Monthly Archives: May 2019

Greetings from Palestine

The outskirts of Betlehem, where I lived.

My day starts with a good 2km climb. I can see my breath evaporating in the cold morning air, as I go up the hill to Betlehem´s central bus station, passing the famous Church of the Nativity. On the way, I might grab a cup of Arabic coffee from one of the vendors.

From the station I take a sherut (a shared taxi), to Abu Dis with other students. The trip takes about thirty minutes, if everything is going well in the checkpoint. The checkpoint is called the Container checkpoint, because originally it used to be only one container. These days it is surrounded by barbed wire, armed soldiers and a seven-meter tall “safety wall”. The wall separates my school, the Al-Quds University,  from Al-Quds, known better by it´s western name, Jerusalem. People living right on the other side of the wall take longer to get to school than me.

The school is huge and mostly Arabic speaking, but my campus is very different from the rest. It is full of all sorts of liberal and artistic courses and activities and almost everyone speaks excellent English. This is partly because many of the students went to high school in the U.S. I am welcomed by my peers with almost overwhelming hospitality and friendliness that I never quite got accustomed to but could still appreciate.

Though the equipment might be lacking, the teachers are top-notch and the classes are both interesting and surprisingly practical. The local students don´t have to specialize in a certain area, which means many of them are beginners when it came to media studies. This meant that some of the courses need to be kept somewhat basic, but I still enjoy the experience.

After school I eat some falafel in one of the many restaurants in the campus area and take the sherut back to where I live. In the evenings I have a chance to experience the local culture. I might have a terrific meal with the men of the village, or we might go to the mountains to visit the bedouins. There´s so much to do and everywhere I feel like I´m been taken care of.  Perhaps ironically, I have never felt as safe as I feel in Palestine.

Yeah, life is good here, at least for me. Coming to Palestine was one of the best decisions of my life.

 

 

Greetings from Lincoln🇬🇧

I spent last fall in England as an exchange student at the University of Lincoln. I’d never heard about the city before being accepted to study there so I didn’t really have any expectations before arriving. Everyone was just telling me to watch out for rain while in England but to be honest, it didn’t rain almost at all.. Didn’t get to use my raincoat even once. What a bummer (not).

Lincoln is a super cozy city with such an interesting history behind it. I would recommend to explore the city and after that travel around England as much as possible on your days off. Lincoln is located in mid England so you can easily travel to most big cities from there; the fastest train to London takes 2 h and you can even get to Scotland by train. On my stay in England I visited York, London, Dublin, Oxford…  many different cities, some of them even a couple of times.

The University of Lincoln is a great school! The university grounds are huge and all the buildings have a modern look to them. You can find many kinds of bars, cafés and restaurants as well as a library. The university has over a hundred clubs and sport teams that you can join and everyone is so welcoming towards international students. Also the students union and exchange students department try their best to organize different kinds of events for all the international students, especially in the beginning of the semester. Teaching was good and the courses were interesting, even if I had far fewer lessons compared to our school and some teaching methods differed quite a lot from what I’m used to. I attended four courses on my one semester exchange; two of them were basic essay writing courses regarding games cultures and heroes and villains in film, one was a 3D course and the last one a digital media course where we had four different workshops.

What I loved the most about my exchange was to be able to travel all around the country and both learn and experience as much of the British culture and history as possible. The only downside I had was problems with accommodation (I was going to get a room from the campus dorms but the school told me that that wasn’t possible anymore and I had to search for another place on my own in a little time window, didn’t go that well..) but otherwise I’m happy with my stay. Get to know the locals as well as your international student buddies, attend activities together or even host your own! One event I’ll always remember fondly was when all the international students made traditional food from their home countries and we tasted them together as a group. I really miss my time in Lincoln and I’m really glad for all the great people I met and the memories we made together. ❤️

Saudações de Coimbra!

I study to be a nurse and I decided to come Portugal to do my practical trainings.

Six years ago I was studying to be a sport massager at Spain, Fuengirola and from there I made few weeks training period at south of Portugal, Algarve aria. So I had small touch of Portuguese culture before I came here, but I was curious to know and see more about it.

Coimbra is located between Porto and Lisbon, middle of Portugal. It is historical city and have been capital city of Portugal 1200-1500 century. Here is beautiful architecture, beautiful coffee places, cakes, beautiful clothes and people as well. Also here is good food and one of the most oldest University in Europe and University library.

Portuguese people are much more calm than Spanish and that passion and craziness I have missed  here a bit. Some people they say that Portuguese people are more like Finns than Spanish and that is quite true. They are calm but they like to drink a lot and then to be really crazy.

I feel the culture here is quite conservative, patriotic and family oriented. People are mostly nice and helpful but sometimes they act arrogantly.  I have been thinking that one reason for it is bad economic conditions were very poor in some places. The scarcity of resources was also noticeable in the hospital where I worked.

I do here two internships at two different hospitals. First one I already finished in Pediatric hospital. There I learned lot of information of different problems what children had and had chance to practice to make medicines and administrate them to patience’s. Mostly I liked my internship but had challenges too, like didn’t get so well along with my main tutor. That experience was tuff for me and specially because I didn’t know how I should act in strange culture as a student when my tutor hurt me by words. After my internship finished I had long discussion with my teacher and I learned a lot of this difficult situation mostly about myself, how to act in future if I will face similar kind of situation.

On my free time I have  travelled with my new Brazilian friend to Algarve, where I was six years ago. My dream was to see the sea and rocks and we manage to get there. Also I visited Porto with my friends, who have van. Those times I enjoyed a lot and I would like to travel more in future. But it is a contradiction because in other way I´m so chicken to travel alone. So I need to face my fears to get what I want.

Here is some pictures:

kveðjur frá Íslandi

I have been Iceland now two months, but it feels like I just came here. Time seems to fly when you are having fun, right? I have learned a lot during these two months and made new friends.  I hope I could stay here longer because there are still so many things to see and do.

Reykjavik

I have worked in laboratory in molecular biology project. The project has been very interesting, and I have got to work independently. There are eight members in our group, some of the members are working and some are doing their bachelor or PhD. We all are working on our own projects, but all these projects form part of the whole project. The aim of these project is to see how a specific protein affects to human cells. I have learned more different analysis and cell culturing. At least now I know how I should not to treat my cells. Once a week we have a seminar where PhD. or master students represent their work. It is always interesting to hear new researches and novel treatments or drugs against deceases.

I haven`t work in research group in Finland so it is quite difficult to compare working culture and because Iceland is also Nordic country there are few differences. However, I was a little surprised the clean room working. It was much more stringent when we practiced at school. There isn`t room to change laboratory coat before going to clean room and it isn´t obligatory to use indoor shoes in there. But I don`t know are these differences only because I have worked with cell cultures at school not in real research group. I have also notice that there isn`t proper coffee break but everyone just drinks their coffee while working. Otherwise working culture is similar.

Vestrahorn Mountain

There are few people in Iceland and Reykjavik is a small city compare to other cities in Europa that`s why I think the best part of Iceland is nature. I have done a couple road trip during my exchange and it has been nice to see how landscapes change when the weather gets warmer. I have been in Golden circle to see Geysirs and swimming in the Blue lagoon. I have also visited in south, east and west part of Iceland. I guess my favourite place was Vestrahorn Mountain. It is a big mountain near to the black beach. Because the sand of the beach is wet you can see reflection of mountain from the sand. Other nice place was Kirkjufell mountain or as Game of Thrones fans know it as Arrowhead mountain beyond the wall. If you come to Iceland I recommend to rent a car (or if you are in good condition a bike) and travel around Iceland.

Kirkjufell mountain or Arrowhead mountain from Game of Thrones

Hello from Namibia!

Life in Namibia has been good. People here don’t worry too much about things that are not in their hands – the common way is to just relax and see what tomorrow brings. This has been a slight culture shock but after eight weeks in the capital of Namibia, Windhoek, I’m starting to get used to it. Wondering how big the culture shock will be when I get back to Finland…

I’ve been doing my practical training as a student of bachelor of social services through Flyinternship organization. My main project has been working with Windhoek Football Club and combining life skills with soccer with kids mostly under fifteen. Besides working there I’ve spent some days at a center for people with special needs. All of this has been really eye opening, life changing and simply just amazing.

Spare time here has been wonderful. Getting to know the Namibian culture especially. People here also now how to party so few of my sundays have been quite lazy when recovering from a big big party. I have had no problems at all with the local people although we were warned about certain things – none of them haven’t yet happened to us.

The way work here is is completely different from the way of Finland. I mean completely. During the day here it’s normal to go for a beer for example. Meaning of time is also totally different. When a Namibian says that the work starts at eight it usually means that they will show up at nine. Salaries here are also really low and the unequality has a huge role to play.

Summa summarum: I love this country and will come back later. That’s for sure.

Hola from Madrid!

Hola!

Time has gone flying here in Madrid. I came here with two of my finnish friends also from TAMK and I’ve got so many new ones in here. The studying here is somewhat similar as in Finland. However, here it is not mandatory to attend classes. One of our teachers even said that he doesn’t want to wake up as early as we have classes, so we may as well skip it.

Even though the classes aren’t mandatory, it doesn’t mean that here wouldn’t be any work to be done. I mean, almost in all of our classes we have group works. Usually I do enjoy group works, since I get along with different people very well. However in Spain, the Spanish and Finnish way of doing school works are really different. Also, the language is a problem. There are not many Spanish people in our school that would speak English all that well. So you kind of have to learn to understand Spanglish.

We do have similar school tasks as in Finland. For example in addition to group works we also have to write essays in almost every class. Although I have to say that in here it doesn’t really matter what you write in your essay as long as it has lots of pictures.

Spanish people have siesta. That means that between 12 and 16 there is no hope for finding anything to do. Most of the stores are closed and most of the people are at home. It the evening however the city comes to light and everyone comes to hang out together. Despite the siesta In Madrid here is also really nice things to do and see. Like tasting all sorts of different tapas and experiencing the culture. Like visiting the royal palace for example.

Although I’ve had a nice time here, I sometimes miss the fact how everything works in Finland. Everything and everyone is on time. You don’t have to prepare for everything being late all the time. Also here is no concept of personal space and sometimes that can be a little bit overwhelming.

However I am enjoying my time in Madrid and adapting to the culture here.

Annyeoung~ Greetings from Seoul, Korea

Annyeong, folks~  I am having my exchange study in Korea, at SeoulTech university. Half of my exchange period has passed, and I have quite many tales to tell.

The lake in SeoulTech, during cherry blossom season

My major is environmental engineering.  I only study four courses which adds up to 12 Korean credits or 60 ECTS, while most of Korean students take six or seven courses , which is an equivalent of 105 ECTS per semester, crazy right?

Classroom setting between Korean uni and Finnish UAS are quite the same. There are black or white board, projector and projecting background. In Korean classroom there are built-in computers though, so professors do not have to carry laptops.

Classroom in Korean University

Contrary to my initial fear, professors speak clear English, and I understand perfectly. However, I have hard time communicating with Korean team mates. During our group meeting, they usually discuss in Korean, and then I ask one  to summarize in English for me. If one fails to come up with the English expression, we will use Papago – kinda like Google Translate created by and for Koreans.

The use of textbook is something different from Finnish education. Korean students use textbooks for both contact learning and preparing for exams; professors put contents from those books into their teaching slides. Korean students holding one or two textbooks around the campus is a common image. I feel like textbooks are bibles here. Yet, I do not feel the need to pay 30,000 Won (23 euro) to purchase a heavy textbook, so I download PDF instead.

Korean students engross in studying. There are studying rooms open 24/7 and, trust me, there are always students occupying those studying space 24/7. During the mid-term exam period, it is common to see all rooms are fully vacant even at 2AM. The pressure of getting good grade is  severe in this industrial country.

Not only do they “love” studying (it is a sarcasm),

The gang went out for some Korean BBQ and Soju

they LOVE drinking. When we head out of campus and walk around, we can see a myriad of diners offering good food and alcohols. My Korean pal teaches me how to mix soju and beer together, calling it somaek (“so” for soju, “maek” means beer). The golden ratio mixture is 3 soju : 7 beer; my Korean pal usually go with 1:2 for simplicity, or probably because he is so tipsy that he cannot deduce math anymore. Then the mixing part is considered an art itself. He places a pair of chopstick inside the cocktail, setting each chopstick a part, then slap both chopstick together to create turbulence and thus mix two type of drinks into one. If done properly, somaek turns fizzy and  rises up with bubbles, and the mixer is bestowed with the title “somaek master”.

 

We bust our arses in school by week days, then going on adventures by weekends. My gangs have gone to spots like Gwangmyeong cave, Han River, Gyongbokgung palace, De-militarized Zone (DMZ).  And then Avengers: End Game released, I went for the movie at 2AM. It was a lovely surprise to know in Korea cinema is opened throughout the night. Hey, whatever it takes, right?

Smaug n Gollum displayed inside GwangMyeong Cave
Whatever it takes

Work hard, Party hard is undoubtedly a fitting motto for Korean locals. My experience in an Korean university brings me more insights on students around the globe, their behaviors, and mindset. Despite language barrier, I have enjoyable time in Korea. My exchange study is definitely worthwhile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exchange to the Deep End of Cultures

Greetings and a humble wai. I study in one of the top universities in Thailand, Chulalongkorn University, and it looks like it, but sometimes just doesn’t feel like it. I study culture and literature in the arts department, which is all new to compared to my home studies which are more about film and television. Studies are homework heavy oriented and there are only three days of school in a week and this suits perfectly for my passion to travel. Usually I do my homework in those three days and head off for the long weekend.

There aren’t too many westerners in the arts faculty so to my luck most of my friends are local and with them I get too see the authentic Bangkok. I quickly got used to the millions of people always around and now I feel almost cozy passing through a mall after school at rush hour to get to my apartment. I have already spent a share of my time in Thailand in the past, so now my travels take me mostly abroad. Travelling is super cheap here and doesn’t bankrupt me even if I occasionally fly instead of taking a bus or a train. In Bangkok I try to live like most of the local students: eating at some shady, but great food stalls, going to a cheap weekday movie or sharing a beer tower in the local night market. There is a certain kind of party- apartment building in the other side of the campus where there is a party every night, but I try to avoid that place because there is a bit too “eat at the Burger King”-vibe for me.

Studying in Chula is very different from my home school in Finland: here it is all about lecturing and taking notes while in Finland we mostly learn through practical exercises. The general school atmosphere among students reminds me of my years in upper secondary school where most of the pupils weren’t interested in what they were teaching but more likely were forced to sit there. I haven’t seen this kind of attitude since, because in TAMK everyone has gone through the entrance examination process and to do that you must have interest in the field and not just because “you have to”. Although here people are still young (aged 17-18) when starting university and most of my local friends still seem to be on the fence what they really want to study and to do in life, as was I when I was that age.

Studying abroad is the best and the easiest opportunity that I have grabbed on during my studies and would highly recommend it. Thailand must be one of the best places to do your exchange studies: you get your worldview widely broaden only from the food culture. There are countless of adventures to explore only in Thailand or with the price of a Finnish train ticket go and explore Philippines for example. Make your time in exchange look like you!

日本はすてきですね!With kindest greetings, from Sapporo, Hokkaido

Just a month ago, I arrived at Japan for an internship exchange in Hokkaido University in Sapporo. Time flies so quickly when you’re having fun, and the last month was a wonderful time for me and probably the Golden time of my academic journey.

I came here as an intern student for Water Reclamation Laboratory in Department of Environmental Engineering. The aim of the researches in the lab was to improve performance of pre-existing treatment methods, or further develop it. At first, I thought my task was to conduct measurements, lab works and do errands in the lab. However, as soon as I spoke to the Head Professor of our lab, the situation was totally different from what I was expecting. Each student here has their own research project, and since I join as an intern student, I should choose a project that I am most interested in and work with it. Thus, the first week of my internship was basically just talking to everyone, getting familiar with the working environment, and getting ready. Therefore, my recommendation, if you decided to conduct an internship here, is to be clear of what you want to do before coming.

Besides the work here, everyone was super friendly and kind. I have really fun lab-mates who held a welcome party for me, which I didn’t have to pay anything. We also had a barbecue party to enjoy the cherry blossom, since in Hokkaido they bloom later than the rest of Japan. My lab-mates English skills are not so good since Japanese people overall do not excel in listening and speaking. However, they are always eager to learn and very patience when they try to communicate with me. A guy even told me he wanted to practice his English with me, and I was thrilled that I could also help them like they have helped me here.

My lab-mates enjoying Sapporo cuisine, soup curry
e3 welcome party

In Hokkaido University, there are many student clubs and organizations. One of them are e3, which are the students studying their master and doctoral in English Engineering Education program. This student organization held many events for members, including a welcome party and barbecue in a park. Even non-e3 students can join, if you contribute to the club by paying for the event you participated in. I joined both of the party and made friends with plenty of international students of Hokudai. It really helped me with my time here, since I don’t have many friends besides my lab-mates. It was great to be able to socialize with other international students and share with them your experience in Japan. I highly recommend that you join events like this one.

Last week was the Golden week in Japan, when they have a 10 days holiday to travel or rest. During that time, people often travel all over Japan for sightseeing, hobby, and to relax after months of hard work. However, the ticket price was very high during this period, so I decided not to go too far and just travel around Sapporo. I went to hot spring in a small town near Sapporo and visited some sight-seeing location there. This was also a good time to enjoy Japanese food, as I got the chance to try real authentic sushi!

Cherry blossom season
Seafood rice bowl, my favorite Japanese dish

Japan has always been the country on the top of my bucket list, and I finally made it. All the experiences, good or bad, will be something that I cherish. Japan is such a lovable country, that I look forward to returning here again, either for business or vacation. So, are you ready for it?

 

Hallo aus Wien!

Two months has now passed since I arrived to the beautiful capital city of Austria, Vienna. I’ve enjoyed my stay here and even though I still have two months left, I’m getting anxious when I’m thinking that I need to come back to Finland. There is so much to see, discover and do in this old historical city, the weather has (most of the time) been amazing, the people I’ve got to know are awesome and life in general is just really nice.

 Ice skating at Rathausplatz.

The studies are not the first thing to come up to my mind when thinking how I’ve been spending my time here. I’m only doing 22 credits in Vienna, and this means I need to go to school only once or twice a week. I study at FHWien der WKW and the school is mainly focused on management and communication. At TAMK I’m studying hospitality management, but here I’m having courses in international marketing, social media, eMarketing etc. All of my courses are only with other Erasmus students, so I haven’t had the chance to get to know local people. The lectures and study methods are quite the same as in Finland: the teacher lectures about a subject and we do group work and have presentations (which I don’t like.) A few times we’ve had quizzes of the subject that we studied in the last class, and the winner usually gets something sweet to eat as a price. Sometimes the classes are at a weird time, for example one course took place in the evening and ended after 10 PM. Another thing that differs from TAMK is that the schedule changes almost every week.

In my spare time I usually travel, because it’s really cheap and easy here. We’ve travelled to Hallstatt (picture with the church), Bratislava, Cracow, Prague and Budapest and I still have trips to Italy (Rome, Pisa, Florence and Venice), Salzburg, Graz, Munich and maybe some other country in Southern Europe. We also like to go and spend time in some of the cozy cafes in Vienna. When it’s warm we usually hang out in a park or around the Danube river.

     

I never got a culture shock, but there’s few things that I’m still not used to in Vienna and Austria. First of all the public transport works perfectly here. The public transport ticket for the whole semester was only 75 euros and the trains, subways, buses and trams are ALWAYS on time. Another thing that is quite annoying is that grocery stores closes at 8 PM and they are not open on Sundays.

Can’t wait to see what the next two months will look like!