Traveling in Finland

Since I have already spent one month in Turku I have had some time to explore the city itself and other places. During the first week my friend and I decided to meet someone who had already been in Turku, so he knows the place. We visited the Turku cathedral, walked around the Kauppatori and we went to the old castle. During the second week I went to see St Henry’s church. When I came across some pictures of this church on Pinterest, I immediately knew I wanted to visit this beautiful building.Ploem blog3

In week three my roommate and I decided to go to Åland. This is an island between Finland and Sweden. We took the boat from Turku at 8:15, but in the email it said we had to be at the harbor at least 90 minutes before departure. There we were at 6:45, totally alone in a big waiting hall. The only people walking around were the staff. Around 7:15 people started arriving, so we felt a bit stupid because we could have slept half an hour longer. After a five hour boat trip we arrived in Mariehamn, it’s the capital of Åland. We started walking around and we went to the city. The weather was beautiful, sunny and a little breeze. When we came across a place to play minigolf, we didn’t have to think about it, both of us went straight to the entrance. It wasn’t easy at all but the both of us had a great time. After that it was almost 18 o’clock, so we started walking towards our dinner. We decided to go to Dino’s bar&grill. The food was amazing! We got a big burger with bacon and beef, a lot of French fries and some vegetables. Together with this delicious meal came half a liter of coca cola. It wasn’t the most healthy meal I had but it was worth every single calorie! After dinner we went to our hotel by taking a taxi since there weren’t any busses anymore. The day after we took the boat back home around 14 o’clock. That’s all the travelling I’ve done so far, but there are definitely coming more trips!

Text & picture: Elise Ploem

Everyday life in Turku

The first month of my stay in Turku has already passed *insert sad face*. I’m surprised that time goes so fast! Well, yeah, time flies when you’re having fun I guess. My everyday life is actually quite the same as in Belgium, my home country. Most of my classes start at 8:15, so that means setting an alarm for 6:45. I share my apartment with another girl, so we both want to take a shower in the morning or have enough time to do our make-up and hair. We always have breakfast together, so we have time to talk about what we’re going to do after school and to enjoy our cup of tea. Around 7:45 we have to leave for school. We’re one of the lucky people who can go to school by walking. We can take the bus, but with a good morning walk, we’re ready for a day full of lectures.

After school, we go grab a coffee or we go straight home. Depending on whether we had a warm meal at school or not, we have or don’t have to cook in the evening. On the days we have to prepare something, we go to the supermarket. The biggest and closest supermarket is LIDL. They have almost everything there. So we go grocery shopping for the entire week, we buy meat, fish, potatoes, vegetables and so on. It’s really convenient that I don’t live alone because like this we share the costs of food and we can cook together. Most meals are portioned for at least two people and it’s nicer if you can eat a fresh meal every day instead of warming up leftovers. Sometimes we go to a restaurant or order some food.Ploem blog2

In the evening we do our homework. This can be reading a few chapters or completing some task that were given during the classes. One thing that has become a routine is to skype or facetime with friends and family. If there’s a party, we try to get together with our friends at someone’s apartment and then we go all together to that event. So you see, the everyday life in Turku isn’t that different from the one I have in Belgium.

Text & photo: Elise Ploem

Differences between TUAS and my home institution

In Belgium the earliest classes start at 8:30 sharp. In Finland it’s 15 minutes earlier so that was something I had to adapt to. Another thing about the duration of the lectures is that in Belgium one lectures is one hour, meaning 60 minutes. I was surprised that in Turku one hour of class is actually only 45 minutes and that the remaining 15 minutes are break. In my opinion it’s very good to give the students a break during the lessons, but when I have a two hour class, it’s only a one and a half hour class. Furthermore, something I noticed in class is that students are allowed to stand up and go out of the room. This can be for different reasons, for example to make a phone call, to fill their water bottle or to go to the bathroom. In Belgium this is not done. You have to ask permission to leave the room. The teacher will always say yes, but even so, we have to ask it.Ploem blog1

The next difference I encountered was in the cafeteria. At my school everyone eats a warm meal around 12 o’clock. In Belgium some people do that as well since we do have a school restaurant, but most of the students bring sandwiches or a salad. In my home country we can eat a bowl of soup at noon in the cafeteria, but I haven’t seen it yet at Sepänkatu campus. In my home institution we drink water, soda, coffee or tea with our meal but in Turku they drink milk with their meal. The first time I saw it, the guy was eating pasta I guess, so I thought that it was quite a normal combination. The next day someone was eating fish with potatoes and there was a glass of milk on the tray. Finnish people and their milk and milk products seem to be like an inseparable combination.

Text & photo: Elise Ploem