Monthly Archives: July 2017

Greetings from North Ethiopia

I spent three months in Quiha, North Ethiopia on work training from March 1st until the beginning of July. There are about 12 000 people living in Quiha town and I was the only European (white) person there. The nearest big city is called Mek’ele and the population is about 200 000. Living and working in Ethiopia was challenging but also rewarding in different ways. I defenetely had to move outside of my comfort zone many times. Staying in Finland would have been an easy alternative but I am happy I chose to take a risk.

Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Quiha

As part of my studies of Bachelor of Social services I worked as volunteer in Lola Children’s Home in Mekelle. There are 46 orphan children in of whom 11 are HIV positive.  They also have day care for the the children of local single mothers who go to school or work. It was an amazing experience to work in Lola and I will never forget the children and the staff who were very kind and nice. I was teaching English, arts and craft and outdoor games to the children. There were voluntary workers from other countries too. The children taught us some traditional Ethiopian songs and dances.

 Lola Children´s Fund

As I stayed in an Ethiopian family I spent most of my free time with them. We went to the market Place to buy food and clothes, to the night club to dance and prepared  local food. We  went on a road trip in a minibus to Aksum which is an old town and religious center of Tigray, North Ethiopia. Most of the time we spent at home washing dishes and clothes by hand, taking care of the animals (dogs, cats, rabbits, chicken and cows) and living everyday life. In Ethiopia there is a lack of everything: water, electrity, internet connection etc. What makes Ethiopia special is that in spite of the poverty people are extremely friendly towards strangers. I always felt welcome and got many friends for life.

Ethiopian coffee ceremony

 

日本が大好きです!

Yamanashi, but believe or not, I managed to get lost between the Sakaori station and school grounds… You can see the school from the station.

Finally I found my way to my new school. I signed myself in and went to my room, my future home for 4 months. I slept first 2 days before my school started. First weeks we had orientation studies, how to enroll to courses, what are the rules, who are the teachers. As a typical Finn I found it hard to find people to connect with. But after a week or two, things started to work out for me.

My first class in iCLA was Elementary 1 Japanese. The teacher turned out to be the sweetest and most helpful lady named Akiyama Maki. In this point I have to praise her and thank her for all the help and encouragement she has given to me. Arigatou gozaimasu! I ended up taking a literature course with Romanian professor, George Sipos. The course has been a lot of work, but 10 traditional Japanese books and history papers later, I feel very happy that I ended up taking this course. Knowledge indeed increases the pain you feel but it also opens your eyes for certain things. In the end of semester George will move back to USA, so sadly the future students will not have the possibility of taking his classes. My drawing teacher Kristen Newton was half Icelandic half Californian. What a strange but talented lady. She believes that everybody can draw, we just need to learn the best way to do it. And in the end of her course I agree with her. Last but certainly not least… Professor Alex Wilds, USA. There is a character, I ended up taking 4 of his classes during my stay in Japan and I have never met a teacher like him. The amount of positive energy this teacher has… even a Finn starts to smile. It is thanks to him, that I found my love towards ceramics, clay and sculpting.

What is different compared to Finland? First of all most of the courses are very different. Of course my teachers are all from different backgrounds, while in Finland most of my teachers are actually Finnish. Lectures are shorter in here than in Finland, 75 minutes, after that 15 minutes break. Also classes are smaller and a lot about the interaction between the professor and the student. Of course there is a lot of work to be done, but at the same time the students are fairly free to choose the themes of their work themselves. This makes it very interesting.

Differences between Japanese and international students can be seen in dormitory life. It has been great to see how some of the Japanese students open up to new cultures and friends. But where there is light, there is shadow. Japanese students tend to take way more pressure of their studies. Also not all of them are quite as open minded as they could be.

But in the end, I have enjoyed every second of my stay and to be honest I am not ready to go home. But as all good things, this experience has to come to its end.

Best regards

Riina Haapakallio

Wonderful time in Munich!

Studies have been going great here and I just finished my bachelor thesis. The courses have been very international and I have had the opportunity to work with people (students and teachers) from all over the world in projects. The lecturing style is pretty similar then in TAMK and in Finland generally, but the “block courses” (sort of intensive weeks where we different projects) have been interesting and a nice addition to the normal studying.

People in Bavaria are accurate what it comes to work or studies, but in their free time they are really laid back and chill. Only thing that is really annoying and where Germany should learn from Finland is how to manage bureaucracy and paperwork. Almost nothing can be done here through the internet, so almost everything must be done face-to-face and this means everything takes more time.

 

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to visit the Oktoberfest, since I arrived in Munich just couple days after the fest had ended. Luckily, I had the change to correct this shortcoming by going to the Frühlingsfest. It is like Oktoberfest, but smaller and with less tourists. Like “a little sister” of the Oktoberfest. The experience was amazing! If there are not any “Folksfests” like Oktoberfest or Frühlingsfest going on in Munich, one can get the perfect Bavarian experience by visiting the beerhalls. They serve good beer and food and an atmosphere that can’t be duplicated.

 

All and all the past 10 months have been great. In addition to exploring Munich and its neighboring regions, I have travel in Hungary, Austria and Czech. Meeting new people, going to new places and experiencing now things. I highly recommend that everybody should do an exchange abroad! Just a couple more week here in sunny Munich and then I will be back in Finland!

 

5 tips to become like Parisienne

Bonjour ! This is Yuko, a Japanese from Paris! More than 10 month have already passed in Paris. I was intending to write this blogpost card in the end of my stay, because life in Paris is such a « Cliché » that I would not be able to give any good advice during the beginning of my stay. Yet I don’t feel like I know everything about French culture and about being in Paris, but maybe enough to give some tips for you. These are the top5 of the necessary attitude you might have to master during your stay in Paris. 

-1. Study hard? or Smoke hard?  #Study environment at school

Contrarily to Finland, French people loves the status of being in the good school. The school I went for a Erasmus semester was especially a school with people from the high social level. It’s a school so called « Ecole de Commerce » which is (private) business school, like TAMK, whereas here you have to pay for tuition fees if you are a full time students. I found students here were well-dressed all the time, especially the French students. They smoke really hard at the same time. Smoking is really a way to get to know people here in France, but it seems like it’s also a way to cope with the stressful time of studies. I felt like the school is always covered by the smell of cigarette, because in between every break time, they go out to have cigarette.

During the courses, you need to study hard because the chance for taking exam is only once. If you fail, that’s the result. Basically there is no date assigned for extra exam date.

Tip 1.  Study hard or there’s no second chance,  smoking might help you with that.

After being in Finnish academical system for 2 years, i find French school system still traditional and very ineffective. At least throughout my experience. Especially i had the special case this semester that the administration at receiving school in Paris was renewed, that everything was in delay, and messed up. If you are happen to come to France for the exchange semester, you yourself should be seld-determined, and organised.  Tip 1.2 Never expect the French school to be well organised like in Finland.

-2. Keep calm and do not organise  #Things are not that organised as in Finland #Comparably slow life (Parisienne knows how to enjoy life)

Again, about organisation in this country of love and joy. You better be able to get used to how things work in France, in Paris. Everything takes two times more than in Finland. Especially, Visa and bank thing takes SO MUCH TIME. Well the Visa issues is also a matter of luck. I’ve heard someone took 2 weeks, and for me it took 3month, in the worst case 6month (You are already illegal, but just waiting for the Visa lol). Not only because there are more people living here, French administration is slow because of the inefficient paper works. Anyway people seem to enjoy their life here. As a Japanese, the biggest difference could be the attitude towards vacation. In France, they can just stop working in the middle of the task and leave for the vacation. It is impossible for Japanese to excuse the delay of task by the reason of « vacation ». In Japan it’s always « customer first ». What i see from my few working experience here, they are quite idealistic, creative, but unfortunately very ineffective to achieve those creativity. However this tends to happen in the traditional minded company or French people who doesn’t have enough international experiences.

Tip 2.  As long as you are working in the French company, these can not be avoid, you have to accept the way they work and maybe don’t be upset. But if you are trying to enter international market like Japan with French attitude, this will never gonna be accepted.

-3. Enjoy « Midnight in Paris » #Fantastic night walk in Paris and about walking in Paris

Many people ask me, what is like to be in Paris? What do you like the most about Paris?  I would tell, i love the night walk in Paris. Especially walking along the Seine never let me down. You can observe beautiful city lights, with the most beautiful architectures like Concorde, Orsey museums, and Eiffel Tower… It is so Parisienne thing to have wine and food, and sitting by the riverside, stay there all night long. Sometimes it smells really bad (you know why) but you just have to find a spot that is clean and with fresh air. The best part of this night walk is just that it is less crowed than day time, especially along the Seine, and the central like Marais. You will feel like you are in a totally another world with the historical buildings and mysterious light ups with some street musics sometimes.

When you are in the main streets and popular area, it is totally fine to walk around and enjoy « Midnight in Paris ». The more North of Paris you go, the less safer you feel. But anywhere and anytime you walk, you have to pay attention around your self. You never know where the pick pockets are spotting you, or it could be the speeding car that ignores the street signs. 

Tip 3. It is really worth walking around Paris during the night, only when you are little bit more sober.

-4. #French way of conversation: Talk, talk, and talk, and eat, and drink

French people, they love to talk, not only talk, but discuss. They build friendship by discussing a lot of topics. At least they care about politics, social issues and love to share there life events. In general they spend hours to eat, because 90% of the time, they are talking. Unlike Japanese, where it takes time to get into the discussion because of the language barrier and all that, French can discuss no matter what ages or level of studies they have. Some people they are not confident enough to speak in English, but young people here i have a impression that they all speak good English.

I also had many International friends in Paris, this is also another way to enjoy conversation obviously, sharing each experiences in Paris, and how they see French society from their perspectives.

Tip 4. Do not hesitate to dive into the flow of French conversation. That’s almost the only way to become friends with them. Sharing French experience with international people here also help you to understand and get the intercultural competences.

-5. #Live in festive city,

Paris never lets you down in terms of it’s variety of activities and festivals that goes all year around.  People here loves to go out, and be inspired by arts and culture. People here are really open minded towards different cultures. For me the French stereotypes of being racist is not real ! Well it is also because Paris is centre of everything, and people have more easy access to experience multicultural activities. But not only that, there are many association existing in Paris, that deals with Homeless issues and refugees and more. Thanks to these groups, there are many opportunities for local people and new comers to integrate through cultural activities like food, film and art festivals.

Tip 5. Participating as many activities as possible here in Paris is definitely worth it. Not only it’s fun but you learn what is like being in society that accepts/cope with « diversity ». 

:::::To conclude:::::

In my opinion, Paris is the place to enjoy life and have multicultural experiences.  Since i’m at the end of my one year stay in Paris, (which includes my Erasmus exchange semester and internship period )I can tell that, I still prefer Paris to be dreamy. That means “living” here shows so much realities that you want to discover and don’t want to.  So maybe it’s not necessary to build a career here as a foreigner. It depends in which area of work you want to discover, of course. However i felt that in general, France still has strong atmosphere of following hierarchies (school system, how the teachers or the boss would behave), and especially in Paris rich stays rich, and they could be quite superficial minded… It is complicated indeed to describe this, because I met so many people who is really kind from their heart, but on the other hand I got really tired “living” in Paris.

Anyhow, Paris showed me a lot of things, let me observe well how the society could work in this beautiful city !  I would love to come back here for time to time, maybe for short holiday or temporary work 😉 

Bisous ! (“kisses” in French )

photo credit @dreisalz_photo

Grüße aus Reutlingen!

I arrived in Reutlingen in the beginning of March, roughly a week before the beginning of the summer semester. The first weekend and the following week I spent settling in and getting to know the city, taking an intensive German course and meeting and hanging out with all my fellow international students. When the actual studies began, I found myself having a lot of free time since my courses had very little contact hours compared to my studies back at home. This gave me more time to explore Reutlingen, my home for the following six months and of course the surrounding areas, especially Stuttgart and Tübingen.

Reutlingen is a city in Baden-Württemberg located about 35 km south from Stuttgart. With a population of roughly 114 000 citizens it is the ninth-largest city in Baden-Württemberg and is nicknamed “The Gate to the Swabian Alb” as its area is largely located in the Swabian Alb. The Hochschule Reutlingen is a university of applied sciences that was founded originally in 1855 as a College of Weaving and Textiles as an initiative of local textile industry. Reutlingen University offered me good opportunities and facilities to study textile technology and also a bit of Fashion management.

Back in TAMK I study bioproduct and process engineering, so studying textile technology here was  already very different because of the different subject. The school has large workshops and laboratories for spinning, weaving, weft and warp knitting and textile finishing where me and my group mates got to see and learn hands on the process of producing textiles all the way from the fibre to the finished garment. I had less contact hours during the week and more working on my own writing papers and reports than what we have back in Finland. Even though I had two group projects here, I would still say the style of teaching is less based on learning and working together in a group like it is in Finland. In addition to the textile courses, I also took one course in International management which was very interesting. I also had a German language course. It was great to notice myself getting more and more comfortable using my German language skills in everyday interactions with Germans. Also having a German tandem partner who I taught Finnish and she taught German to me is a great opportunity to learn more of the language.

One of the interesting opportunities I had in my studies was the possibility to go on a excursion to Hannover Messe, one of the world’s largest industrial trade fairs. It is held every year in the Hanover Fairground in Hanover, Lower Saxony. We left early in the morning for our eight-hour bus ride to the fair, spent eight hours exploring the fair and then drove eight ours back to Reutlingen. The trip was tiring but the breakfast Brezels we were served by the university gave us a good start for the day and some energy to head off and explore the huge fairground. The fair covers all areas of industrial technology from research and development, industrial automation, IT, industrial supply, production technologies to energy and mobility technologies.

I had some time for travel during the holidays. A road trip to see Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava and learn about their history was a great experience. Vienna with its beautiful buildings, Budapest with its laid-back atmosphere and the cute old town area of Bratislava. Seeing the beautiful Hungarian Parliament Building during a boat cruise on the Danube river was an amazing experience. On our day trip to Switzerland we saw the Rhine Falls, and the cities of Luzern and Zurich. Swimming in the Lake Zurich on a hot day was refreshing and I finally got an opportunity to get rid of my winter furs.

Day trips in the surroundings of Reutlingen and Tübingen were easy to do with our bus card called Naldo which let us travel by bus and train in a large area around Reutlingen. I visited the Lichtenstein Castle and the Hohenzollern Castle with my international friends just to name a few places. It was interesting to learn about the local history in the castles. We also the visited the Landesmuseum Württemberg in Stuttgart and the Mercedes-Benz Museum both with interesting exhibitions. Also the Stuttgart Frühlingsfest was an great experience with all the rides, beer tents and overall festive atmosphere. Spending May Day there was definitely worth it. I still have a few weeks of my exchange period in Reutlingen left before going back home, so I’m planning to explore and see more of Germany!

 

Liebe Grüsse aus Leipzig!

I still remember the feeling when I,  after a long day of travelling saw through the train’s window the silhouette of Panorama tower. I was tired and exhausted as the trip turned out to be longer because of delayed flights and so on, so I was really relieved to finally be at my destination! 🙂  After I stepped out of the train and walked to my hotel for the first night, Leipzig felt immediately very sympathetic and cheerful town. I also marked that it was very clean everywhere. And because I had spend the previous week by my parents in Lapland, the weather felt warm and already full of spring as well. 🙂 I was really excited and looking forward to everything that was going to follow.

I arrived to Leipzig around a week before the summer semester was about to begin, so the first week went through with moving and getting to know the city better. I had been going to a pentacostal church there in Finland before, so I decided to look for one in Leipzig as well, and I found a really nice free church called TOS-Leipzig. Since the first week that church has  been  a great part of my stay here in Leipzig, and I am sure the connection with me and the people will continue after I I move back to Finland. 🙂 During the first week I also got to know the other person who started his exchange studies at the same time with me. And yeah, it is true that there were only two of us starting it on summer semester, as most had already started in last autumn. I also started trying to use as much German as I could with people, which turned out to be a little bit of a challenge as people then answered to me in fast German, and many times I couldn’t get a word they were saying! 😀 But little by little, that is how you learn a new language. 😉

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As I study music and specially performing arts, my studies are maybe a little different as for the most other subjects. They consist mainly of personal practicing, private instrument lessons and chamber music and orchestra projects. This semester there have been two different orchestra projects, and I got to take part in both of them! 🙂 First one was a normal concert program with a symphony from Anton Bruckner and two concertos for solo instruments. The other one was an Opera from Mozart, that went on for about a month altogether. I got to say that I have absolutely enjoyed playing in our school’s orchestra! We have a wonderful conductor, called Mathias Foremny, and he is so passionate about music and orchestral playing, that he lights up the whole orchestra and inspires us players to give all we have got for the music. In the very first concert I remember having goose pumps after the peaceful second movement of Bruckner’s symphony. Another great experience was a so called Chamber music evening, where the players from our stringed instrument department and some pianists had an evening together and just played and sight read some famous chamber music-repertory while having snacks and a bit of red wine. Just nice time together with the people and good music! 🙂

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One of my goals for the exchange here in Germany was to learn the language more. I have studied it in the comprehensive school, so I had a little bit of ground onto which I could start building. As I went to the International high school, where we had to use English as a language of our study, I knew the different phases of the development in the beginning. First it is absolutely horrible as you don’t understand a lot of what people say to you and you do not know how to say what you want to say. That is a vital phase though, cause you just need to step out of the comfort zone of swiching to English and come in touch with the practice of using a new language. After a while you start to learn new vocabulary and your ear gets used to recognizing words of the new language. Then your understanding gets better, and you can also start using some phrases and words that you have heard often without thinking. I also recognize from my language development, that many times there are short seasons when I learn to use some word or phrase, and I find myself using it almost everywhere. 🙂 And then it changes to another one.  If I observe the development of my German, I would say I am at this phase, as I can use my German in daily life, but it still takes me time to first understand what the other person has said, then think how I want to respond, and then figure out the way how to say it. Complicated sentences in spoken language are still hard for me to produce. From this point it is good to develop it further, my goal would be that some day I’d be able to speak German so that  I can express feelings and respond without having to think of it. 🙂 So, concerning the Language I would like to encourage everyone who lives abroad to study, observe and use the language of the country. According to my experience it is almost always so that people like it when you try to communicate with their language, even when it is not perfect. And people will always find a way to understand each other, which is actually the main purpose of communicating. So don’t be afraid, just use it! 🙂 Und es macht einfach viel Spass auch!

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Hello from Denmark, from the land of wind and hygge

I arrived in Odense, Denmark in mid-January just in time to experience the ultimate Danish weather: wind, snow, wind, slush, sun, wind, rain. This also pretty much sums up the weather for the rest of the spring.

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H.C. Andersen taking an icy bath at the Odense harbor.

During those cold and windy (and later on warm and windy) days, most of my time was spend on Erhvervsakademiet Lillebælt (EAL for short) campus and in HC Ørsted Kollegiet dormitory. One thing that sparked my interest when choosing an exchange destination, was that EAL was building a new campus here in Odense just in time for me to come and get all the benefits of the new place. Before the new campus was built, EAL had seven different places all over the city, but now all the different departments are under same roof in a beautiful modern building next to the city center.

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EAL campus

Back at home I’m an ICT engineering student and even though EAL doesn’t offer engineering degrees, they have a comprehensive list of IT modules. I ended up taking on Artificial Intelligence and Web Development courses which meant that I would study with their 4th semester Computer Science students.

The teaching and studying here in Denmark is quite different from how things are back at home. I only had lectures 2 times a week and rest of the time was dedicated to individual studying. Danish educational system emphasize group work from the kindergarten to uni, so even the individual homework was usually performed within a group of classmates. Teaching methods differ from teacher to teacher. The AI teacher preferred giving us more classic lecture, which did however include discussions with students, but the WEB teacher was more of an ”I’m here only to inspire you!” –type of a teacher. He would give us examples of what we could do with a specific topic and then let us do our thing with it. During security lecture he urged us to hack to a website he had created for the day!

Our lectures (and my 6 months in Denmark) we’re fueled by coffee. 9 out of 10 students carry they own coffee thermos and in our dormitory kitchen there are 5 different ways to make coffee! Danes love their coffee and cake. Oh, I will miss Danes and their cake! Every other day there was someone in class who would bring cake to class.

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Onsdagssnegle aka the Wednesday slug. The biggest cinnamon bun I’ve even seen!

And the same thing happened at the Crossfit gym were I spend a lot of my free time. After torturing and sweaty hour of training you could grab a piece of homemade chocolate cake and a cup of coffee for free!

But then again I guess they can eat all the cake since they bike everywhere. No matter the distance, the time of the day or the weather. Even though I’m a Finn, I had never biked in slush and in snow before I came to Denmark. The 8am rush hour in a snowstorm? On a bike? Sure! I felt like a champion after that! Getting a proper bike is a must when in Denmark and I was lucky enough to find a guy who rented good, used bikes to Erasmus students. My bike was rusty and old, but the ride was smooth as dream!

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Bike parking hall in the campus cellar
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My rusty ride

I ended up living in the H.C. Ørsted Kollegiet dormitory, which is a huge student housing complex built in 1970’s. I had my own room and bathroom, but I shared the kitchen with 13 other students. I was so lucky to end up in this particular kitchen, with these lovely people! Most of my roommates were locals so I had the ultimate Danish experience. Cake, coffee and weird Danish humor so full of irony and sarcasm that sometimes I’m wasn’t sure whether they were joking or not. We had common dinner every Monday and there was always someone to chat with and drink coffee with. I must say that for all the things I got to see and experience here, my roommates were the best thing that happened to me.

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Last common dinner with my Danish family. On the background you can see the dormitory building.