Unforgettable Scotland

I began the first half of my 3rd study year in Scotland, at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU). Getting settled there was easy as I was able to receive a room in Caledonian Court, right across the street from the university itself. The location was great, right next to GCU and the city center which meant I was walking distance from everything I needed. I had a little over one week to get my bearings before the modules (courses) began, during which we had the Welcome Week and many fun activities.

The biggest surprise for me, nature wise, was the lack of parks and green areas near the city. To get to a park you had to walk for at least half an hour, and they were very well maintained compared to the raggedy forests I’m accustomed to in Finland. I’m used to having a forest only a few minutes’ walk away from home in Finland. It took some time to get used to the lack of forests or parks nearby, as I like to go for walks in the forest to de-stress and spend time.

About my studies in GCU

Compared with Finland the study culture is very different in Scotland. In TAMK I am used to mainly group work but in Scotland the emphasis was on independent work, meaning a lot of studying at home and doing all assignments individually. The focus was on theoretical learning without much practical application of knowledge.

In TAMK I am used to having smaller assignments due every now and then, but at GCU the way the assignments were spread out through the semester was very different; there were typically only one or two really big assignments for each module, and many were due at the end of the semester. Two of my modules had exams in January but I was (luckily) able to do both of them in Finland.

In total I did three modules during my stay in Glasgow, each worth 10 ECTS. I had lessons 3 days a week which left me with a lot of spare time to cook, go to the gym (located on the university campus), visit museums and landmarks in Glasgow and go on trips to see the country.

Spare time

Scotland is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited. The mountains were enormous, and in the autumn they were covered in dead ferns that coloured the mountain sides in a deep hazel. The most beautiful place I visited was Isle of Skye where small white houses dotted the countryside. It was probably the windiest place I have ever been to! Overall, the weather wasn’t as poor as I thought it would be, so I wasn’t as bothered by it when it was windy or rainy.

I spent a lot of my spare time with my 7 flatmates who were all exchange students like myself. We went on many day trips together; some were guided tours and others we organised ourselves. Those trips were what made my exchange in Scotland truly memorable. Some trips we organised with my flatmates were visiting Pollock Country Park to see the highland cows, visiting Edinburgh (only an hour bus ride away from Glasgow) and going to the Enchanted Forest. We also climbed Goat Fell Mountain which was one of the best days of my life!

I loved my exchange in Scotland, the friends I made, the unforgettable memories and I can’t wait to go back to there!

Hamburg, meine perle!

I have now spent 6 months in the beautiful city of Hamburg in the north of Germany. And i would not give any single one of them away. My studies are going amazingly even though first half of them were completely in German (which I wasn’t prepared for). but luckily professors and other students are able and willing to cooperate with me! Most fun so far in a class I’ve had with Fahrzeug design course where we got to design our own car. There are some pictures below!

My free time i have been spending with friends and sports. There is so much to do in Hamburg that even if you tried you could not get everything done in a year! I also joined a local ice hockey club which has now taken a lot of my time. We are playing on the third highest level in Germany and the atmosphere is unbelievable in the games!

The working culture here in Germany is a bit more demanding than the one I’m used to in Finland. So it took a bit time to get used to it, but now I’m fully integrated and enjoying myself!

From Winter to Summer – Finland to Australia

I had only a couple of days to decide whether I should go to Australia or not. Some reasons were making it challenging for me to decide. For example, there were bushfires and smoke in many parts of Australia, including Canberra, where my internship would take place. Still, Finally, I booked my tickets and took a flight to Canberra.

Both above Pictures show Canberra city, both are during the bushfires, but the first one is when the fires got close to the town.

My internship was at the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. I was working there as a Financial Assistant. The placement was what I was seeking to get more practical experience.

In my spare time, I visited a lot of places like Hyams Beach, Hyams Beach is surrounded by national and Marine Parks, Hyams Beach has an abundance of native plants and animals, and the crystal clear water is frequently visited by whales and dolphins.

Other than Hyams Beach, I visited some other places as well as Bondi Beach in Sydney, and one of the burned forests called Nerriga. I drove almost one hour within the woods at a speed of 90km/hr, and all I was seeing was burned trees.

In my spare time, I was also reading books and going for a walk at least one time per day to a hill close to my resident place.

And about the Afghans, working culture modernization has resulted in the infiltration of western influences into the Afghani culture, which is most profound in the country’s major cities. The same like that it is possible to find different styles in different Afghan organizations around the world.

It is said that Australians have a unique working culture. There are some similarities between Finnish and Australian working cultures. In both cultures being late to work is not cool at all and there should be a legit reason for that and beside that one should let the office know about the situation. Australia is also similar to Finland and Nordic countries in terms of mentality: both cultures prefer quality over quantity. Both cultures’ highest priorities are wellbeing and healthy lifestyle.

One big match of both cultures is talking on the point, unlike most other cultures. A Finn and an Australian prefer to come to the point without beating around the bush.

The embassy was where most of the employees are Afghan Nationals, But I found some excellent sources on the working culture differences and want to share them here:

Useful links related to working culture in Finland, Australia, and Afghanistan

24 things expats find surprising about Australian working culture

https://bit.ly/3aBkN6l

Why Finland leads the world in flexible work

https://bbc.in/2WQQvse

Afghanistan – Guide to Language, Culture, Customs, and Etiquette

https://bit.ly/2JlJ3x3

Kia Ora!

I did my internship in Wellington, New Zealand. Because of Covid-19 I get chance to be there only little over two weeks. I suppose to be there three months. Anyway, I am happy that I was able to be there even a little while. My internship place was Skylight Trust. They are specialize in grief and support services. I was working on a project. The meaning of the project was help young Maori people.

                           

When I was choosing the place where I will go to do my internship I think that one of my goals were to learn to speak better English. I also think that if it is possible I will go so far away as I could. In Wellington they speak English and yes, it is far away. My trip took over 40 hours to get there. Wellington is the capital of New Zealand. Because I was able to be there only two weeks my English is no so much better than when I left.

Wellington is very beautiful city. The nature is so close even you are in the middle of city. You can smell the ocean and feel the wind everywhere. There are no long distance and you can walk to everywhere.

I was very lucky because the weather was great every day. I have walked so much that my legs was killing me. There was so many beautiful places. I hope pictures can tell about it even a little. There was end of summer but you were ably to wear shorts and t-shirt.

Maybe someday I go back. I can recommend Wellington to everybody who likes nature and enjoy about awesome views. People in New Zealand was very helpful and kind. There were same kind of things than we have here in Finland. For example they do not hug you or stand too close to you.

Cozy Graz

I did my exchange in Graz, Austria and I was studying music and especially flute. Graz is the second biggest city in Austria, although it was sometimes hard to believe. If I described Graz just by one word, the word would be cozy. The center of Graz is not very big but the suburbs are. Still the center is beautiful filled with old houses and view to Schlossberg, which is a hill in the middle of the center.

Schlossberg                                             Hauptplatz

I had the chance to study in University of Music and Performing Arts Graz and I couldn’t be happier that I got into that school. In Austria I studied in the programme of Orchestral Instruments, so I wasn’t able to do pedagogical studies there. Luckily I was able to do some courses as distance learning to TAMK.

 

University

 

The official language of the school is German, but there were some courses offered in English too. I was also lucky that my professor spoke good English, so the lessons with him were very rewarding.

The studying in KUG compared to TAMK was more demanding. For example our lessons with the professor were longer and he expected that we would have something new to play to him every week. Also every second week we had a group lesson, where we played by ear and we had to perform some study by heart in front of the class. Even though it was hard, I learnt a lot. I was happy to be at my professors’ class, because all the other students made me feel very welcomed.

In my free time I visited a lot of concerts and also premiere of Cinderella -ballet. The ticket to the premiere costed only 1€ for the students of KUG! I think the best concert I visited during the exchange was by Vienna Symphoniker who played Beethoven’s 5th and 6th symphonies.

 

Cinderella -ballet                     Some cake and sturm!

 

We also explored the city with my friends. I visited the Schlossberg and also Eggenberg, which both are beautiful places! I had to end my exchange very quickly because of the coronavirus situation, so there were still much more things I had planned to do in Graz. Luckily I am always able to go back there to visit my friends and do all the things I didn’t have time to do during my exchange!

Schlossberg                                                   Eggenberg

 

JOY AND TEARS IN THAILAND

I arrived in Bangkok on January 25th. 2020 and I had to wait for a 6 hour flight to Phuket with thousands of Chinese who had come to Thailand to celebrate the New Year. The Corona virus threat began to become real to me as well. I bought a protective mask and kept putting the desinfecting agent on my hands. The real panic was not far away.

Phuket I then calmed Korona virus. The virus appears here every day in a way that people use a lot of mask. In fact, I am content with just regular hand washing. The first few weeks, when there were a lot of Chinese, I also avoided going to areas where there were a lot of people.

My job has been awesome. I work for the Asia Foundation Center for Young Children in Phuket. I didn’t know what I was going to do there. I was a little afraid that I would only have to do school assistant work. However, I have to do the work that is meaningful and where I can use all the experience and skills as a physiotherapist and the coming Social Services. My boss, who is a South African woman who really appreciates Finnish education, is interested in how we use different teaching methods in Finland.

I am in daily contact with children for about one hour and observe how I can facilitate the work of teachers through functional methods. My main job has been to develop functional methods that facilitate teaching, such as PECS images and other functional methods to aid teaching. I have also made  home visits to children’s own homes, as well as some of the homes in need of help for the elderly.

Teachers don’t speak English well and the kids don’t speak at all. However, the language problem goes with drawing and gestures. I guide the children with PECS pictures. Besides me there is three Thai and two Swedish social worker students, of which I have been good friends.

The school has 45 children aged between three and seven who are from very poor families. The educational center has been in the area for 20 years and many would like to have their children there, but the criterion for access to the center is poorness. Only the most vulnerable are accepted there. Children are taught to behave, take care of their hygiene, and the basic skills they need to go to school.

 

The parents of most children are in prison, drug users, prostitutes, or very poor. Most children live with their grandparents because parents are unable to care for them. Most children live a life where no one really cares.

From the Finnish point of view, children’s hygiene is quite horrible. Their clothes are dirty, their skin is dirty and bruised, and their teeth are very broken when they are 4 years old.

However, at the training center, they are loved, washed, given healthy food, taught teeth brushing, hygiene, basic life skills, English, and above all, set boundaries and regularity. The children who are accepted here are very lucky. They have a chance to get out of education and poverty.

The work has been interesting, but also mentally difficult at times. I endure anything that happens to adults with 30 years of work experience, but it has sometimes been difficult to deal with ill-treated children. Some children have had to wipe away tears.

I have always loved painting, and here also I have been able to carry out all the more to love a hobby, which I have not had because of the family, my work and my studies time in years. My boss here first asked me if I wanted to do a mural on the work area of ​​the workplace. I accepted the challenge and my boss agreed to my plan. I will design the mural around the Asia Foundation Center logo. I wanted to take a picture of our four northern times of the year so that the children would learn that there is more to the world than the hot and rainy season. The Autumn Magazines will write down the names and year of the employees who will be leaving, and the Green Magazines of the summer will write the names and dates of the big children, who will stop attending the Center on March 27, 2020. It has been wonderful to do mural painting even though due to the heat I couldn’t do it for an hour in the morning.

There have also been negative things here. Traffic is something horrible and left-handed. I have been forced to drive business trips 4 km direction moped, and every day I have been quite horrified. I’ve so far survived it. The next sad thing has been the heat at work. I like hot weather and sunshine but working 8 hours working without air conditioning has been a real ordeal! I will never get used to it. My job is so poor that only my boss’s room has air conditioning. Each day I sweat for 8 hours and I drink at least 2 liters of mineral water a day. The best moment of the evening is when I get out of work and go to the pool for a swim and return to my air-conditioned apartment.

I have four children and a husband. I’ve never been a week away from them, let alone travel alone. I am proud of myself because I have survived here all alone. I’m here alone, but I have not had been lonely. I have received so many new friends, with whom I spent my free time. I’ll be here a changed, more independent and stronger personality than I had ever before. The words are hard to even explain all the things I have learned about myself here.

The most important thing I want to bring from here to Finland is the kindness of Buddhism. I’ve never encountered something like this. It has really impressed me! I want to strive to do the same for all the people I meet in the future, so it felt good. With small gestures you can make another one very happy. We Finns should care more about each other!

The other thing is greater appreciation of the level of Finnish education. It is the best in the world and it is truly valued in the world. As I have heard many times here. We can be really proud of our Finnish education!

I’ll write the rest of my blog now at home. I was forced to quit working in Thailand for the Korona pandemic. The training center was closed and I went home on my first direct flight. I’m sure I’ll be back there. I want to visit all the places I know and most of all meet all the wonderful people again.

Titta

 

My studies at Reading, UK, place when you’ll never know when it’s going to rain

When I was choosing my location for abroad studies, my main goals were to learn to speak English better and more confidently, the place needs to be easily accessible to home and there would be no need for learning a new language. With all these three combined, I decided to send an application to the University of Reading. 

I didn’t know anything of this town before I searched the places, and the first impression of googling it out was “kinda like Joensuu but easier to access.” I got accepted, rented a room of these traditional, semi-attached houses and moved in a little after new year.

I chose to study some typography courses, virtual reality and modern Britain, and the studies itself were much different than in my home university at TAMK. 

I was used to learning by doing the thing, but Reading uni turned out to be very academic and their studies included a lot of reading (hehe), making notes and researching by yourself. Most of the study hours are self-studying, and it could be hard for a person like me who likes to know exactly what to do next and what you need to read to learn the right stuff. Most of the grades are given based on the tests. Difference could also be that my home studies are interactive media, and we do most of the stuff digitally. 

The University has a lot of student free time activities and social clubs, and you will find whatever suits you the best. I was just enjoying my time alone, and spent most of my time at home. Campus is its own little town: there are bars, a grocery store, a library, coffee houses, restaurants… If you live at the university halls, you don’t need to walk farther than the campus area to get along. 

Little bit about the place: Reading is a town, where people move when they get tired of London and they want to settle down. It’s really easy to travel to London for work, but it’s cheaper to live in Reading. London is only 40 minutes of train travel away, and the train takes you straight to Paddington station.

 

It’s also really easy to move around in town itself. Public transportation is easy to use and not too expensive, and buses are easily figured out. 

It was “middle winter” when I got there, but basically the whole 3 months were like a long spring to me. Grass was green, weather changed really quickly from sunny to pouring rain and nature was alive. It was so refreshing how green there was! And now I understand why Brits like to talk about weather. 

Brits itself are kinda like Finns: Helpful but a little bit reserved. Don’t try to smalltalk with the store clerk. And the same time, it also took me a while to learn to answer the “How are you”-question with just “Fine, you?”

Unfortunately, this spring the COVID-19 situation ended my (and many others) abroad studies earlier than expected, but I’m happy to be home safe and sound. University were really great at informing students about the situation. 

After all, I’m really happy of my time there, and I’ll look forward to visit the town again later in life. 

Sunny Exchange In Lisbon, Portugal

I chose to start my third year of culture and art studies in Lisbon, Portugal. My exchange school Escola Superior de Comunicacao Social mainly focused on social communication studies, whereas my studies in TAMK focus on film and television. I had school only around 10 hours a week and projects and essays did not take a lot of time either. The level of teaching was notably lower than in TAMK and therefore my exchange was way more about free time and travelling than studying. I do not recommend this school if you really want to study, but for more relaxed semester Lisbon is the perfect place.

Portuguese people are also quite chill, which is a nice way of living. However, when you need to get things done it can get frustrating. I had a lot of problems to get even accepted to my exchange school, just because they did not do the paper work on time and it took weeks to answer my emails. Buses never come on time and workers at cafes do not hurry with your coffee. For Finnish people it can be irritating, because we are used to get things done on time. After accepting the slow and relaxed way of Portuguese people, I started to enjoy the relaxed and laid-back way of life.

Lisbon is known for the countless amazing viewpoints around the city, where you can enjoy a wide view of the city and cheap wine. Most of the things in Portugal is cheaper than in Finland, which makes life even more relaxed. The weather is amazing all-around year and it really affects your mood and helps with autumn depression. This year beach weather lasted till the end of October and in December and January it was still mainly sunny and about 15-20 degrees. There are tens of beaches close to Lisbon and trying out surfing is a must. Portugal is a quite small country, so all the beautiful places of Portugal are easily reachable, for example Porto, Algarve and Obidos. Also, it is easier to find cheap flights to other European countries, one way starting from 10€. I recommend buying Erasmus cards to ESN and ELL, the Erasmus organizations which arrange various events, trips and parties. For example, I got to do skydiving and surfing, which were great experiences.

My experience with the school was not the best, but I would not change anything about the experience. Lisbon and Portugal is full of other opportunities, so you will not get bored during the exchange.

 

Spring in Madrid

I did my exchange studies in the capital city of Spain aka Madrid! I have to say that I fell in love with the city, culture and the people there. My favourite thing was definitely getting to speak Spanish and enjoying the nice weather and sun.

The university I attended was Universidad Fransisco de Vitoria, a private university located a little bit outside of Madrid’s center. I really liked the university and the campus. There was a lot of activities offered (trips, buddy program, choir, sports, acting workshop etc.) and the campus area was nice.  Also, the location was not a problem since there was a shuttle bus from and to the city center that took only 15 minutes. I think that studying was fairly similar to what I was used to at TAMK. The class sizes were small and the amount of group works and homework was the same in my opinion.

Madrid has a lot of activities and events all the time, so there was no way to get bored! Even just strolling around in the different neighborhoods was so nice. I usually did that or something fun with my friends or went to the gym or dance classes.

     

I also had time to travel and see new places in Spain! Madrid is very well connected everywhere, so it was easy to just choose a place and go. There are a lot of smaller historical places 0,5 – 2 hours away like Toledo and El Escorial which I really recommend. But also more exotic places like Morocco are closer than you would think!

I would definitely recommend doing an exchange no matter what the place. From my experience Madrid is a perfect place if you want to learn Spanish, have a lot of activities to do and enjoy people around you!

Greetings from sunny Lissabon!

I’m gonna tell you something about my exchange in Lissabon. I went there in September and stayed there five months. At first we had Portuguese language course which lasted two weeks before our actually studies. That was really nice way to get to know people before actually starting school! The actual studies were full of group works and presentations, which was nice at first but you get tired of that little by little. Studies were a lot different than in Finland, but I didn’t expect that I would have better studies abroad than in Finland. At least the city was so nice that not so good school wasn’t that big deal.

Best way to meet all the exchange students and get to know people as much as possible is to go to different events that ESN and ELL organize. (https://erasmuslifelisboa.com). They organize pubcrowls, trips to smaller cities, skydiving (which was so cool, huge recommendation!!), speed friending and a lot more. By participating to these, you will definitely find interesting people from different countries!  

I travelled around Portugal, to smaller cities. The most beautiful place I can recommend is Setubal, a lot of beaches there and so quiet, totally peace. I can tell you a couple of places also in Lissabon, you should visit. Beautiful beaches, like Carcavelos and Cascais. You get there easily with train. Tram 28 is the most famous tram in Lissabon and it goes through the whole city, so that is good way to see city also if you don’t have energy to walk around city. Lissabon is full of uphill, so many people use tram 28 to see the city.  Belem is near to the center, and there is Torre de Belem, which is worth to visit. There is many viewpoints in the city, where you can see beautiful sunsets and the whole city.

All in all, my stay in Lissabon was really good. I wouldn’t change a day!

Senni