TOP5 For exchange students coming to Turku
- Be active.
- You’ll regret not participating much more than you’ll regret participating.
- Buy overalls. You’ll thank me later.
- Find out what a student cap is.
- Pack your warmest clothes.
- Just do it.
- Start preparing well in advance. Google things and read articles!
- The websites of higher education institutions are easy to use and contain all the essential information.
- Leaving your family and friends behind is scary, but you’ll find your own circle in Finland.
- Join every interesting Facebook group that you can.
Exchange options in Turku
Higher education institutes of Turku are partnered with hundreds of universities around the world. Institutes are taking part in numerous student exchange programmes. More information about Turku as an exchange destination:
Brigitta Majoros, a 23-year-old Serbian student of geoinformatics, and Megan Sikkinik, a 22-year-old student of neuropsychology from San Diego, have enjoyed their time in Turku.
‘This is actually my second time being an exchange student in Finland,’ Majoros says with a laugh.
‘I spent my first year in Joensuu. I only came back to make sure that Finland really is as wonderful a country as I remembered. And it really is. I love Finland and Turku in particular!’
‘I decided to come to Finland because the Finnish education system is unparalleled in the world. I’m interested in Scandinavian culture and have never even experienced a real winter. So my choice was easy,’ says Sikkinik, who arrived in Finland from California roughly six months earlier.
Wide range of courses taught in English
Both exchange students have many positive things to say about Turku. The words ‘international’, ‘action-packed’ and ‘close to nature’ often come up. Both of them are generous with their praise of the higher education institutions in Turku.
‘I was nervous when I arrived in Turku. I didn’t know what to expect. I noticed quickly that studying in Finland wasn’t so different from studying back home,’ Sikkinik praises.
‘Actually, studying takes more time at my home university. In Turku, I’ve had more time to spend with my friends and travel, which is absolutely a plus for an exchange student.’
‘It’s great that many of the courses are held together with local students. They’ve given me the opportunity to meet Finnish students,’ says Majoros happily.
Libraries and shared bikes
Finland is known for many things around the world. The first thing to come to mind are probably snowy landscapes, Santa Claus and the northern lights. Many may also know the comic Finnish Nightmares. Some may have preconceptions about long and dark winters or a silent and shy people. Majoros and Sikkinik admit that it hasn’t always been easy to get to know Finns, and the language is difficult. You can also get cold if you’re not used to freezing temperatures.
‘Finnish Nightmares is very accurate, if we generalise somewhat. Matti is a wonderful character, so stereotypically Finnish,’ Majoros laughs.
You can’t really accuse Finns of being shy or cold.
‘But you can’t really accuse Finns of being shy or cold. Their mentality is not so different from my own, I’ve enjoyed the occasional moment of silence and peace. Finns also trust each other. They have free libraries as well as bicycles (and even kicksleds in the north!) that you can borrow – unbelievable.’
‘It’s difficult to make contact with Finns at first. But once you break the ice and exchange phone numbers, it’s clear that you’re now friends. After that, you don’t have to think twice about greeting them on the street,’ ponders Sikknik.
Be as active as possible
Both exchange students agree that the best way to meet Finns is by participating in events and recreational activities. Examples include the CampusSport sports service for students as well as weekly student events and parties. Exchange students also always have a named tutor who is tasked with helping them at the start of their studies.
Best way to meet Finns is by participating in events and recreational activities.
You can get to know other exchange students in student housing in the Student Village or Varissuo as well as beginners’ Finnish courses and events intended for exchange students. In Turku, each subject has its own student organisation that also holds various events and get-togethers in English as necessary.
‘You should also find out more about various projects and programmes that are available here. For example, the Finnish Friends and Erasmus in Schools projects are awesome ways to meet Finns of all ages,’ Majoros hints.
‘If you have the opportunity, take part in a sitsit. You won’t regret it,’ Sikkinik says and tells a story about the university’s traditional dinner party which introduced her to the Finnish festive culture as well as surprisingly open, cheerful and talkative Finns.
‘Everybody here speaks English, though Finns have their own accent. Sitsit, yoga and sports classes can be held at least partly in English if you just dare to ask.’
Turku became a second home
Both exchange students feel that studying in Turku has been an educational experience.
Majoros doesn’t think she has experienced a culture shock while staying in Finland. When her parents came to visit, she noticed that she was thinking like a Finn and kept shushing her talkative parents. She also advised her father not to sit next to a stranger if there is space open elsewhere.
‘I experienced my own culture shock at a grocery store. None of the product names or nutrition facts were in English, and the products were placed completely differently from how I’m used to back home,’ Sikkinik says with a sigh. She remembers that her first shopping trips lasted a considerably long time because the language barrier and threshold for asking for help were high.
I’m braver than I used to be, and I now dare do things alone.
‘Moving to Turku was the first time I’d lived alone. I’ve noticed that I’ve become independent here. I’m also braver than I used to be, and I now dare do things alone. I trust in my ability to succeed and become familiar with things,’ Sikkinik says.
Both interviewees want to highlight, multiple times, how beautiful a city Turku is. They have been impressed by the bank of the Aura River and Ruissalo in particular. There are plenty of things to do that suit your interests, as the city is full of culture and history as well as student events and parties.
‘For me, Finland is like a second home. I have my own international family and new friends here.’ says Majoros.
Text and pictures: Saana Luoma, intern/Turku University of Applied Sciences