SFU: Finland: Comparative Urban Sustainability 2020

Finland , Europe Past Program Interdisciplinary

Recommended Credits: 6 SFU Graduate Units; 9 SFU Undergraduate Units
Program Website: https://sfu-horizons.symplicity.com/index.php?s=programs&mode=form&id=18b1852b743c3e49f2b0c23b8dbbd737

Duration of Program:

February 28 - March 11: Mandatory Canvas Program 

March 12: Pre-Departure Orientation 

May 11 - June 22: Preliminary sessions ar SFU. 6 preparatory sessions will be completed prior to departure. Undergrad students are required to attend all sessions, while grad students will attend sessions 1, 4 (field tour section), and 6. 

August 10-22: Study in Finland 

*These dates are provided as guidelines and are subject to change 

For the full program itinerary, please click here


This field school in the Helsinki Region in Finland focuses on comparative urban sustainability. Nordic countries are often referred to as having some of the "best practices" in the realm of urban sustainability. This circumstance many times leads to Nordic terms, policies, and practices being adopted in Anglophone countries and beyond. This field school offers a "real-life" opportunity to go beyond the textbook and explore those understandings on the ground as you explore Helsinki, Finland and the best it has to offer in urban sustainability practices. By exploring together with experts, professionals and thought leaders to guide you, you will get to experience the differences that languages, culture and history make to sustainability practices and outcomes, and place them in comparison with the Vancouver region. The overarching learning objective of this field school is to advance our understanding of sustainability beyond your familiar knowledge and context.

This field school will include guided site visits to a model sustainable neighbourhood built in the 1990s and the newest master-planned communities, planning departments and university urbanism departments, new green buildings, community gardens, and community amenity spaces from libraries to saunas. You will have a chance to interact with locals in university settings and in visits to renowned and unique museums. We will explore and experience the city using public transportation (tram, metro, bus, ferry) and by walking.

Prior to travelling to Finland, we will have six sessions in Vancouver where we will prepare for our learning experience abroad. Readings will help contextualize the places we will visit during the field school and develop our comparative context of what sustainability practices look like in Vancouver. For example, we will review selected examples from the urban history of the Helsinki region, in order to have insight into how history shapes the contemporary social, political and economic development of the Helsinki region. During the field trip, we will learn through new places, people, and languages and experience a wider cultural context.

The field school will encourage you to think beyond your local context, individual ideas, and cultural biases around sustainability. Through interdisciplinary discussions, we will make advanced comparisons between places and concepts, and engage with global issues in an active and practical manner. Your observations of different sites will push us to think more critically about sustainability and challenge often taken-for-granted understandings. These experiences will offer you cultural sustainability competence to carry with you in your academic and professional life far beyond the field course.

This Field School awards 9 SFU Undergraduate Units and 6 SFU Graduate Units.

  • URB 691-6 (Graduate)
  • URB STT 497-9 (Undergraduate): Comparative Urban Sustainability in the Nordic Countries and Canada

For a full course syllabus, please see here