Monthly Archives: May 2019

Tallinn is a city with an allure of its own

I saw the title written in some tourist guide book, and I have to say that I agree. In Tallinn like in the rest of the Estonia, the past centuries are layered in architecture and culture. Kristian said in his blog text that he liked to visit the old town in his spare time, and so do I. The old town of Tallinn is a beautiful example of a medieval city with lot to discover. Every time I visit, there is something new to find. There are more interesting museums, lovely cafeteria and good restaurants than there is time to visit.

On the other hand, Estonia is also land of controversies. The country’s past decades can be seen in the architecture outside the old town. There are side by side very old buildings, soviet era apartment blocks and modern buildings. I would say an incomplete is more interesting than perfect.

I study business in adult education and I am doing my international internship in Tallinn, Estonia, where I work in a bank. If I would have to compare Finnish and Estonian work culture, I would say the both cultures are very similar. The moral and work ethics are based on the same principles. We both are taking the work seriously, but Estonians from my perspective seem to be more considerate towards others. Here, colleagues are very helpful towards each other. They remember everyone’s birthday and like to commemorate them with flowers, and the one who is celebrating brings sweets for everyone. Estonians by the way love flowers. You can see them everywhere and there is always someone carrying flowers in the city center.

This week has been very active, because I got visitors from Finland. We went to see the Katariina I ballet by Toomas Eduri in the Rahvusoopper Estonia, which was elegant experience. Another day we visited the Kadriorg park, where trees, bushes and flowers were blossoming. One of my favorite things here is going to the great outdoors, which is easy and fast even with public transportation system. Especially now during the spring, the nature is very beautiful. After the Kadriorg visit, we went to the Nomme Adventure Park that is located in a beautiful green oasis in Tallinn. They tell on their brochure that adventure trails are suitable for everyone, but I think it is not true. From my own experience, I can say that they need new trails for chickens.

Tomorrow we are going to have dinner in the Old town into a restaurant called Leib resto. Their philosophy is to make Estonian food out of local ingredients and everything they have on their list is locally produced. I really look forward to visit there, because I have eaten local food only in our workplace’s canteen.

All memories have been written to my mind forever.

 

Greetings from Akureyri!

I have been studied here this spring and I am totally in love with this place. Akureyri is so called  “capital of north”. Even thought it is a very small town, approximately 18000 habitants, they have their own university.

I am a Hospitality Management student, but I wanted to go to Akureyri even thought they don’t have any courses for my studies. I took some business courses which I found very interesting. I also took courses that are made for exchange students for example Icelandic language and Icelandic Nature.

In Tamk I used to do almost everything in groups, but because now I studied in the university, teaching was totally different. Courses consist mostly lectures and there were only a few group works.

I spend my spare time mostly with my flatmates and other exchange students. Because Akureyri is so small, basically all the foreigners know each others. I have met so many amazing people here and it is gonna be hard to say goodbye. With other exchange students we have done some roadtrips together around Iceland and I have seen many beautiful places.

Before I went to Iceland, I thought that people are similar with Finnish people. Culture is quite similar, but there are also differencies. Finnish people are way more punctual than Icelandic. One of my teacher gave a very logical explanation for that; the weather. The weather can variete during the day a lot and that is why Icelandic people are not good at planning in advance, because it depends so much of the weather can you go somewhere or not.

-Maria

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!