Aalto on Tracks

Aalto on Tracks is taking around 100 people from the Aalto University community with a private train from Helsinki to Shanghai World Expo, China, on May 2010. That's over 10 000 kilometers and a week on tracks!

Our goals are to take Aalto University, Finland and Finnish education to the world. We want to unite Aalto people and create an unforgettable learning experience for around a hundred Aalto people and guests.

Follow us on the map and via Talky!

Finally it’s here, an artistic short movie about Aalto on Tracks train trip! The story is about brief moments during the journey, encounters, and friendship.

Aalto on Tracks the movie – Trans-Siperia opettaa

Thanks to Anna Berg, Ina Mutikainen, Heikki Lindroos, Dimitri Paile

Our Chinese friends from Tongji university also released their awesome video:

Tongji on Tracks

Thanks to Akatsuki “Arska” Ryu

Lay back, relax, have a look and consider what you will miss, if you don’t sign up for Aalto on Waves!

- Mikko

It’s almost a year since we departed from Helsinki Railway station heading to mysterious Siberia. Lot of excitement and smily faces. Nobody really knew what was head of us… and the whole trip turned out to be superb life changing experience :) And it maybe kicked-off a series of other cool stuff… here is a collection what has happened afterwards.

First of all, a big hand to our Chief Editor Atso Takala who put together a great magazine of Aalto on Tracks. Lot of stories and experiences written by the participants. Thousand of pieces of the magazine were spread around the campuses and student houses. Now you can also read it online:

After AoT we had a lot of gatherings and “cases” where we met each other… bunch of tracks people put their heads together and Aalto on Waves was born! Aalto on Waves is making world more sustainable by real-world challenges solved in Caribbean cruiser travelling all the way from Portugal to Brazil. Have a look at Aalto on Waves web pages!

But, what’s more, the idea of travelling with train stuck in the mind of Tongji University community as well. They are now coming to Finland for a return visit – with a train or course! Around 100 of Tongji University students will arrive to Finland on 10th of May and stay here until 19th of May. There is lot of activities arranged for them, and possibility for you to attend the activities as well. Have a look for more information here.

And there is still more trains to come… Unity Express, the project I posted previously, postponed their project to the summer 2012. The organizers are working all the time around the middle Europe, and the core organizers are coming to have meetings and workshops in Finland during 10th to 19th June this summer! They’ll be staying in Otaniemi and having workshops in Design Factory and Aalto Venture Garage. Hop in to see what are they working on!

PS. “Aalto on Something” seems to be pretty well absorbed naming convention… have a look at great concept, Aalto on Waffles :)

- Mikko

While Aalto on Tracks had its glory moments around a month ago, The Unity Express project is now continuing the story! The group behind the project are working towards a more unified Europe, bringing the EU countries and people together. They believe in people taking the real initiative and making the change.

Unity Express project is renting a private train for over 400 people, for 4 weeks to go through over 23 European countries in summer 2011!!

So think about that! The route of the train is respectable extensive. The train starts from Netherlands, and goes all the way through middle Europe to Turkey, and comes up north to Sweden and Norway. And it’s a single private train through the whole journey. It’s sad that it’s impossible to make a stop in Finland, as we have different track width and train connection only to Russia.

But anyway, you can join in, it’s still one year before the departure. They are very willing to get people involved to collaborate in the project. You can also attend Unity Gathering events, which will be arranged around the Europe. First Unity Gathering is in Amersfoort, Netherlands, on 6th August. I’ll be traveling there as well!

Have a look at the web page and Facebook page of Unity Express.

Let’s wish good luck for the great project!

- Mikko

Otaniemi Underground Broadcasting System (OUBS) has done many clips from the journey. For example, have a look at the Aalto-Tongji Design Factory (ATDF) interview:

You can also have a look at the ATDF opening ceremony video. There is actually quite big plans going with Aalto and Tongji co-operation. 2-year master program is planned, where student could study one year in Aalto and one year in Tongji and gain master degree from both universities.

Also, have a look at interesting project on the train by Petri Saarikko, www.atwink.org. Atwink is a special pen, which tracks your drawings, and adds some special data such as picture & GPS coordinates of the place.

There are more clips available as well. Still remember the day we departured? Have a look. Interested in what kind of product sponsors Joonas Ollila managed to gather? There is a clip available.

Thanks to Heikki Lindroos for the video clips!

- Mikko

Hello from Finland!

Most of the Aalto on Tracks participants are now back in Finland again. We had an amazing train trip with full of activities and an unforgettable stay in Shanghai. There were company visits, the world expo, ATDF and many many memorable activities with Tongji University students!

You can read from our trip from many different articles in media:

Timo gave President of Finland an article about Aalto on Tracks, which was published in Shanghai Morning Post.

There were also articles in many Aalto related websites and participants’ blogs like Aalto !n Shanghai, Polialumni, Aalto Media Factory, Markus Kauppinen’s blog and Säätisle. Our press releases was published in many, places, on the web, too.

The community and atmosphere created during the trip was amazing. We made a lot of new friends, both from Finland and Shanghai, and we’re sure that Aalto on Tracks participants are going to gather together to see each other many times again!

For now on, you can wait for the magazine publication and video document about the trip.

Thanks for every participant, partner and everyone helping to make Aalto on Tracks possible!

- Mikko

UPDATE: A new video uploaded. This was shown in Aalto University opening ceremony in autumn 2010.

Have a look at the scenery in Siberia and a brief view in our train!

Big thanks for Anna, Ina and Dimitri (music) and Heikki for putting this video together in two days. Full video about Aalto on Tracks and all the program we had will be released later.

- Mikko

Today we got more insight into Chinese culture. Outotec HR manager HE Ying made us feel warmly welcome right from the beginning.

We had a deep dive into Chinese culture in topics such as dining, working and one child’s policy. Ying told us about amazing Chinese business culture and the difficulty in seeking for talent in China. There would be about 50-100 applicants per day for an open position in Outotec China.

Moreover division manager Simon Courtenay gave us a comprehensive, yet easily understandable and interesting presentation on the processes mining and in handling metals and other commodities. Outotec has pioneering technologies that help to cut down water, energy and raw material consumption.

- Kirsi

We arrived in Shanghai early Sunday morning – by train, of course. After breakfast and settling into our amazing 30-floor hotel, we had a chance to meet local students of Tongji University.

Tongji University is one of Aalto University’s cooperation partners in China. A concrete cooperative project shared by Aalto and the Tongji University as well as the starting point of a shared future is Aalto-Tongji Design Factory (ATDF). On Tuesday, we will attend the Aalto-Tongji Design Factory opening. ATDF is a physical place that brings together people and activities on the Tongji campus. It is a platform where students and researchers encounter enterprises and society. ATDF hosts various multidisciplinary and international courses, happenings, projects and initiatives.

We were glad to meet so many students of different disciplines at the Tongji University on Sunday. Our hosts showed us around the campus, took us to enjoy traditional Chinese lunch, and we had great discussions about student life in Tongji University. We were amazed by the beauty and architecture of the campus area.

- Hanna

After the ridiculously long bus ride we finally arrived to Beijing around 6am in the morning. Having spent the last 14 hours in a bus somewhere in China, the hotel felt dreamy: Wide beds and real showers weren’t something we had gotten used to.

Since it was our only day in Beijing many brave ones decided to skip sleeping altogether and make the most of it. Some even tried to reach the Great Wall within the few hours we had (the attempt failed though, but I’m sure they came up with other amazing adventures :) ). Our bunch grabbed a taxi and rushed to see how the Forbidden City was doing.

Aaltoes and BATES people

Around 15 entrepreneurially minded Aalto on Tracks participants had a workshop with Tsinghua students from BATES. The topic was social entrepreneurship and sustainable development project in western China.

In the afternoon, the rest of us headed to the Tsinghua University campus where a couple of students took us around the beautiful campus. After having lunch in a local hamburger restaurant (which was, by the way, veeery similar to the one we all know) the guided tour continued. However, me, Atso and Heikki decided to find our own way through the campus and back to the metro station.

Our little adventure was wonderful! Just walking around and watching how local students live, study and enjoy was interesting. Besides seeing football fields, beautiful roses, a wedding couple and an island in the river crossing the campus, we sneaked in to a building to have a look at a lecture which apparently had something to do with communist party politics. At least that’s what we were told, and mind you, that’s what the sickle and hammer style table in the front of the auditorium sort of implied, too.

In the end of the day like this, even though a short one, it’s easy to like Beijing. I’m definitely looking forward to coming back in a week. But now towards Shanghai!


On Thursday morning we arrived to the border of Mongolia and China. After living five days in our turned-to-home –train, feelings were of course a bit mixed, but mostly excited, as we didn’t yet know what was going to happen during the day. If we had, the “excited” would have been more like desperate or something.

Erlian is a city just behind the Mongolia border. We made it to China!

Because of the train schedules and width of the tracks, there was two busses from Erlian (the city in the border) to Beijing. It was supposed to be around 8 hours to 12 hours trip, depending on our luck with the border control, traffic and other random factors The strategy for most of us for the previous evening was not to drink to too much and not to sleep too much, so that no one wouldn’t feel ill but would be able to sleep during the supposed-to-be-long –ride.

Antti somewhere in Gobi desert in China during our bus trip.

Even though we successfully executed the strategy, it still wasn’t that pleasant trip, but maybe a fun story to tell afterwards :)

When we arrived to the border control between Mongolia and China, the first bad news was announced. “There’s surprisingly lot of traffic, so we’ll have to wait here for four hours – and yeah, you can’t go out, since we’re surrounded by scorpions.” Needles to say, that there wasn’t any air conditioning and that the air outside was pretty hot. It was really chaotic, we we’re unpacking and packing the buses as we got through different steps, but finally we made it in about 3 hours.

After the border, we drove to the bus station nearby to change our buses and again move the luggage from one place to another. While we were missing our drivers, we went to a small restaurant to enjoy our first Chinese meal, which was delicious and surprisingly affordable. The cook and other waiters in restaurant was in a bit hurry when 80 people suddenly appeared to empty restaurant :)

When I first woke up after a few hours and looked outside of the window, I was shocked, because we were sideways in the middle of the (empty) highway. Apparently the bus drivers had navigated badly and now we had to turn back, so they had just decided to turn right there. Luckily the road was empty but still, +3 hours to the ride!

Pretty soon the same happened again, but this time we were reversing 10 kilometers on the highway, as there wasn’t enough space to turn! The road was closed because of some sort of accident and there actually were at the previous crossroad policemen trying to inform the bus drivers, but they didn’t notice (or care about) it. The reversing took quite a long time and the length of our trip just got increased by 2 hours.

While travelling and waiting, we figured out that there’s no point in just waiting, but started to arrange program. For example during the stops the bus guide (who spoke English) was teaching some basic Chinese language to some of us :) Also it should be mentioned, that three exams were made during the trip.
Because of the closed road, the traffic on the other routes was pretty heavy, so we ended up waiting in the lines for a few hours. In the end, the trip took about 20 hours from the border to Beijing. There we took freshening showers and ate a nice breakfast in a hotel, before continuing with the visit to Tshingua University and the final part before Shanghai.


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