Monthly Archives: December 2018

My student life at Korea University

When I first got the notice that I will be attending one of the most prestigious universities in South Korea I could barely contain my excitement, yet at the same time feel the weight of this opportunity resting on my shoulders. SKY universities are the schools all Koreans with high academic aspirations strive to get into and where only the select few, the brightest and the most hardworking actually qualify for. They were going to be my peers and the standard all my professors were going to be expecting.

The first two weeks of my autumn semester were spent attending classes which turned out to be completely different from what I had expected, then hastily scouring through the school’s course selection and enrolling to new ones. After a 4G high speed online competition for those few vacant seats in highly sought after courses, signing permission slips and dealing with a constantly changing curriculum I was finally enrolled to courses that were at least going to award me enough credits to not get me kicked out of the school before my semester even begun. To anyone planning a semester in South Korea, during the preliminary enrollment period be sure to read the course descriptions and syllabuses VERY carefully before you enroll and have your plan B, C and D ready.

Regardless of my early hurdles I was able to attend interesting courses and study subjects unavailable to me at Tamk. I had preconceived notions of students having to spend hours every day in the library cramming knowledge in to their over worked brains from an amount of related literature that vastly outweighs any doable level of effort that could be considered humane. Thankfully they turned out to be ill placed, at least on my part. While the materials for my courses still exceeded anything I’ve had to digest at Tamk during exam weeks, I still managed to pull through without a hitch.

Seoul is an unfathomably massive city for a young man who grew up in a city of not even 200 000 people. Thoroughly exploring the city, let alone the country is going to require a stay longer than just 4 months.

I have eaten pretty much everything I came across. I have seen the tourist attractions and accessed secret places only known to locals. I explored the concrete jungle, made my way though forests, hiked up many mountains and laid on beaches all over the country.

  

And yet I still have so much more to do…

Love from Turin

I chose to do my Erasmus exchange in the University of Turin. Turin is an industrial university city in the north of Italy, near to the Alps and the boarder of France. There are roughly 900,000 inhabitants in the city and it`s well-known for their delicious chocolates. Within the university there is multiple campuses and my courses are luckily in just two of them, which makes going between the campuses a little bit easier.

I arrived here on September and now it`s already December and time to leave. The has gone by so fast by getting to know to a new country and most importantly to a new city. I had already visited a lot places in Italy but I have never been in Turin before I moved here to do my Erasmus. The city is full of historical things and me as an historic enthusiast, enjoy the view of the old buildings and museums I see every day, on my way to the university.

 

When someone says Italy, people usually think of a sunny country with people being happy all the time and eating a lot of pizza and pasta. People are eating pizza here for sure but the climate is totally different in Turin than you would think. It has been raining 90% of the time since I arrived here. A couple weeks ago the river was floating so badly that some of the restaurant next to the river had to be shut down due to water damage inside and making sure no one would get hurt. Being a runner myself, it has been real interesting to run in the rain for the last couple months to put it nicely.

In addition, of doing sports like already mentioned, I`ve visited some historical and cultural sights like Villa Della Regina which is a beautiful castle on top of a hill.

Villa Della Regina from the top of the hill

Villa Della Regina`s beautiful inside decor.

The city had some really nice sunsets which I was lucky enough to see from my own window and also got to admire when I took a walk next to the river Po.

Living in Turin was really different than in Finland and especially studying. The school system is not exactly the best one, so bending the rules and being really creative was something I had to learn. When you are used of things working pretty smoothly in a Finnish school, adapting the “rhythm” of an Italian school was not the easiest task first but little by living I got the hang of it.

 

Until next time Torino

안녕하세요 from Korea!

After a proper period of stay it’s good to make a little summarize about living in one of the biggest cities in the world. I have studied in the Seoul National University of Sciences and Technology in Seoul, South-Korea. There is a huge difference in an everyday living between Seoul and any city in Finland. Seoul metropolitan area with more than 25 million inhabitants is definitely stunning thing to experience for boy a small-town boy like me.

South Korea is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and especially the last 50 years have been so explosive that the phenomenon is called “Miracle of the Han river”. Now that I’ve lived here for some time it is easy to understand what’s the reason for that. People’s studying and work motivation is just something else what I’ve never seen. It is totally common to see university students to study in library still at midnight and people are assessed, for example, in a job search situation based solely on grades. For this reason, studying in the university is a little different than what I’m accustomed to in Finland. Professors expect students to learn a lot of things by memorize and that’s something what I personally don’t believe to be the best way to study. Nevertheless, I feel that my studies have gone well, thanks to a good teaching and motivating atmosphere.

 

Here have been a lot of different things that have made a big impression to me and to name one is that even though city is that big, there is a nature quite nearby. Seoul city is surrounded by mountains and that make awesome view over city skyline, especially during sunset. Mountains were historically an important part of a city defense and those were another reason why Seoul was built at the place where it is nowadays. The city center of a Seoul is split by a river that you can see on a Figure 1. The river was the main reason for the birth of a city. Seoul was that close to the North Korean border that there was no shipping on the river because the other end of the river led to the other side of the border.

Even though Seoul is highly developed city as well as the whole South Korea as a country, here is a plenty of historical culture to see. One of the “must-see” things what you can find when you make a Google-search about staying in Seoul is definitely the palaces nearby city center. In 1392-19210 Korean Peninsula was ruled by dynasty of Joseon. The dynasty built five great palaces in Seoul which are popular tourist destinations nowadays. In figure 3 there is a photo of building belonging to one of these palaces.

So far, I have enjoyed my time in Seoul more than I could ever imagine and I definitely feel this city to be my home. The biggest reason for that is, no doubt, kindness of strangers and benevolence of peoples. One concrete example of this is food culture. It is very common thing that food is shared with every people in a table and usually the meals last a lot longer than I was used to in Finland. In figure four you can see maybe the most traditional Korean dish, called Korean barbeque.

Lastly, I hope every exchange student have had as awesome exchange period so far and let’s enjoy the rest of it what’s left!

Regards,

Juuso Järvenpää

Seoul, South Korea

Life in Maribor

After three months exchange in Maribor it might be a good time to tell something about this second-largest city in Slovenia. Before my exchange I didn’t have any expectations from this city or even the country. But now when I am thinking about Maribor as an exchange city, there is a few things I would like to share with you. First of all, I can’t skip a fact that this is the wine city. Maribor is surrounded by mountains. The biggest mountain called Pohorje is a well-known ski resort but every other mountain is full of vineyards. In fact, here is also the oldest vine in the world.  It’s more than 400 years old.

I didn’t know this first but Maribor is also very famous from its Erasmus life. Students come here just because of that. Instead of just one welcome week we had two of them and also a lot of activities during the semester. This might be the reason why here is more than 400 Erasmus students at the time and it’s growing every year. 

One rare thing comparing to other countries is student coupons. What? With student coupons you can go almost every restourant in the city and order portion from their menu. And the price is 0 to 3 euros including soup, salad, main dish and fruit/desert. If eating was cheap I can also happily tell you that drinking is even more cheaper. And actually the average price level is way lower than in Finland.

I am studying in faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in University of Maribor. Usually faculties organize separate lectures for Erasmus students. But I have one course where I am the only Erasmus so I have to study by my own.  This kind of studying method was totally new for me. But in generally studying here is almost same like in Finland. We have laboratory exercises almost in every course and  I like this kind of practical work. After laboratory exercise I had to write report but basically we didn’t have any homework.

Of course this was a great oportunity to travel. Slovenia has a beautiful nature and it’s surrounded by interesting countries. I have visited five countries and for sure more than twenty cities. In addition to many cities, I met a lot of awesome people from different countries and culture.

Only few weeks left here so I’ll stop writing and go to enjoy these last moments!

Saħħa! 3 months in Malta.

I spent 3 months in Malta doing trainee exchange, mostly at  Mater Dei hospital.  My placements were at renal unit and endoscopy/operating theaters. I  also spent two days in a private hospital called St. James, where I was learning the differences between public and private healthcare in Malta. I also got to see one autopsy at the very last day of my training, which was very interesting.

Overall the placements were interesting and I learned a lot of new things, especially of renal diseases, different endoscopic-  and surgical procedures. Mentors were friendly and almost all the nurses were happy to help and guide you.

There were sometimes difficulties with a language barrier, since Maltese tend to speak Maltese language more than English.  I was surprised, that many elderly didn’t speak English at all or very little. It was inevitable that you missed most of the small talk, which sucked.

Usage of hand disinfectant and gloves were much lower compared to Finland, basic things  of aseptic techniques were well known, but seldom applied. Fortunately, things were slightly better in operating theaters, but not perfect.

Beside the fact that there were room for improvement in aseptic techniques,  the quality of the care was good in my opinion. Nurses and doctors worked as a team (sometimes more like friends) and patient were always well taken care of. I didn’t find any hierarchical problems in their system, from which I was surprised.

I traveled around the islands a LOT. I rented a car for a total of 3 weeks and went through all the sights I could find information from. Malta has surprisingly much to offer for being such a small country, but you can see all the main attractions in one week if you rent a car.  Driving in Malta is another issue, I wouldn’t recommend it if you aren’t confident driver. Local way of driving is  selfish and careless and is very exhausting at first.

I’d definitely recommend coming to Malta for trainee exchange, it is a very warm country by climate and people. Local student (and other) groups are organizing a lot of happenings around the year so you have no chance of getting bored or lonely.

Pleasure is found first in anticipation, later in memory -G Flaubert.

Hälsningar från Sverige!

Autumn here in Halmstad has gone really fast, and I have had some great experiences during my exchange period. Halmstad is a small but cozy city, which especially blooms in the summertime. Last summer was the warmest for a long time in Sweden, and thousands of people travelled here to enjoy the best beaches in the country.

Studying here is a bit different than in TAMK. Usually you have only two courses at the same time, and they last for two months each. I have had much less lectures with the teacher than in Finland, but every course has a bigger group project or a report that you have to work on during the course and present in the end, and this is a big part of the course evaluation. Otherwise the degree of difficulty is quite the same than in Finland. I study construction engineering, but here I have also taken courses in environmental engineering. I have found them quite interesting and sustainability and green thinking seems to be the specialty of Halmstad University. The highlight of my studies has definitely been a study trip to Copenhagen with my Sustainable Urban Development -course class!

Pictures from Halmstad and it’s beaches:

Halmstad is also very well located for exploring the area, many big cities such as Lund, Malmö, Gothenburg, Helsingborg and Copenhagen easily accessible by train or car. Most of my weekends here I have spent travelling in Sweden, Denmark and Norway and exploring new places. Halmstad Student Union also organizes a one week trip to Swedish Lapland which was really great.

Mount Floyen in Bergen, Norway
Nyhavn, Copenhagen
Gothenburg, Sweden
Narvik, Norway

 

 

Experiences from Tallinn

My studies in Tallinn have been an insightful experience into a different kind of education culture and to a top 3% technical university. My goal in question is to take advantage of the course offerings available for BA students on environmental economics and a plethora of law studies.  The courses have been far more difficult than anticipated, so it has definitely been a fit challenge and it has taught me a lot about study ethics.

Due to the nature of my exchange, I spent my spare time mostly at the academic hostel. Otherwise, since I’m not into partying, I prefer walks around the iconic, historical and beautiful old town and other places of Estonian cultural heritage. Obviously, there are the non-party related activities at the hostel with other exchange students, especially my Italian roommate Gaetano.

The studying culture is different from Finland, more formal and strict in practice. The teachers are just as approachable as in Finland and do not need to be addressed any more formally, but the in-school processes involve a lot of bureaucracy and the teachers themselves seem to have much less “power”, since most things – even the smallest exceptions – must be negotiated with the dean of the faculty.

Above is a picture of the old town from an aerial view!

Just a kid from Finland exploring America

Hi everyone! So, I’m in the United States of America, in the state called Minnesota, and the city is called Bemidji. It’s pretty up in here in north. I’ve been here since August so, over 4 months already. It’s been amazing at so far. I want to separate this ”postcard” to two different parts. First one is that I’m going to tell you about my campus life, and the second one is about my travelling experiences.

My studies have been really easy, because I took courses which works for me, for example the best ones are Sport Marketing and Sport Management. As a business administration student, I wanted to take courses what we don’t have in TAMK. Mostly, we had presentations and some group projects, but also every week smaller tests about chapters what we went through in that week, so it really keeps you to pay attention where we are at the moment and what is coming. Compared to Finland where we usually have couple of assignments in course and end of it we have huge final exam. I’m not sure which works better, sometimes I like this way that I don’t have to stress in the end of the semester that am I going to pass the course or not. In the beginning, we got the list of everything what we are going to do on this semester, so basically you have chance to do assignments on your own time. Like how I did, I did almost everything in September, so I had chance to travel in October and November.

 

So, campus life in here is something unique compared to Finland. Everything is so near, and we have like our own community. I love that it takes couple of minutes to walk to the classrooms, or to the gym or to restaurants. I realized that I have so much more time for everything when I don’t have to use it for moving from place to another. One senseless thing in here is that we have tunnels underground, so when it gets really cold, people are using those to move around.

 

My normal day includes lectures, sport and chilling with friends. Sport facilities here are so great. I don’t have early classes, like my earliest class starts at 10 am so there are good hours in the morning to use for whatever I want. Also, I had approximately 2 hours classes per day, so yeah, there is lot of free time. We have here some restaurants, the best one is buffet place where is all you can eat all the time. We have own currency here called Beaver bucks, and we had to load those on our student ID, so we can use it here at the campus. So, if it’s just a normal studying day, there is enough time for homework and classes, enough free time to be active and do sports and enough time to chill out, relax and sleep.

 

We have almost every day some events here for example movie nights, live music, free food and chilling, whatever they make up + all the groups like sports. If I would involve in every event here, I would never have problem to think about, what should I do to not get bored. I like mostly to watch college sports like football, hockey and basketball. It’s nice that we have every week games here and our fan culture is so supporting.

Finally, we get to the main topic and it’s travelling. I think I did that in the best way as it was possible. I got to know awesome exchange students from Switzerland and Denmark, and together we have done unforgettable trips. First, we started to explore Minnesota, we wanted to see whole state. Later in October we went to Canada, so that was little bit bigger step to rent a car and cross the board. It took only 4 hours to drive to Canada, so that was one must thing to do here.

After 3 months being here we got so used to this place that we wanted to travel somewhere else and see more states. Two swiss guys and I decided to rent a car for 10 days and drive from here where the Mississippi river starts flow, along it all the way down where it ends in the New Orleans. It took 4 days to drive there, but we stopped in Cedar Rapids, St. Louis and Memphis. We made plan for what we want to do in every place and what we wanted to see. After couple days in New Orleans we decided to ahead to Nashville and after that to Chicago. We saw so many things and places on our journey that is for sure my craziest and also the best memory of all time.

 

So, it took 10 days, we drove over 5000 kilometers, and we sat in the car over 50 hours. It was totally worth it, and idea wasn’t just to get from place to another, we wanted experience the freedom while driving to new states and see roads and nature. We visited 12 states! Sometimes crazy ideas end up being master plans. I’m very thankful that I had this opportunity to do this and also that I found those two as openminded people as me to share this experience with me.

Greetings,

Aukusti

Greetings from Mukden!

I have spent my exchange period in Shenyang, China. Shenyang is medium sized city in China with about 8 million habitants. The city is located in the northeast of China about 250 kilometres of the North Korean border. The name of my university is Shenyang Jianzhu or SJZU. There are about 19 000 students of which approximately 200 are international students in the university.

Campus area in SJZU.

Teaching language is English. The way of teaching is similar to Finnish type of teaching where professor takes the lead and students (at least try to) pay attention. There are many project oriented courses too but I’m only studying languages and Chinese culture so I don’t have to take any part in those projects. However, study timetable is different from what I have used to. Morning lessons starts at 8.30am and they last until 11.30am. Afternoon lessons starts at 1.30pm and they can last until 5 or 6pm.

Many classrooms are quite ol’skool.

There are many international students in my university, but most of them come here to study whole university degree or master’s degree. At the moment you can find only three students through exchange program, two from Germany and one Finn. Most of the majoring students comes from Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and many African countries, for example Nigeria and Tansania.

Most of the other international students don’t know Finland at all or have very stereotypical knowledge about it (Nokia, cold country, possibility to have a good life and Santa Claus). Somehow many students think that we speak English as our native language in Finland.. Well, sometimes I like to shock other students telling about stories how I enjoy eating reindeers or rolling in the snow while taking a good sauna session.

There are many different reasons why life in Shenyang is so different compared to life in Finland. Biggest impact comes with a language. Shenyang is not so international city and that makes communication sometimes very hard with locals. Most of the people can’t understand English language at all and on the other hand my Chinese level is very basic and poor in spelling. In Chinese language same words have a different meaning depending how tones are said. There are four different tones and if you spell word with wrong tone you can say something very bad or locals have no idea what you are trying to say. Sometimes people try to communicate with me by writing some information with Chinese characters but I have no idea how to read them.

At the beginning I found it very hard to communicate with people but now I have learned tricks for it. Communication usually happens with simple phrases, hand signals, gestures and by using translator applications. Luckily I have managed to have few local English speaking friends who I can rely if things get too problematic. I can say that Chinese friends are the most helpful people I know on this Earth.

Other things that affects differently to my life here are huge amount of people, traffic and pollution. In this city is impossible to walk alone in the streets or sometimes even fit on the sidewalk. Don’t even think that you can find a place to sit in subway or bus. Just run inside, jump on people and try to survive! Luckily I took a single room in my dormitory so I have place to hide if things get too hectic for me.

Normal day in the sub.

Using public transports is very cheap in Shenyang. Subway ticket costs about 3-5 (0,5€) yuan depending how far you go. Jumping in the bus costs 1-2 (20 cents) yuan and you can drive as far as you want with that price! Driving with taxi about 10 kilometers can cost you about 40 to 50 yuan (about 4 or 5 euros). Usually drivers are honest and put the taximeter on but sometimes they can drive around a same block few times to gain more money from people who don’t know the city so well.

Traffic in Shenyang is very chaotic and makes no logic for me. Many of the taxi drivers are driving very high speeds and they use every path available (sidewalks, alleys, etc). On top of that there is no seat belts available in most of taxis. On the other hand I have to admire the way they race through city without crashing their cars.

Air pollution is a big problem in China and you can feel it also in Shenyang. Air pollution index (US AQI) can vary something about 50-150 (good day) to 200-400 (don’t go outside). Some days you can really see the pollution in the air. You can smell the diesel, coal and exhaust fumes in the air. If you are wild enough you can put your mask on and go for a jog or walk. For comparison, in Finland air pollution index is usually between 5 and 40.

Usually I spend my spare time with local or international friends. Going to city with local friends is always very interesting. They can show and tell you many different things about Chinese culture and different cuisines. I have tasted hundreds of differents foods in China. Some of them are very delicious, some are not. My personal favorite is hot pot for a lunch or dinner.

Delicious hot pot.

I have plans to travel and see different places in China. For now I have had time to see Dandong, Shanghai and countryside in Benxi. Getting to Dandong takes about 2 hours with train. It’s very interesting city to me because from there you can see to real North Korea. Shanghai is far more developed and international city than Shenyang. It’s a shame I had only four days to spend there. In the countryside I saw beautiful mountains and nature, cornfields everywhere and very primitive little villages.

View to North Korea from Hushan Great Wall in Dandong.
Tourist, mountains and nature in Benxi.

As a construction site management student I have found China very interesting. Especially the ways how the things get build in here. Chinese people don’t really waste time when they want to build something. Building a new restaurant in my campus area took only about 3 weeks. The size of the buildings is humongous if compared with buildings in Finland! A block of flats with more than 40 layers is standard in China. They have a lot of knowledge how to build big and monumental structures in this country.

You can see high buildings everywhere you go in China.

There is one familiar looking building in my campus area that got my attention when I roamed around in the first two weeks. It reminded me of a Finnish wooden house that looked a bit odd somehow. Maybe it was because of the windows? A closer look told me that the house was built in co-operation with TAMK in 2010.

Paintwork is still intact after eight years.

There is a lot of other things I could tell about my staying here in China, but I fear that this blog post is getting too long already. I don’t regret coming here. Somehow I have spent maybe the best time of my life here in spite of the hardness of life sometimes. I’m quite sure I will return to China someday.

Best Regards

Kasperi

Greetings From the Land of Hurricanes

I’m doing my exchange studies in Raleigh, North Carolina which is in the east coast of the United States. North Carolina is a diverse state: going from east to west, you will travel from beach to mountains and there is everything in between. Raleigh is located inland. Nevertheless, my postcard is about hurricanes and how I experienced them!

You have probably heard news about the two destructive hurricanes that took place this fall. Due the unusually warm summer, America’s east coast has unfortunately faced two disastrous hurricanes that also had an effect to the town where I’m studying. Hurricane Florence struck in the mid-September and hurricane Michael struck in the mid-October. Both left behind aftermath of deaths and destroyed homes and buildings.

September 14, Florence made landfall in the North Carolina, and weakened further as it slowly moved inland. The State was early alarmed, and people started to prepare. Schools were closed, stores ran out of water, people were evacuated. It was forecast to hit the cost on Friday evening. North Carolina State University was closed on Wednesday till Monday. Students went back to their homes, buildings were secured with bags of sand, trees and branches were cut. Rental bikes and all the small loose things were removed from the streets.

When it finally struck after all the preparations, the hurricane had weakened to category 1. We were so far inland and survived from the biggest damage, however we had heavy raining and wind for a few days. Which felt like eternity for someone who was in the dorm the whole time. They threw a hurricane party across the street from my apartment, just that students that didn’t left town, could enjoy the extra vacation together. Basically, the time was spent watching Netflix, going to the gym, hanging out with friends and doing some homework. So we had a lot of fun. Luckily in my area there weren’t power outages and nothing more than a few fallen trees and small flooding on the streets. We got back to school on Tuesday and we needed to catch up the studies.

In the mid-August hurricane Michael did great damage to Florida and Central America. It moved up with heavy rain and wind. When Hurricane Michael struck, I wasn’t even aware of that we would be affected. School wasn’t closed, or classes weren’t cancelled. It was normal Thursday with a cloudy morning. I went to a class and during that, the skies broke. It was a lot of rain and the wind just blew the rain from every possible direction. I was wearing a rain jacket and umbrella which both had no use. It just wettened everything. My shoes were like sponges and my backpack with all my stuff got wet on my 500-meter way from school to library. I had to dry everything and pack my stuff into plastic bags before heading home. It rained the whole day and night, but it went over fast. The next morning was sunny and beautiful. It caused small flooding and few fallen trees and branches. For me hurricane Michael was worse.

People asked me if there were hurricanes in Finland and I always answered that we certainly do not have them. I experienced two Hurricanes in just a small period of time which is rare to even have that many hurricanes. It is a cultural experience that I don’t need to face in Finland. We were lucky to only get heavy wind and rain.