When I first decided I wanted to study in Finland, I only knew three things about it: It has the best education system in the world, it’s expensive, and it’s cold. As soon as I stepped on the Finnish ground, I found out something else about it too: it’s super clean. Seeing as I didn’t know pretty much anything about Finland, I had braced myself for some serious culture shock.
Coming from Kosovo, a developing country, I was bound to notice a lot of differences between my home country and Finland. The whole process of coming to Finland took a lot of unexpected turns. At first, I kept repeating to my parents that I needed to buy lots of winter clothes because I didn’t have enough to last me a whole year. I packed my bags full of skiing clothes, thick jackets, scarves and woolen shirts. I regretted that decision as soon as I arrived; turns out September is actually warm in Finland. I had to borrow clothes from my roommate for quite a while, before it finally turned cold by the end of November and I could start using my endless supply of winter clothes.
Upon arrival, I thought I would never get used to the quiet atmosphere of Valkeakoski, a small town where my university was located. The first few days, every time I went for a walk, I was reminded of the fact that Finland was completely different, not only from my home country, but also from all other European countries I’d visited. There was a certain air of morality and honesty here: everyone tries to be helpful, people don’t stare, they don’t lie, and no one will try to steal anything from you! The latter was especially hard for me to fully grasp. I remember this one time during my first few weeks in Finland, I was in class when I suddenly remembered I had forgotten my phone in the school’s cafeteria. I started freaking out that someone must have already stolen my phone. All my Finnish friends were looking at me weird (later, they told me they were trying so hard not to laugh at my unnecessary panic attack). It goes without saying that my phone was still in the cafeteria, just where I’d left it.
Another thing that came as a shock were the staggering prices. I mean, Finland is expensive even when compared to other EU countries, but I came from Kosovo, one of the cheapest countries to live in! The steep prices were extra shocking for me. Soon I found out this wouldn’t be a problem if I had a job in Finland, as the wages are more than enough to cover all expenses.
With every passing day, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, for me to have some sort of breakdown from the cultural differences. After all, everyone I had talked to since I’d arrived kept asking me “How are you handling the culture shock?” with a sympathetic, almost sad, look in their eyes. Yet, as time went on, I found myself growing accustomed to this wonderful place. It felt like home. I had made such an amazing group of friends, my professors were great, and I’d even discovered cheaper stores to shop in! My visits back home became fewer and shorter, and my stays in Kosovo were mostly spent missing Finnish culture. I missed the people, the food, the sauna nights, the nightlife (they throw parties on cruise ships to Stockholm!), I even started missing the weather… to put it simply, I missed the life I’d built in Finland.
While I’d also been accepted to study in the UK and the US, I had nonetheless decided Finland would be better suited for me, and I’d been right. Finland truly is one of a kind. The quality of education here is a delight to experience. Your professors are more your friends than they are your superiors. You call each other by first name, as you would with friends, you go out drinking with them, you mock each other, you share inside jokes… All the while, these people are giving you the best tools to grow and enhance your academic future and career. It is the best of both worlds.
Written by Morea Ibrahimaj
My name is Alba, and I want to share with you my amazing experience studying abroad. It was by far, one of the best experiences I had in my student life. Discovering a different culture, is a privilege no one should be denied. During my erasmus in Turku, I made friends with people from all over the world, and shared some of the most incredible experiences.
I chose to study in Finland, because I had always a strong interest in northern countries, especially Finland since I was a kid, and my university had an agreement with Åbo Akademi in Turku.
Finland has a completely different culture, extreme winter season and I was interested in living in the country of the thousand lakes, saunas, the home of Santa Claus, the northern lights, reindeers and snow, of course! In other words, living in a place with is totally opposite of my home country.
Turku is not a big city, but is a student-friendly place where there is an international students’ atmosphere. To move around in Turku is easy by bus, bike or on foot. Turku offers a lot of possibilities for indoors’ and outdoors’ activities. For example, in winter you can walk on ice and go cross-country skiing, Turku has many cultural events, historical places and monuments. If Ishould recommend some places would be, the riverside by the city centre, public swimming areas “Uittamo, Ruissalo…” and Naantali, it’s a small fishing village near to Turku. There are forest and parks everywhere, and you can see so many beautiful sunsets. Turku is one of the best connects cities, is directly connected with the popular boat to Sweden, and offers excellent travel connections to the rest of the country.
I did my Erasmus studies in Åbo Akademi. It is a Swedish speaking university in Finland. Even though the main language is Swedish, they also offer courses in English. I was following International Marketing courses. All the courses, taught by the experts in the field, were excellently balanced with both theory and practical work.