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