Greetings from Sofia

Hello! I live in the capital of Bulgaria – Sofia. My stepmother is Bulgarian and she has been getting me acknowledged with Bulgarian culture and traditions, so to improve the language skills and general knowledge of Bulgaria. I have many friends and relatives here, caring about me. I never feel lonely, yet sometimes I want to be alone, as there is always someone next to me. They care about me too much, and are afraid, that something may happen, as it is not safe to be alone on the streets of Sofia at night.
When it comes to my local school – National Academy of Music ”Pancho Vladigerov”, it reminds me of the Soviet Union, in a way. They have very strict teachers, each specialising on one specific musical instrument. Students have no right to speak their own opinions out loud and have to be absolutely quiet when teachers speak to the class. It seems that every student is always afraid to speak out or to do something wrong. I had such fear as well, so I did my best during my violin practice, in order to master it to a desired level.
I was treated the same way as native students; I was not an exception. Apparently, it is because I am Russian and come from the Slavic origin, just like Bulgarians. Perhaps, it was also because of how well I spoke Bulgarian; even looked like one. Meanwhile, I had friends from another parts of Europe attending the very same class, who were treated more kindly than us.
When it comes to my spare time in Bulgaria, I used it well, travelling around the country as much as I could afford. I had been to many places including: Kavarna, Varna, Dobrich, Burgas, Selistra, Blagoevgrad, Pernik, Mezdra, Plovdiv, Pazardjik, Haskovo, Starazagora and Banke. They all were, in their own charming way, special to me. And yet, I spent the most of my time in Sofia with one Bulgarian family, who are close friends of mine.
One of my favourite places to spend time was at the mountains. Out there, I enjoyed speaking to God, as it is such a peaceful and quiet place for a prayer.

When it comes to educational difference between Bulgaria and Finland, it seems harder to study in Bulgaria, as you have less freedom of choice when it comes to what to do and how to do, strictly following your professor’s orders. For example, during the aural training, teachers are the ones who pick individual singers, and you have to obey at once, if you are the one who is chosen, with no right to express your opinion or decline. In Finland, you may choose, whether you sing in a group or by yourself. However, in my point of view, Bulgarian students are more developed than Finnish, due to such strict orders and discipline.
I like it to be here, even though it is difficult. I have a great deal of old and new friends here. Everything is great! 

Hilsen fra Norge!

I have been busy getting to know the city better and all the people around me, at my school and neighbourhood. How lovely city Oslo is! Balance between beautiful old buildings and modern architecture, the sea, the nature nearby, but still the feeling of quite a big city. I love to live almost in the city centre and having all things near me just a few minutes’ walk away!

My school is nice and cosy, as it is quite small. There are many talented students and good teachers, I think! It has been nice to notice that my Norwegian skills improve day by day. I am glad that I had the courage to use the local language since the first day here. The studies have been quite similar to the ones at my school in Finland. I have been playing in orchestra periods and chamber music with other students. I have had my private cello lessons, and I have also been in classes with all the other cellists. In lectures I understand the language more and more. We even arranged our own festival called Fagerborgfestspillene! And one of the biggest advantages we have here is that there are enough classrooms for practicing at our school, yay!

The 17th of May was a great experience in Oslo! The whole city full of people, music and joy! “Hip, hip, hurra!”

Best time of my life in Madrid

My journey in Madrid has gone to its end. It was an amazing experience to study in a city that is so lively and friendly. Gaining new friends and having new experiences made sure that the time in Madrid was totally worth it.

My studies consisted of human resource management, marketing management, national and international environment of firm and two tourism courses. The teachers were usually nice. One teacher must be the most interested person that I have ever met – and not in a good way. He was loco. One day he was being funny and making jokes with us and on the other day he was saying how much he hates us and can’t wait our classes are over. On the other hand university was easier than TAMK so luckily for me I passed the courses quite easily.

Most of my spare time I spent with my new friends, traveling around Spain and in Europe. There is not that many weekends that I spent in Madrid and when the school was over we went to road trip to the north for 11 days which was one of the best experiences. Other places where I visited was Malta, Morocco (Tangier, Casablanca, Rabat), Switzerland (Zurich, Luzern), France (Riviera cities), Portugal ( Lisbon, Porto) and Ibiza.

 

 

Greetings from my second home

Hello Finland,

I know your summer is not very hot and sunny this year, so let me give you some of the heat from South West Germany. With around 30°C for 3 weeks I don’t need to be stingy.

My internship is going great! I did not expect that it will become that interesting. Have you heard about Umicore? That’s the place to do your internship. Seriously, my working mates are so super friendly and support me with all their possibilities so I can get the most out of my it. The last 3 weeks I spent in Umicore´s laboratory in the area of sample preparation. Umicore is producing catalysts for cars and working in the sample preparation means to prepare catalysts for cars in a way that further quality tests can be done to them. Next week I will move on to a different area. There I will have a look into such a quality test. I am already looking forward.
My workmates are pretty interested about you, my dear friend Finland. I tell them a lot about your awesome student culture and the beauty of your nature. I even recommended them to spend holidays in a finish Mökki. When I showed pictures about my friends swimming in a lake at midnight in a bright sunset  I did not mention that it is much colder than it seems. Sneaky me 😉

After I am done with my work I am usually hanging out with my friends. We often go swimming in the river Rhein, but that’s nothing compared with your plenty of lakes. But I am not complaining, therefor I can enjoy reasonable priced food and drinks in restaurants. Oh and guess what? Finally I can eat my daily portion of ice cream without getting poor! In deed a portion of ice cream does often not cost more than 1€. Unbelievable! How can your ice cream be so expensive?

Well I have to leave, it is time for BBQ with my family. What a wonderful luxury to have them close by me. But dear Finland do not worry, I will come back to you, soon.

 

My goodbye gift to working mates

This place feels like home

I’m currently doing make exchange studies in the land of chocolate, watches and banks, you guessed right, I’m talking about Switzerland. I chose Switzerland because I always found the country to be a place where I could live. Truth to be told I’ve never actually been here before but that was the image I had in my head. And so far it seems I was right. This seems to be perfect blend of new and familiar.

School system is pretty similar to Finnish one we know. There are more traditional Universities and the Universities of Applied Science. There also seems to be differences between individual school were they either one. ZHAW where I’m currently studying is located in Winterthur, about 20 minutes from Zürich via train. Even though school is labeled as a University of Applied Sciences the structure of courses and the whole semester reminds me more about traditional University.

I as a exchange students  am able to choose any courses of my liking but local students seem to be split in three categories: Business Administration, Banking and Finance and Accounting students. As far as I’m aware they are split in classes and study current courses of their field together. So I’m less restricted than local students because I’m not bound to the same class structure.

There are mainly two types of courses: More broader ones that have three hours of lectures per week and give you six credits once you complete them, and minor ones with 90 minutes and three credits. On the contrary to my Finnish study experience there is a lot independent work outside of school. I remember doing 8-10 hour days at the library in May because there was so many school projects going on at the same time. Surprisingly though I actually started feel motivated about the challenge and felt real accomplishment when I got my tasks done.

Outside of school we’ve been traveling quite a lot. Switzerland is in middle of Europe so it’s easy to catch a plain or train and visit France for example. Still the best trips have been inside the Swiss borders. The Alps and diversity between different regions have kept me busy and out of money whole semester.

When I’m staying in Winterthur my daily routine is pretty much the same as in Finland. Student camp gives its on flavor on top of that because there’s always someone to talk to and I’ve made more friends in couple of months here than in two years in Tampere.

The city itself is fairly compact. Public transportation works and we have everything we need. If we feel like needing even more options, we can always hop on a train and go to Zürich. Swiss prices cut a lot of options out of the picture but during my stay I’ve learned to be smarter with my choices and aware what I can afford and not.

The Swiss have reputation as very work oriented and distant people. As a Finn I feel like home  in here. People act pretty much the same way, the weather just is warmer and views and salaries are better. Some other students have had problems here because they feel treated coldly in the stores for example but this is similar service as in Finland so it doesn’t bother me. I feel like people respect my space but open up more when we are in right situation to talk.  Work and school culture is pretty similar too although I feel like everything is a little bit more competitive and serious and that’s exactly what I need.

 

Discovering Germany apart from its famous beverages.

I guess that many stereotypes had stuck to Germany. Chosing it as a destination country I wanted to prove that cliches cannot express the full depth of culture and mentality.

My studies took place in Hannover University of Applied Science. Originally, my major is Energy and Environmentall Engineering, but there was no courses available in English from the same sphere. Thus, in these circumstances I slightly moved to Mechanical Engineering Faculty, which was pretty funny. Anyway the experience was worthy since I studied something completely new and participated in interesting projects.

The education approach is dissimilar to Finnish. In Hannover the teachers were more strict and the lectures were very formal (professor was explaining material without much communication with the audience).

Conserning my free time, I believe I would need hundreds of papers to express everything. It was a lot about communication and making new acqauantances, taking part in festivals and traditional holidays. But the best part was travelling inside and outside Germany, the connection is cheap and very convenient.

I explorated many interested places, tried tasty dishes and actually tried many beers!

Pictures are taken by me 🙂

From heat to snowfall and back

I stay three months in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany. My host university HFU offers education mainly for business and engineering students. I’m doing my internship in local laboratories, first four weeks at a clinical laboratory and then eight weeks at a research laboratory at the university. It has been very interesting to see how is the laboratory work in Germany like and also to compare it to the Finnish system. Laboratory field is very international and many principles are similar in both countries. Even so I have found some differences: the information systems and sample handing are organized differently, for example.

The weather in the Black Forest has been very changeable and it has also affected our plans for the weekends. However, I have done many unforgettable trips in the southern Germany and near its borders in Austria, Switzerland and France. Some of the trips were organized by the university but I have also planned some of them together with the other international students. It’s easy to travel by train in Germany and the group tickets are also very cheap. One of the best Saturdays we spent in Konstanz, on the shores of the lake Bodensee. It was a perfect, sunny summer day. We hired pedal boats and enjoyed the heat.

It has been a bit surprising to notice that many Germans don’t speak English. Fortunately I’ve studied some German but for a few years I haven’t had to use the language so I have forgotten almost everything. But even the basic knowledge has been very useful for me and I have been able to refresh my language skills during my stay. It has been great to notice that I can live in another country and communicate in foreign languages without any bigger problems. This experience has made me more self-confident. But of course the best thing is an opportunity to get new, international friends and learn about their cultures.

Continue reading From heat to snowfall and back

Bielefeld

Hello, I am Johannes and I am currently studying in Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences. Bielefeld, where is that? Well I did not know either and I had never heard about it before. Bielefeld is little bit smaller town located in upper part of North Rhine-Westphalia, but it is easier to say that it is just smaller city between Dortmund and Hannover.

Only about 300 000 people live in Bielefeld but city center feels a lot bigger. Some parts of the old town are worth a visit and famous Sparrenburg castle is located near city center. Otherwise it is not that amazing city, at least that is my opinion. I think there is some lot more interesting cities near Bielefeld which makes it good base camp for travelling in Germany.

Studying in Germany is different compared to Finland, semester starts on March and ends in the end of July. Our courses started middle of April but ended already in beginning of June, some courses even started as late as in May but still ended in June. It was really confusing how little time we had to spend in school because in most of the courses we also had only one lecture each week.

So, I had a lot of spare time on my hands which I spend travelling with other exchange students. Our school gave us so called “semester ticket” which is related to our student cards. This semester ticket allows you to travel for free in the whole area of North Rhine-Westphalia using regional trains and busses. Before arriving I did not know that we would get this kind of tickets and it was very pleasant surprise, North Rhine-Westphalia has total area of 34 000km2 so there is a lot to travel. It includes big cities like Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf and Münster, but smaller cities are also wonderful places to visit.

Another way to spent spare time are multiple sport classes which are offered students for free. There are classes from dancing and acting to all the way to swimming and weight lifting, my choice for semester was dancing.

Overall my experience in Bielefeld was really good and I can recommend it for other students also.

Augsburg Confidential

Greetings from Augsburg, the garden city of Bavaria. Before we start, I have to inform you that I am officially doing my studies in Munich (approx. 80 km from Augsburg), but as luck will have it, I had to accept my principal accommodations from Augsburg, as to not get bankrupted by the insane living costs of Munich!

Anyways, I think fate dealt me an excellent hand, as I surely have had a quite a different ride from other exchange students that are living in Munich proper. At the moment I am situated between hundreds of rows of Corn stalks, few hay bushes, three pig farms and two horse stables. Oh and thousands of overtly friendly country people!

Between all those things I have to try to survive with my basic german speaking skills as 90% of people here do not willingly parlay in english. The good part is that it works great with my goal of getting out of my comfort zone, which I am! Constantly!

The long distance to my actual university city of Munich makes commuting a chore, but it also makes going to Munich an event! So every time I have to drag my self to class it feels important and that in turn makes me take classes a little bit more seriously.  And that seriousness is a good thing as these double professors and herr doctor-doctor teachers really have a lot stuff to give to us students.

To balance out all this extreme focusing and seriousness during the classes, I attend all sorts of gatherings with like minded people. Be it beer festivals or rock concerts, you can probably spot me in there somewhere!

With Head-Banging greetings

Sami Juntunen