi in Helsinki, you didn’t need a car to commute. Because of that, I didn’t sink into the mire of Läsäkoski anxiety.” The three-shop center counts for one Läsäkoski point.
Läsäkoski index (0-7): Tervakoski has some potential to be a proper Läsäkoski but its proximity to Otaniemi severely dents this ambition. Score: 2/7.
Distance to Otaniemi: ~270 km. The third longest distance in the study. One Läsäkoski point.
Leisure activities: You can hang out with other forest product students. Zero Läsäkoski points.
Interviewee comments: ”A love-hate relationship. My roommates were guys in their 50s, who had been transferred to Imatra as a result of corporate re-structuring. It was great to listen to them moan about their lives. On the other hand, Imatra has character.” A love-hate relationship is one of the hallmarks of an authentic Läsäkoski. This adds up to a total of two Läsäkoski points.
Läsäkoski index (0-7): Compared to its big brother Lappeenranta, Imatra is better able to capture the essence of being Läsäkoski. The town has fixed some of its problems, but something is still missing. Score: 3/7.
Distance to Otaniemi: ~105 km. The third shortest distance in the study. Zero Läsäkoski points.
Leisure activities: You options are a traffic island, a supermarket or the local pub. This lack of variety counts for two Läsäkoski points.
Interviewee comments: ”I could see the factory chimney from the window of my studio apartment. There was no partying after your shift finished. At least it took less than two hours to reach civilization.” Two Läsäkoski points.
Läsäkoski index (0-7): Järvelä also captures the essence of Läsäkoski. You go there to work, and as a reminder of that, the factory chimney looms outside the window. Its relative proximity to Otaniemi, however, limits its Läsäkoski potential. Score: 4/7.
Distance to Otaniemi: ~250 km. One Läsäkoski point.
Leisure activities: The Old Town, the Lace Week festival and Toripöllö Pub’s drinks menu. Two Läsäkoski points.
Interviewee comments: ”Rauma is Rauma, and will always be.” This comment, delivered in a strong Rauma accent, is a sure sign of severe culture shock. Two Läsäkoski points.
Läsäkoski index (0-7): With its dialect alone being enough to cause culture shock in a newcomer, Rauma comes close to being the quintessential Läsäkoski. Returnees to Otaniemi will be plagued by the local dialect and the extremely lousy taste in music for the following term, if not longer. Score: 5/7.
Distance to Otaniemi: ~240 km. One Läsäkoski point.
Leisure activities: Dances at outdoor pavilions. There’s no getting much more Läsäkoski-like than this. Three Läsäkoski points for that.
Interviewee comments: ”As the high point of my summer, I put on my war paint and got dressed to the nines for a trip to a Prisma supermarket in Mikkeli as that was the nearest to civilization I’d been for ages.” The nearest shop and village were 7 km from my apartment. This comment truly smacks of Läsäkoski! Two Läsäkoski points.
Läsäkoski index (0-7): Prisma in Mikkeli being the local hub of civilization speaks volumes of the place’s Läsäkoski-like characteristics and of the culture shock suffered by the students who have grown used to life in Espoo, with its shopping centers. Pellosniemi is a strong candidate to be a true Läsäkoski even though there’s still some room for improvement. Score: 6/7.
Distance to Otaniemi: ~150 km. One Läsäkoski point.
Leisure activities: If you have a day off, the most exciting part of your day will be choosing between four supermarkets (LIDL, K-market, S-market and Alepa). Two Läsäkoski points.
Interviewee comments: ”I was working a long stretch and living in an unfurnished house. Sometimes I went to the shop even when I didn’t need anything. I just wanted to see people! I’ve been to some Läsäkoskis before, but this was still something of a culture shock.” Going to a shop just to see people. That’s the soul of a real Läsäkoski. Four Läsäkoski points.
Läsäkoski index (0-7): If Läsäkoski exists, it is Inkeroinen. Full Läsäkoski points: 7/7.