I took part in the International Wilderness Guiding course from Aug 2014 – June 2015 in Kuru, Finland. I started writing this blog to record the journey. Below I have listed what the course covered when I did it, but also take a look at the current program and costs.
So what exactly is the International Wilderness Guide course and what does it cover? The course is designed to train individuals as wilderness guides, specifically with a knowledge of Finland. And what is a wilderness guide? To quote the website:
“The wilderness guide will plan and carry out safely different kinds of outdoor tours in all the seasons of the year. He will take notions of the sustainability of nature, and the physical abilities of his customers, as well as their social and cultural background. He will give a talk to his customers on the nature of his province, its people, livelihoods, and history.”
- Students – The course is made up from a mix of male and female students. When I did the course around half were Finnish and half from Europe. But it is open to candidates worldwide.
- Teaching – It is all in English.
- Accommodation – Available on site, in the legendary ‘yellow house’.
- Equipment – You can borrow much from the college, but not all. Sort it when you get there. I will add an extra post here here shortly which details the equipment that is available to borrow.
- Experience – You don’t need any outdoor experience.
- Course costs – It now costs €750 for the 10 months, click the link for a breakdown of my spending.
It covers a wide range of topics, from: expedition planning, nature knowledge, outdoor cooking, wilderness skills, safety planning & risk assessment, camp craft, business planning, navigation and orienteering, leadership plus much more. Below I have listed many of the items covered in the course, find everything in the course handbook (which is slightly out of date).
- IWG Expeditions – Planning & Undertaking
- Russian Hiking Trip – 2 Weeks – Paanajärvi National Park, Russia
- Group Skiing Trip – 1 Week – Kylmäluoma, Eastern Finland
- The Bear ski – 9 day solo forest skiing trip in Finnish Lapland
- Group Canoe Trip – 1 Week – Navigating the Jämsänkoski lake system
- Conservation Trip – 1 Week – Jungfruskär Island – Finnish Archipelago
- Practical Training – 5 – 6 weeks working at an outdoor company of your choice
- Wilderness Skills
- Trip Planning
- Summer Trip Plan
- Winter Trip Plan
- Business Plan
- Group Professional Examination – Planning & Executing Trip with Customers
- Winter Trip – 1 night
- Summer Trip – 1 night
- Additional Qualifications
- Finnish Red Cross First Aid Training
- Hygiene Passport
- European Travel Industry Safety Passport
- Potential to get canoe/kayak level 1/2 – Need to get externally tested for level 2
I was actually put on the reserve list, and only got on to the course after someone dropped out (thank you whoever you were!). So maybe my advice is not the best, but it might help you get on the reserve list.
I don’t have a plan you can follow, but have a think about the following:
- Is the course is right for you? What do you see yourself doing with the course once you are done?
- What skills/experiences/interests do you posses and what it could bring to the group?
- Don’t oversell yourself – Be completely honest about your skills and experiences
- Why you are interested in training in Finland?
- Are you considering staying there afterwards? Do you have business plans?
I loved my time studying as a guide and learnt a hell of a lot, fell in love with an amazing country and made some friends for life. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to start a career in the outdoors.
- Solid Qualification – In Finland it is a well recognised qualification and will act as a great foundation to becoming a guide or instructor in the outdoor field in other countries.
- Good Spread of Skills – You will be able to knowledgeably and safely guide groups once you are done – specifically through Finnish wilderness.
But, a few things to think about:
- First Year in the Career – For most of the students, once you’ve graduated this will be your first year working in the outdoor sector. Remember this when you are looking for work. You may have become a proficient guide, but you are still learning and developing. It is likely you can work as a lead guide in Finland, but in other places you may need to start work as an assistant guide, do a training role, or get further qualifications (see next point).
- Specialising – As said, it is a solid foundation, but you may need further qualifications or experience to guide in specific fields, or outside of Finland. For example, if you want to take groups out canoeing and kayaking, walking in the mountains or jungle trekking.
But most of all, if you do decide to apply to IWG, good luck! I hope it is a successful one and that you manage to find yourself working in the outdoors. I hope I have managed to answer any questions you may have had about the IWG course, but if not, drop me a line.