Tell me about living in Finland

I’m thinking of doing an exchange to Mikkali Polytechnic next year for my third year of electrical engineering. Obviously I need to look into this as much as possible. Is there anyone here from Finland who can give me some ideas of what to expect? Or anyone who has been to Finland? Specifically, I’m interested in the Finish university culture (what do they do for fun? How “intense” are the studies there?). And, most importantly, costs and living. I’m not really sure how the exchange program works, but they provide assistance in finding housing. Would someone like me typically stay in a University residence or would I be in a house with housemates? Or a family?

Also, I can’t speak a lick of Finish. How prevalent is english? (I was told that many lectures are given in english).

I’m not of much help, except that I can tell you that from what I’ve heard, not being able to speak any Finnish won’t be a problem. Mostly people speak English, and especially at a Uni you should be fine. Also, I’ve heard that Finnish is one of the hardest languages to learn (though I plan to have a crack at it one of these days).

Other than that, I’d also like to hear an answer to this question for largely the same reasons.

~ Isaac

I’m a Finnish university student. (1st year English Translation in University of Tampere, although the studies are temporarily over for me, as I’ll be taking my mandatory military service next year for the first six months. I’ll return to my studies after that.) Ask me about what you want to know, and I’ll see what I can say.

Finnish university culture, as regarding “what is done for fun”… well, I imagine that it’s pretty similar to what it is in other countries (transl. glug glug glug, well, it’s probably a bit of exaggeration to say that that’s all of it, but anyway.) Intensity of the studies probably depends on what you’re studying - I imagine that electrical engineering would be somewhat demanding.

(I just noticed you’re going to a polytechnic. I’m not sure about how much I can help you with student culture and such questions, as polytechnics don’t “really” count as universities. At least in Finland.)

As for costs and living, there are organizations providing housing (typically cell apartments, where you’ll be living with housemates) for Finnish students, though I didn’t manage to get one of those - I lived in a rented one-room apartment that was quite far away from the uni, and took long bus trips every day. My apartment’s rent was about 250€/month, but state covered 170€/month of it. (The state also offers a study grant of 250€/month or so, though I’m not sure how this works with exchange students. Other means of support include taking student loans, working or parents, last option being my primary means of living, in addition to the state grants.) I’m not sure how it’s done for exchange students.

English is prevalent. My major is one where almost all the teaching is done in English, for obvious reasons, so I can’t really say how they go on in teaching foreign students in other subjects. There’s obviously some way to do it. Everyone in your university will be able to speak English, and most everyone else in Finland, too, at least if they’re under 50.

You might want to read these thoughts called “You know you’ve been in Finland too long when …”, with a comment from Finland’s largest newspaper, Helsinging Sanomat.

Well, I guess I can contribute nothing that Kantalooppi hasn´t already said (I second the glug glug glug- same as everywhere, only more expensive), and anyway I haven´t studied in Finland yet, only lived there as a kid, so there´s nothing left to do but to hijack:

Kantalooppi: translation, really? Wow, cool, and I was thinking of going to Tampere next autumn to improve my Finnish - but now it looks more like Turku because of the conference interpreting Masters programme they have there. Tell me more about translation studies in Tampere sometime, will you?


Trigonal Planar, I think the regular (Kela) state grants are for Finns and permanent residents only. Will you be receiving a grant from your country? If not, look into the “joint study” programme and at this:

The translation studies programme is generally regarded to be very good (I’m not sure if it’s the best, but my totally subjective opinion is that it is :D) It’s certainly rather selective, as only 10% of the applicants were accepted in 2002, and IIRC the number of selected was smaller in 2003. Conference interpreting is not my thing, I’m thinking of specializing on article translation. In any case, there’s apparently a good translation-to-Finnish program going on. Tampere’s certainly a good city to study in, in that it’s not Turku (Oh my God, the Manse spirit of Turku-bashing is already affecting me!)

[continuing hijack] Well, yeah… if they had that programme in Tampere, I´d go there… but I already have a degree in interpreting (well, at least I will as soon as I´ve finished my thesis) and just want to convert my Finnish skills into an actual working language, so I figure the postgraduate programme would be a good idea - of course, they only accept a maximum of 10 students or something, so I may very well end up participating in the regular courses in Tampere for a term or two - which wouldn´t be bad either. Of course, anything that´s not stadi is province for me… :smiley:
As for being the best - from what I´ve heard, the level of translation/interpreting studies in Finland in general is considered very high, so you´re probably not far off.

My girlfriend did a year-long exchange in Finland (I think in Tempere, but I’m not sure). She said that a lot of the teaching is done in English, but upon arrival she got a class in Finnish along with all the other exchange students; she’s pretty good at the language now.

Yeah, a lot of the activities do seem to be about drinking. I heard stories of a beer costing five euros (maybe CDN$8) in Finland, which is kind of expensive. I think the softer alchohol is sold in grocery stores, so not subject to government stores (such as our LCBO). She told me of stories such as going to Estonia or Russia for cheap drinks, although it takes some preplanning as you’ll be needing a visitor’s visa (I think it was 26 euros). But based on what I’ve heard from her, it’s a fantastic experience; you’ll get to learn a great culture.

My Finland experience is limited to one week in July 2000–and most of that was in Esperanto in Helsinki–but I can state that I was very impressed with what I saw in Finland, and I’d go back in a flash. Even though it’s expensive (though not as expensive as the UK).

To me, Finland looks like Canada, but cleaner and run by smarter people. Helsinki is built on the same kind of glacially-scraped granitic landforms as Algonquin Park and the Thousand Islands, which totally surprised me–I’d thought the Canadian Shield type of landform was unique to Canada.

Helsinki is around the same size as pre-amalgamation Ottawa (~500 000), but is older, and has a subway, hollowed through the granite at great expense. I remember standing in Senate Square, looking up the steps at that great white cathedral, and the tour guide pointed out a house off the square and mentioned, “And that house was built by a Russian trader around 1760,” and I thought, “That place is a hundred years older than my entire country…”

Oh, the women are gorgeous as well. :slight_smile:

Okay, the thing with exchanges at my Univ. (and most Universitites for that matter) is that they are specific agreements between the two Universities; that is to say, we have an “exchange agreement” set up with various different Universities. This is an excellent program because it means I only have to pay my University tuition, NOT the foreign tuition. I can also apply for all loans that I would normally apply for (ie, OSAP, here in Ontario). Its quite unique in that as far as paperwork is concerned, I’m still a “local” student.

(The exchange program is not the same thing as the Study Abroad program. I’m doing an exchange, not study abroad.)
Also, I don’t really know anything about the status of Mikkali Polytechnic. The electrical engineering department does have an exchange set up with them, so evidently they do have transferable courses.

I think all the questions have been answered, but I still have to add that exchange students never get to see Finland at its best: in the summer. They usually arrive during the last week of August when the summer is practically over and have to endure a dreadful, rainy fall, a cold, dark winter and a spring that mostly seems like an extended winter. Then when summer starts they have already left.

Oh, don’t go to Tampere. Turku is so much better. :wink: Just kidding, I’m not even from Turku, I just study here.

Don’t worry. I’m from Canada. I’m used to the whole extended winter deal :wink:

(Plus I like it dark, rainy and cold, believe it or not.)