Differences TUAS & home university

“Our similarities bring us to a common ground; our differences allow us to be fascinated by each other.”

Preparing for my semester abroad, I was aware that the Finish school system was different and that the partner university might be different than my home university. For me, finish universities were defined like this: strange study periods – one semester separated into two terms – less exams, but way more essays – small groups for studying.

When I arrived in Finland, I realized that it was way more than that.Stefanie5

Day 1 in TUAS and my teacher introduced himself with his first name. That was something totally new for me. In Germany nobody would ever dare to name his teacher by his first name. Directly after having introduced himself, I realized that Finish classes would be really different to that one I was used to. They should be way more interactive.

Challenge no 1: spontaneous presentation. Challenge accepted. But after this first presentation, a couple of further presentations should follow each week. In the beginning it was quite strange for me as I was used to teachers standing in front of their power point presentation and talking for 90 minutes, not accepting any interruption of students at all. But after two weeks and several presentations, it is getting quite normal. Our group was about fourteen student, Finns as well as exchange students – a small group, and after several weeks quite familiar.

In addition, at the TUAS it is a way more independent learning than at my home university. Receiving a problem, the names of your group members and the date of the final presentation are a normal way of teaching and developing young professionals at TUAS.

Less exams? Yes! In total, I only had two written exams. But Finns love group works. Every assignment or essay that you might have to write individually can also be a group work!

Traveling in Finland

Travel as much as you can. As far as you can. As long as you can.

Life’s not meant to be lived in one place.

Destination 1: Finland – Turku

Arriving in Finland in the beginning of January, -28 °C, a lot of snow and ice and the only five hours of sunlight didn’t really make you feel like travelling. And even the new city, people and especially culture lead to the fact that the focus in this month was to find a new place to call your home for the following five months. Only daily trips to Ruissalo with the mandatory Sauna and ice-swimming and to Naantali painted slightly a picture of how wonderful and unique Finnish nature is. Stefanie3

Even in February the time near the heating with a cup of hot tea was way more seductive than further trips.

As it finally got warmer in March (only -5 degree!), we decided for a first trip.

Destination: a weekend trip to Tallinn – Estonia’s capital, beautiful old town with long history. The city is not that big, so one single day for sightseeing might be enough. But a lot of small and unique shops required quite much time to discover.Stefanie4

After the semester was over by the end of April, there was still one month left for travelling and exploring Finland and its neighbour countries.

As none of us has already turned 21 or had a driving license, the possibility to explore the Finnish nature by car was quite small.

So we decided for longer trips to Russia, Riga and Stockholm – exploring totally different cities, doing a lot of sightseeing and experiencing different cultures.

Text & photos: Stefanie Paul

Open your mind – cultural differences

The beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people.”

Studying abroad – you might hear that you will explore a new, maybe foreign country, you might have been told that you will get in contact with a new culture – the culture of the country you may call your new home.

I experienced the same when I decided for a semester abroad. But when I finally arrived in Finland I realized that it is way more than this. New country, new people, new language, new habits – During my time abroad I lived in the Student Village and had the possibility to share the floor with eight other girls – each of us with a different cultural background – a great opportunity to share each’s interests, passions and traditions. Long evenings, several international dinners and a few jam sessions and of course the mandatory German and Korean language survival courses.

My highlight during my time abroad was Easter. Used to yearly Easter celebration with traditional Easter fire, colouring and hiding Easter eggs and the traditional Easter meal, an Austrian girl and me (German exchange student) realized sadly that this year is going to be different as only two of our floor mates were celebrating Easter. After a few discussions, we decided to celebrate and to bring some Austrian and German tradition to Finland though the others didn’t know why and how to celebrate Easter.

Starting with the mandatory potatoes, spinach and eggs on Thursday and the preparations for the Easter cake on Saturday, the others were quite curious what “these German speaking people” where doing. So we decided to include them into our Easter preparations. It was a pleasure to see when they were colouring eggs for the very first time and how happy they were when they found their first hidden chocolate egg. The food from all over the world and a quite spontaneous jam-session made the Easter celebration abroad perfect – even, not everybody normally celebrates Easter.Stefanie1 Stefanie2





Text & photos: Stefanie Paul

Free time activities

As summer is coming and my time here flying, I’m enjoying as much as I can my time left here. For that I had several times coffee in different café, which was quite difficult to find landmarks since I’m french and here the coffee cannot be compared ;). But as I was meeting with some Finnish friends I experimented a cultural shock, which I think is worth telling.
Let me explain, I settled a meeting with my friends at the café « TÅRGET ». First I couldn’t find it and I asked someone in the street where « tar-get » is and she answer me something about « tor-yet » … Well I didn’t have the right pronunciation but I found my way there. It was really sunny and quite warm so we had drinks in the terrace. My friends order a beer and an interesting « Gin tonic » cocktail. So I went to the bar and ask if I could have sirop with water. It’s a really common drink, at least in France, just order a « Sirop à l’eau » and you have your very refreshing drink. It actually looks like that:Lucie3

The barman looked at me with big eyes and didn’t understand what I wanted. He first asked me if I only wanted water and sirop or a cocktail. Then he asked me if it should be warm or cold water. I answer that it should be cold and I explain that from where I am it’s really common. Then he grabbed a whisky glass to serve my drink and I started to laugh so much because he didn’t know at all what he was doing. And finally when he was done with my drink he had no idea how much to charge me with, he just said « I guessed 2€ will be enough ». Lucie4

Then I offer to my friend to try that  « weird drink » and the actually enjoyed it. It’s quite simple but really refreshing.
I’m glad that I could live this experience, I never thought that this drink was really not common here. I’m also happy that I could share this with the barman and my friends, now they know a whole you « cocktail » :).

Text & photos: Lucie Valentini

Curiosities of Finnish people & culture

I’m studying in Turku since now four months and we finally reach May and Finnish «spring». I could write an article about the weather of course because it’s completely crazy how we can go from snow to nice 15 degrees day. But I would like to tell about what I felt this week-end about Vappu.
Lucie1Since one and a half week I heard about « Vappu days », « Vappu celebration » or even «Pre-Vappu » and I didn’t understand it at all before my Finnish friend told me that it’s about the Labor day. So here starts what I could call a « curiosity ». I’m from France and apart from the day off on the 1st of May we don’t celebrate the labor day. So I was really curious that we could have events for more than one week to celebrate this day. But as I’m here to learn more about Finns and Finnish culture I took part for two days in this celebrations.
The first thing I did was on Saturday, I went with my friends at Educarium to enjoy the
atmosphere and the « pre-vappu » speech. It was really nice to see all those students with
overalls, it’s also something I could call « curiosity » because I never saw such a thing
before but I really like the idea and the fact that every students wear it. Then we all walked to the art museum hill and listent to the speech. Of course with my basics Finnish skills I didn’t understand the speech but I was here to witness this tradition. I was amazed that
everyone was gathered, it was mostly adults but also a lot of students and even children.
Everyone was wearing the white cap and was happy to be here. I never saw that much people in one same place, I was even wondering where all this people come from. I mean
Finland is a big country but quite empty, there are less people than in Paris ! 🙂 I also really loved the fact that everyone was wearing the cap, in France we wouldn’t have this kind of tradition because for french, rules are made to be broken.
Then we kept doing tradition and we spent Lucie2some time near by the river enjoying the sun. I never thought that I could have a sunburn in Finland but yea … I got one!
Finally on Sunday we went for a picnic in the other hill, I can’t say the name which is way too long for me to remember.
I think this week-end showed the Finnish culture of course but also the spirit and the friendly and warm atmosphere. It’s something I would definitely recommend to take parti in for every foreign student or visitors from abroad.

Text & photos: Lucie Valentini