Exchange in Finland

Field of study in Wageningen: Nutrition & Health
Study period exchange: 07/01/2019 until 17/05/2019
Country (exchange): Finland
City (exchange): Helsinki
University (exchange): University of Helsinki
Faculty (exchange): Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry

2. Motivation for exchange

Why did you choose to go on study exchange?

I wanted to challenge myself after 4 years of studying in Wageningen. To get out of my comfort zone and not rely on friends. Experience how it is to life abroad in a different country, city.  

What is the reason you chose for this country/university?

It was important for me that the quality of the education was rather high since I went on this exchange in my master. I knew that the quality of education in Helsinki/Finland is comparable to Wageningen. Also, the University of Helsinki offered courses which are a nice extension to my learning program in Wageningen.

Furthermore, I was interested in the Nordic countries: the culture, climate, nature.

3. Accessibility to reach destination

Do you have any tips to reach your exchange destination?

The tickets with Transavia are quite cheap if you book on time. Take a flight to Helsinki Vantaa airport. You can take the train to the city centre for five euro. The HSL app is really convenient if you use public transport. You can also buy tickets via this app. 

4. University and studying

Could you provide some general information about the followed courses?

How is the study formalized?

You assign for courses via Weboodi, comparable to MyPortal. The course documents etc. are placed on Moodle, comparable to BlackBoard. Most courses had once a week a lecture and group work or you had to write individual papers. The workload and the academic level is in general a bit lower compared to the WUR. I had to write papers for almost all exams. Only one course had two exams.

What is the culture of the university?

Almost all students lunch at the university. The teachers are very approachable. You can send them emails in an informal way (not with Dear.. and Kind regards..) I had almost no contact with local students, only during group work.

What does the university offer the student additionally?

There are several Unicafes on Viiki Campus and in the city centre were you can have a nice lunch for only 2.60 euro. You can chose between fish, meat and a vegetarian dish!

The sport facilities are comparable to the facilities in Wageningen. UniSports offers group lessons at Viikki campus. You can sign up for sport lessons in all the UniSport facilities.  Unfortunately, there is no gym at Vikki campus. There is a gym at Kumpala campus and in the city center. If you sign up for a lesson and don’t go (you have to scan you card at the entrance) you have to pay a 5 euro fine.

There was a laundry machine and dryer in the basement of the building in which I lived. I could easily ‘book’ those via the HOAS app. The same for the sauna! I could also book the sauna or laundry machine for 3 neighbouring buildings.

5. Housing-travelling-living

What are the possibilities for housing?

There are two housing associations: HOAS and Unihome. Unihome offers studio apartments and  HOAS shared apartments. You make the decision for a studio or shared apartment during the application. I paid 417 for a 12 square metres room in a shared apartment. The apartment was very nice, clean and spacious. A big disappointment was that the kitchen was completely empty when I arrived. I had to buy all kitchen equipment with my housemates.

What is the culture of the country like?

Finnish people are a bit shy people. They are not really outspoken, only after some beers or long drinks 🙂 Almost everyone speaks English, even the cashiers in the supermarket. Finnish people will not spontaneously start talking to you but when you ask them something they are friendly and willing to help.

Could you give a general price indication of the place of residence compared to living in Wageningen?

The housing costs are more expensive than in Wageningen. I paid 417 for a 12 square metres room in a shared apartment. The price for food is also a bit more expensive but not that much. The prices for public transport are much lower than in the Netherlands! 

Could you give some information about public transport infrastructure?

Public transport is very convenient in Helsinki! You pay 27 euros per month for an HSL card with which you can travel unlimited in the Helsinki area. If you travel outside this area, for example to Espoo or the airport, you pay 2.60 for a single ticket which expires after 80 minutes.

I lived just outside the Viiki campus. I had to walk for 10 minutes to the university buildings. I followed half of the  courses at the faculty of Social sciences in the city centre. I travelled by bus and metro for 30 minutes to the university in the city centre.

6. Free time

What are must-sees in the area? 

You have to visit Suomenllinna (in winter and summer)! It is a fortress located on several island near the coast of Helsinki. You go there by ferry which is for free if you have a HSL subscription. Nuuksio national park is perfect for a hike, you can take the train/bus and several hiking routes start at the last bus stop

You can go quite cheap to cities like Tampere, Turku and Porvoo with Onnibus. Porvoo is beautiful with the wooden houses. Tampere and Turku were not that special but nice to see different cities in Finland.

What does not appear in the travel guide, but is worth a visit?

Go to a sauna! They are everywhere. Sompasauna is a bit ‘rough’ because you have to make your own fire but most of the times there are also some local people to help. It is for free and a real experience!

Do you have general tips and tricks about leisure time?

A lot of museums are for free on the first Friday of each month! There are a lot buffet restaurants for affordable lunches, dinner is more expensive. A lot of nice bars are located in Kalio, an area a bit north of the city centre!

7. Challenges & best moment abroad

What was a challenge you have experienced?

Choosing the right courses was a bit challenging in the beginning. The subscription deadline for some courses was already expired before the semester started and some courses had overlapping schedules. I had to change my Learning Agreement. 

What was your best memory abroad?

The trips to Lapland and Russia (Moscow and St Petersburg) were amazing and the memories to these amazing trips will last forever in my mind!