Within attending two classes in Turku University of Applied Sciences, I realised how much university life in Finland differs from my home institution. The phrase “independent learning” has a different definition to it; here, there are no lecture notes posted online and no online resource system – I was totally lost at the beginning! TUA’S university online system is solely used for class enrollment and notifications. I have found this challenging when trying to complete assignments as I would always make use of the resources given to me at home – for example module guidelines. However, I was ready to accept the challenge of becoming more responsible for myself – after all I have just started up a new life in a foreign country!
Additionally, the lack of referencing in Finland took me time to adjust to. Studying in Finland, the tutors mark assignments mainly based on personal opinion, as they are interested in your views as a reflective Practitioner. Therefore, I have also had to adjust to not supporting my point with relevant reading, as Finnish lecturers view this as a waste of content. I like how there is such a strong focus on what YOU as a student think, instead of a random critic – it makes the work much more enjoyable as you feel more valued. However, despite this, both universities in Finland and Northern Ireland share the same focus on relating your work to placement, which is reassuring to know that “hands on experience” is valued in both European countries.
Although my time studying at university is limited, the classes are always interactive and informative. Overall I am impressed with the focus on group work and independent learning within class, as I think this will be a useful skill to apply to my studies at home.
An Easter craft activity I organised by myself at my Finnish practical placement… enjoyed by the children!
By Rachel Cunningham
Although there are a vast amount of activities and things to see in Finland, I came on Erasmus with the intention of visiting a range of nearby countries to help broaden my horizons. Thanks to the ferry companies such as Viking Line and Silja Lane, it is extremely easy to travel to countries such as Sweden, Estonia and Russia. Recently I travelled to Stockholm, Sweden and was surprised to learn about the close links between Finland and Sweden. For example, in Finland, Swedish is one of the two national languages of Finland, the other being Finnish. Here in Stockholm, I had the opportunity to visit “Gamla Stann” or “Old town” which was full of old architecture and tourist hot spots.
Gamla Stann/ Old town in Stockholm
As well as travelling to other countries, there are also plenty of cities and towns to visit. Thanks to the “Omnibus” service here in Finland, you can travel to towns such as Tampere and Naantali for very cheap prices. Here you can learn a lot about Finnish culture and history. For example, in Naantali you can visit lots of old landmarks. It also has “Moominworld”, a theme park based on the popular Finnish children’s books by Tove Jansson. When I visited Tampere I also visited a “spy museum” which was a lot of fun, as well as being educational! We even got to use a lie detector which was hilarious. You can also visit Helsinki within the space of two hours which has a lot of perks to it including shopping, as long as you are careful with your money! Of course, being the capital city, it is also home to many beautiful buildings and architecture, for example with the Cathedral.
I would definitely recommend coming to Finland not only for the beautiful landscapes and cities but also because of the useful links it has to other European countries!
By Rachel Cunningham
Upon arrival in Turku, I was unsure as what Finns do in their spare time. Naively, I thought due to the snow and cold temperatures we would be limited in what we could do to unwind from our studies – but I was wrong!
Our Erasmus organisation, “Erasmus Student Network” “(ESN) have been fantastic in planning things for us to do during our time here. Within the first two weeks of arrival I was introduced to “ice swimming”, a very popular past time in Finland. I did this at the island of Ruissalo, and it basically involves sitting in a roasting sauna for around 15 minutes, and then running into a Baltic lake, whilst attempting to swim in the freezing temperatures! I think my group made a good attempt here, as we managed to do it more than once! This is a really good free time activity as not only is it super fun (you receive a “Winter Swimming Diploma” after completion) , it is also a great opportunity to chat to some of the locals in the Sauna also.
Ice swimming also came with some beautiful views!
I really like how unique the free time activities are here. During the “Cottage Weekend” organised by ESN, I also attended my first traditional Sitz Party. This a dinner party with a twist – as there are a lot of rules you have to adhere to, for example you aren’t allowed to go to the toilet. Failure to follow these rules can result in a punishment by the hosts of the party, which was hilarious to watch as it many of the punishments were carried out on my friends.
To sum up, Erasmus in Finland is perfect for those who want to experience something they have never did before and will probably never have the chance to do so again!
By Rachel Cunningha
Life in another country is nothing short of terrifying. My first few days here were emotional due to being the first to move into our accommodation. Being first had left my friend and I feeling lonely and unsafe, however I am grateful that I had a friend from my home university to keep me company as doing it alone would have made me feel very vulnerable. Fears ran through my head, what if I can’t cope on my own without my parents? What is something bad happens? Who is going to make my dentist appointments now? Haha, Joking I can do them on my own…. Sometimes.
When more people started to move in, Retrodorm had begun to feel more like home. I have a friendly outgoing personality so making new friends was not a problem, although as more time passed I see them more as a family than friends which makes life in the flat very welcoming at all times. We all share a common room and a very small kitchen. It’s very intimate but extremely annoying sometimes, especially when four people want to cook at the same time. Our flat contains fourteen people, so this actually happens a lot.
I am the most independent I have ever been as I am now doing my own grocery shopping, laundry, travel arrangements, rent payments and organization of placement. All of which I had help with at home from friends, family or my home university. This gives me confidence that I will continue to adapt well and improve personally and professionally.
Concluding my blog on adapting, I would like to leave you with this….
In my first few days of coming here I never knew how much I would change as a person, I never knew how this experience would make me a better person. It has! By gaining this independence, I’ve become myself, my true self! I know this sounds cliché, but it’s true. When you get away from everything at home, your responsibilities, your problems, even your boyfriends!!! You see yourself in a different way, a good way and it puts everything into perspective! I promise to anyone ever thinking about Erasmus, it’s an experience not to be missed! It’s hard but it will be worth it I assure you.
Studying in Finland is unlike studying in my home university. The learning is much more independent, there is a lack of guidance and the questions asked are vague in comparison. My home university has me provided with presentations, lectures, and guidelines in which to follow. It is left to us as students to interpret the question ourselves. We are expected to gather information ourselves and the tutors want to hear our views. In my home university, we are taught to put our opinions aside and work on facts and relevant reading. In Finland the situation differs- they want to find out what our thoughts are on certain topics, they prefer to know what is going through our heads rather than what an author has written in a book. I like this idea as it allows me to connect and really relate to a topic. I can explain in my essays what the information means to me and if I agree or disagree. I think that this way of working really allows you to enjoy what your studying as you have a chance to ut you own heart in it.
On the other hand, our course is laidback in terms of deadlines. For example, in our first tutor meeting, we discussed our Special Education module and got to decide our own deadlines and choose one that suited us all best. Back home deadlines are set for us and there are penalties if they are missed!
I personally like the idea of being able to discuss and choose a deadline that suited us best, however I prefer my home university’s way of studying when it comes to lectures. I like to be shown the information I need and be given the opportunity to have it explained to me, it ensures me I am on the right track and that I understand correctly.