So you’re interested in studying in Finland? Good choice! Foreign students at Finnish universities highly recommend the experience.
Deciding your field of study can be daunting. The stakes are even higher if you decide to obtain your degree abroad. The risks can seem big, but the adventure and the rewards can be great as well. Studying is highly valued in Finland, and that’s a perfect starting point.
Safe and laidback
Finland forms an attractive place to study for many reasons. Students value the high quality of life, the stable yet dynamic economy, the good living accommodations and the safe, laidback atmosphere. And let’s not forget the strong connection to nature that Finns treasure.
Francisco Socal from Porto Alegre, Brazil, who interned as a computer engineer in Oulu, northern Finland, praises the ease and safety of getting around, and the bicycle-friendliness of the cities. Luis Alfredo Chavez Cabrera from Mexico had narrowed down his options to Argentina, Chile and Finland, and ended up in the North after reading an article that rated Finland as an excellent European growth economy.
Flexibility, independence and responsibility
Studying should be about acquiring skills for life and a solid building block for a future career. What do foreign students think of the quality of their studies in Finland?
Fatih Tokan from Turkey knew little of Finnish culture or people when he arrived as an exchange student, but fell in love with the range of choice at his uni. “It is easy and really student-oriented – you can choose from tons of different faculties and take courses from other universities, which is really great,” he says. No surprise, then, that he carried on to complete his degree in Helsinki after his exchange.
One important thing to keep in mind when comparing different options is the difference between the “regular” universities, business schools and the universities of applied science. Rabindra Nepal, from Nepal, who studied at the Arcada University of Applied Sciences, recounts that courses there are “very work-life–oriented.”
Not that studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland’s largest uni, aren’t job-oriented, but the focus is more theoretical and the schedules even more flexible. Danish political science student Sören Berg Rasmussen points out, “I think it’s important for people thinking about coming to study here that it will require a lot of independence”.
One of the best things about education in Finland is that it is cheap. Students enrolled in a full-time degree programme pay no tuition fees. The average cost of living in Finland is high, though comparable to the rest of Europe.
Minimum living expenses for a single student range from 600 to 800 euros a month depending on cost of accommodation, healthcare and other expenses. A foreign student who has lived in Finland for at least two years for some other purpose than studying and has permanent resident status may apply for student financial aid.
The essence of the culture
Adapting to new surroundings and a different culture is surely the biggest challenge to enjoying life in a new environment. Anil Palikhe from Kathmandu, Nepal knows that all Finns are not as shy as the stereotypes would lead you to believe. Nevertheless his initial reaction was that Finns seem to “hide like turtles”. Andrew Nestingen from the United States doesn’t see much difference in behaviour and maintains that people are exactly as quiet on a bus in Seattle as they are in Helsinki.
Everyone agrees that you can get by perfectly well in Finland speaking English. However, if you really want soak up the essence of Finnish culture, learning some of the local lingo is recommended. Then at least you’ll be able to evaluate whether Frédéric from France, who volunteered at an afternoon club for children in Turku, is right when summing up Finnish people as the hobbits from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings. You know, those carefree inhabitants of Middle Earth who live peaceful, stress-free lives in cosy houses.
This is just a first glance of the possibilities. Compare your options carefully and read up on them thoroughly. To make sure Finland stays on your map, see the list of key links below for more detailed information.
By Jens Alderin, July 2009