Category Archives: Culture

Culture and Arts, Film and Television, Music, Music Pedagogy, Media Production

So Near but Still Far Away

Hello people reading this,

I arrived back home June last year, but let’s pretend it’s spring 2019 and I’m still living in Tallinn.

Tammsaare Park
Walking trough Tammsaare Park next to Viru Keskus.

I like the name of this blog as Estonia is the country eighty kilometers below Finland – so not so far away. That’s why I named my post So Near but Still Far Away. Tallinn is a South Helsinki for many people from Finland like Helsinki is North Tallinn to Estonians.

One time in this comedy club an Estonian woman, who works as a guide in Tallinn said

“Everybody asks me that what should you see while staying in Tallinn?

I tell them

… Helsinki.”

I’ll start to use that in reverse.

At MTÜ Õigus 6th Annual Ball

In my spear time outside of Uni and school work, I hang out with my friends, eat, travel, see movies and go to different music events or clubs. I have already seen many movies in the theaters in Tallinn and will see many more! The ticket prices here are so much cheaper compared to Finland. And this spring is coming so many good new movies out. The more sunnier and warmer it gets I’ll spend more time outside. I have visited once Budapest, Hungary and Riga, Latvia. Many times Finland – Tampere and Helsinki. To Riga I went with a bus which took approx four hours and the bus ticket was like five euros. From Tallinn you can take bus to multiple big cities like St. Petersburg and Vilnius. So if you come here for your exchange – try to visit even one European city among Tallinn.

Vegan cakes at Vegan Inspiratsioon.

I study in Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School at Tallinn University. I have six different courses from different study fields. Even couple from Master’s Studies. I have classes only two to four days a week, one or two classes a day. Well we have a lot of essays, readings and other tasks beside lectures and classes.

“Tallinn University is the largest university of humanities in Tallinn and the third biggest public university in Estonia. We have more than 7,500 students (with 9.5% of them international), and over 800 employees, including nearly 400 researchers and lecturers.”

Souvenier from me to me. This is one of the three tattoos I got while living in Tallinn.
Walking next to water line, Pirita tee.

I hope everybody has a great time during their exchange!

Parimate tervitustega,

Milla

Internship in Fuengirola

I have been doing my internship in Fuengirola, Spain for almost 5 months now. Fuengirola is a small tourist town not far away from Malaga (about 35km). It is located on the south coast and belongs to the region of Andalucia. It’s a very popular tourist attraction especially among Finnish and British people.

My workplace is a Finnish company named Barona, so most of my time I spend surrounded by Finnish people. The local working culture seems extremely relaxed. Most of the cafeterias are open from 10am to 1pm after which they have ‘Siesta’ for about 2-3 hours and then they open up again around 4-5pm.

I spend most of my free time with my co-workers or at the gym. I have made some great friends here with whom I have been visiting some of the most beautiful places in Spain.  There are still many places that I haven’t visited and would like to see, but fortunately I have another 5 months in Madrid starting January, so I will have time for that later.

 

Ronda
Sierra Nevada
Alhambra Castle, Granada
Mijas Pueblo

 

Sincerely,

Donat Viktorov

 

All the pictures above are owned by me.

Life as an Art Student in South Korea

 

I wanted to do my exchange studies in Seoul, South Korea because I wanted to experience East Asian culture. I have travelled quite a lot around the world, but I have never been to East Asia before. Now my studies here is almost done and after all, this has been a very exciting trip. Culture is very unique in Korea which has made this trip very interesting. South Korea has also given me a new interesting perspective to understand the world.

I chose Sungkyunkwan University because it was the best university in East Asia for my studies. I got enrolled in all the courses I wanted.  My major has been here Design and I have studied only art courses. I have liked all courses a lot and my professors have been very good. I have got many new ideas and learnt many new skills to do my artwork. I have studied 5 courses which are quite a lot for an exchange student in South Korea. It has meant that I have not had so much free time here.

 

 

The most challenging thing for me here has been living in a 25,5 million people metropole. There are people everywhere and it has been hard to find empty places and own peace. Many places are also very tiny in Seoul and it can feel uncomfortable first. I didn’t want to take a room from the University’s dormitory because there you have to share a room. So,  I have been living in a very tiny goshiwon room, which has been a unique experience too.

I recommend Sungkyunkwan University for all art students. Teaching is international and high quality. You can get here new inspiration and learn new technical skills you have not learnt in TAMK.

 

What’s the craic? Greetings from Ireland!

I fell in love with Ireland. Irish people are heartfelt and funny, nature is gorgeous and there is live music everywhere, everyday. I studied at Cork Institute of Technology in Bishopstown. My course of study was Creative Digital Media (BA Honours). I think I was the first media student from TAMK in Ireland so far? Therefore, there was a great deal of misunderstandings though. To prevent anyone else to go through this: TAMK don’t have a contract with CIT in Creative Digital Media, only with the Fine Art students. After all the trouble I had to go through, I got a permit of exception from CIT to study one semester in Creative Digital Media and I’m truly grateful for that.

CIT campus building

It was very heart-warming how well the Student Society kept an eye for students’ well-being and how much there were organized trips and events by the International Student Society as well. In addition, we had a chat with our course lecturers from time to time as they wanted to know how we are keeping up.

In Ireland after school clubs were a big thing. There were a whole lot of sport clubs and society clubs to choose from. One of my best decisions during my exchange was to join the CIT Canoe Club. That was basically how I truly got to know Irish culture as the whole club was full of Irish students. I had the chance to make Irish friends and have long chats with them about life in Ireland. There were meetings outside the canoeing as well. Their team spirit was incredible and I felt very welcome. There was always help offered in everything before I even asked for it. I got to see more of the beauty of Irish nature as well. One of our trips became one of the most incredible experiences in my life. We drove to a bioluminescent lake of Cork on a dark night. We kayaked around the lake under the wide and starry sky. I even got to see Saturn and Mars in the sky. If you touched the water, it started sparkling! I felt like I was in a fairytale.

The first Canoe Club meeting

My free time in Ireland included kayaking, jogging with my roommate and seeing my other friends. One of the best things were road trips around Cork County and Galway. I really enjoyed that all of my friends lived so near, so we could walk to the campus together and have dinners at our student apartments. As I had French roommates, the best ones I could have wished for, sometimes I felt like I got to know French culture even better than Irish. I got very familiar with Frech foods and ways of life. We had a custom to prepare both French and Finnish dinners together and talk about our cultures. I taught them some Finnish and I learned some French as well (my roommate still remembers “rock, paper, scissors” in Finnish).

At the Galway road trip
Sheep in Galway

But back to Ireland – I really liked Bishopstown. Its size was perfect. You could find anything you needed and there were always people around but it still had the feeling of a small, heartfelt town. We participated in the events of international student society, went to the movies quite often, including Cork Film Festivals and of course visited quite many pubs. We had one favorite place, called Franciscan Well, as they had delicious brick oven pizza.

Speaking of food, fish and chips dish was as good and common as it is in England. Even though the traditional food of Ireland is meat stew, different sea food came a cross more. Not a surprise though, as Ireland is an island. What comes for Irish drinks, I really liked fresh Guinness and Beamish as they are very soft and tasty. However, Irish Coffee and Orchards Thieves cider became my personal favorites. If you are having a night out, a strong recommendation for Baby Guinness as well! 

From Bishopstown city centre

My courses in Ireland were Applied Animation, AV Technology, Creativity Innovation & Teamwork and Web Design Basics. Compared to my course of study in Finland I had less lectures to attend but much more assignments and tests to do. I really liked that we had two exam periods, the first one in October, so everything didn’t build up for December. One thing I was really shocked about as a Media student was the poor equipment. In Finland we have a large storage of different cameras, lenses, lights, recording equipment and basically almost anything you could think of needing. In Ireland we had a couple different Canons, one or two stands and not a single light or even a reflector. In addition, the “equipment storage” wasn’t open every day during the week and there were certain days for rental and for returnings. This made scheduling quite challenging with other students and modules. When we had to do the music video with two Canons and zero budget, I started to appreciate our circumstances in Finland in a new way.

Applied Animation exercise

I was told in advance that in Ireland there can be very thick accents. I was a bit worried at first how I could manage, with school especially. It was comical how shocked I got in the very beginning of my way to Ireland, as I sat in the airplane and the first announcement came. I couldn’t understand a word. So many thoughts rushed in my head how hard this would become, until the announcement came in English. The first one had been in Irish. 

So, I didn’t have a hard time with the accents after all. Cork accent is very nice to mind, actually. All my lecturers spoke loud and clear. I had only two times when I couldn’t understand what someone was saying and both of them were older people, one was a janitor and one was a bus driver with a very thick Cork accent.

Being in exchange offered lifelong memories and friends. My self-esteem grew as well as my interest towards other countries and cultures. I learned a bunch of new things and I got better with speaking English, significantly. After being exchange, some kind of longing for living abroad again arose. I can’t wait to go back to Ireland again.

Slán leat!

 

Music on the beach

Funny that am in Mombasa making music! the irony of it all is that there is a Finnish song called Mombasa that actually doesn’t visually portray the vibrancy and love culture of this city.

  

Can show you  around my city? Yes, of course,  now you know that this city has grown me. Just some bit of History maybe? well Mombasa is a coastal city of Kenya along the Indian Ocean, actually the countries oldest and second largest city after Nairobi

 

its spiced up with a mixture of cultures tracing back from Arabic origin, tourists from Europe especially Italy, among other countries, locals, Indians, Americans actually everyone is represented here.

Music here has a lot of Arabic influence, coastal taarab and a lot of nice mellow rhythms, this is where I developed my own music genre, this is where it all started. I came home to work with other experts on what I started, I am currently working in studio with Shirko Media an amazing music label, the producer and owner is a multi talented young man.

       

During my spare time, am either on the beach, out hiking or just sleeping since I don’t get to sleep well as I work a lot at night.  Working with women and filming documentaries about women issues.

 

Comparing our way of studying to Finland, we are actually more into theory, understanding something completely then practicing after, My university is Finland is more of Hands on, with all these together, its a Win for me.

 

Talking about culture, Mombasa people and loving , caring and gentle.

Welcome to Mombasa.

Thank you  

A City in the Countryside – Oita, Japan

When we landed in Oita Airport, I was too tired to even keep my eyes open, but I was still so fascinated by all the blossoming cherry trees and beautiful mountains. Everything was new and beautiful. I am glad that even after living there for a semester I still see the same beauty in the surrounding nature and cozy houses by the rice fields.

We settled down in a dormitory building near our campus, where other international students greeted us, showed the place and gave us free bikes to use for the whole semester! They helped us get started and we biked to some stores together, where we needed help with the language. I did not know any Japanese going there and studied mostly the language all semester.

During the studies we learned Japanese at an insane speed and went through the whole Genki 1 book. In addition to language studies, in one course we got insight on the problems and beauty of the culture, society and history of Japan. Maybe the most interesting part was to gain awareness of the reasons why Japan is the way it is, what causes the inequality and working culture problems. Oita University however was not interculturally very prepared and did not have clubs or weekly activities for English speaking people, which was a disappointment.

We made multiple road trips to Kunisaki, which a 1-hour travel from Oita. Kunisaki has very interesting spiritual and religious history as well as beautiful nature. In Kunisaki we joined a rice festival, connected with the locals, tried zazen meditation in a temple and heard a piece of history from the resident minister of the temple. We also saw multiple beautiful shrines and next to temples you could sometimes find “ojizosan”, little buddha statues.

 

After we were done with school, I travelled throughout Japan with my friend. First, we flew to Tokyo and started slowly traveling downwards from there by train, sleeping in Airbnb or hotels on the way. From Tokyo we went to Nagoya, where we visited some local tourist attractions and I finally bought a phone with a proper camera. From Nagoya we headed to Kyoto, which was stunning with its nature and old architecture. Kyoto was one of my favorite places I visited while in Japan. Next stop was Osaka, which was right next door and after staying there a few nights we went to Hiroshima for a little bit longer time. Hiroshima was another of my favorites, maybe because of how good accommodation we got! Then it was time to go back to Oita and pack our bags to head to Finland.

Overall the exchange was great. There were many happy moments and many disappointing moments, but it is all part of the experience. I have much better understanding of Japanese culture and people, and I have more perspective to life in general through this intercultural experience.

Greetings from Dogmandu

 

My 2,5 month internship period in Kathmandu is halfway through. So I guess it’s time to put my digital postcard out there.

I am working in a documentary production company. Our main focus is to make short promotional documentaries for different kind of social businesses around Nepal. I’ve enjoyed working here, because I’ve had a chance to do many different things. For the most part, I’m doing cinematography tho.

On my free time I usually go wander around places. Skateboarding around streets is pretty fun, because there isn’t that many skateboarders here and I bet they don’t see white scandinavian boi skating in the traffic too often. If there’s no filming trip scheduled for weekend, I have time to go visit other places. I’ve spent two weekends in the tourist area Thamel. Next weekend I am gonna go for a quick one day hike with my co-workers.

Working in this company has been quite different than what I’ve used to. It’s quite a new company, and the people in it are self-educated. We have a very fast and efficient way of working, but that also has a downside; we don’t plan things too much. We just go and do, and try to learn from mistakes. For me it’s sometimes frustrating, because some of the things could’ve been so much easier if they were planned better, but at the same time I’ve enjoyed this way of working. Not worrying too much, just going for it.

It’s been great times here and at this point I’m pretty well settled here, so I’m just gonna enjoy the rest of the time and try to learn and challenge myself as much as possible.

 

After my internship period I’m gonna go for a little Annapurna basecamp hike and after that spend another month somewhere else before heading back to Finland. I’m excited about rest of the internship and my near-future travels!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melting in the heat of Kyushu

I am writing from the faraway land of Japan, more specifically from the southern main island of Kyushu. The summer here has been brutal for a northern boi like me, but somehow I have survived thus far. The nature, culture and food over here is pretty much reasons alone for anyone to travel to this place. I have been able to go on field trips to remote areas deep in the mountains of Kunisaki peninsula, where one could find an old samurai castle town of Kitsuki, which still has many old buildings, original or rebuilt. Going there was instantly a trip back in time, much like any old temple one might bump into when exploring the countryside. I have found so many Shinto shrines by just jumping on the bicycle and going somewhere. Many of then are luckily marked on Google maps, but I have been doing more of the rogue exploration with nothing to guide me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The studying here is a lot more intensive than back home, and the campus library is full of people studying till the closing time and even on weekends. People seem to take their studies a lot more seriously, but also they are given a lot of homework, which I’m not used to at all. Of course we international students have different courses for the most part and the teachers are pretty chill, so I don’t think we are doing nearly as much work as the Japanese students are. Also, here a course only has a single 1,5h lesson a week, so in my case I have 8 courses and 8 classes every week.

As a film and TV student I pretty much had nothing here that would strictly connect to my studies, but I don’t regret coming here for a second as the cultural experience has totally been worth the effort. As I said before, international students have a pool of courses to choose from, and I think most of them are catered towards people who study economics, with minor overlap with other majors. Still I would recommend Oita for anyone who wants to experience Japan, especially if you are into the countryside and exploring remote places like I am. Any city dwelling folk could maybe benefit more from going up north into a bigger university.

We got to participate in a local rice planting festival, where people would assemble in a row to fill a section of the field with rice, then everyone would step back and fill another row. This way a rather large field was filled pretty quickly and the end result looked something like this. Pretty cool huh.

In between a mountain valley was a ton of rice fields and these lonely houses, humbly sitting beneath the towering mountains all around.

I would say this university is best for people who want to learn Japanese or perfect the skills they already have. There are other courses that one could find interesting, like popular culture (manga, anime etc.) and history. If you want to advance your studies or career plan maybe this place is not the best place for you, but for me it was just fine as a cultural experience and a cool new view into a bigger world than Small Town Finland where I’ve spent most of my life.

Dobrý den!

The FAMU main building by the Vltava river. Image from FAMU website.
When lazyness kicks in or I just want to avoid the tourist-filled narrow cobblestone streets on my 20-minute walking route to FAMU I’ll take a metro to Národní třída.

My studies in Prague in FAMU have kept me quite busy. They have consisted mostly of either more academic and analytical courses on film theory and history, or intense shooting periods doing various student films. Many of the more academic courses have focused on the New Wave of Czechoslovak cinema in the 1960-1970, taking also into account the turbulent political situation of the times.

I feel that diving into this period in Central Europe through these films has really helped me understand and grasp what it means, and what it has meant, to be European. Prague is literally in the heart of Europe, while even in these days Finland can feel almost like an island. To anyone doubting this I suggest first traveling without flying from Finland to anywhere in Central Europe and then from Prague, for example, to any of the neighboring countries. The world seems a bit smaller here.

The shooting periods, on the other hand have been a great way to meet people, local and foreign, and also to see places that a regular tourist or maybe even a exchange student wouldn’t necessarily end up seeing. I’ve had the chance to shoot projects with very different kinds of people, from legendary underground rock heroes of the 60’s to modern day Czech drag queens and everything in between. I’ve also had the chance to shoot the projects in all kinds of places imaginable, from the centre of Prague to remote nudist beaches and weird underground clubs, from elementary schools to traditional pubs in the tiniest of villages. Below is one of my favorite shooting locations from this semester, a remote cabin a few hours south from Prague. Finnish people might guess why I found this scenery soothing. (Lakes in the Czech Republic are not that easy to find.)

Prague itself is beautiful but quite crowded and touristic. I live in the heart of Old Town, Prague 1, in an old building that has a nice vintage feeling to it. Though I appreciate the views, I tend to spend my free time somewhere a bit further away from the hectic Prague 1. Free time, though, for a film student can be a quite ambiguous concept.

A view from the window of a film student. At the intersection of the busy Dlouhá and Rybná, where one’s faith in humanity is truly tested by the nightly orchestras of drunken tourists.

Of all the choices I’ve made in life so far, coming to FAMU for my exchange was definitely one of the good ones. Working with, and more importantly befriending people from all over the world has made me richer, and I think that is what I’ll take with me from here when in few weeks I pack my backbag and hop on the train.

My exchange experience in Seoul, South Korea

Greetings from Seoul, South Korea!

I have spent over 5 months now in South Korea and the final week at school has started. I wish I could stay another semester because I have been enjoying living in here. I have had an amazing experience that I wouldn’t change for anything.

I studied Film, TV and Media at the Sungkyunkwan University. I knew how hardly people study in Korea so I was surprised to see how similar studying was compared to Finland. I was expecting to see a lot of stressed, hardworking students but instead people went out a lot after their studies. Earliest classes started at 9 AM and the latest class ended at 5.45 PM. There were mornings when I could just sleep as long as I want and go to class at 3PM which is very opposite to my own university, where most of our classes start in the morning. We had a lot of home works to do outside the classes so between traveling and sitting in classes you had always something to do. I have noticed that the pace in teaching is a lot faster than back at home and sometimes it was hard to keep up with everything teacher was teaching. Also, 3/4 of my classes the teacher talked in Korean, even if 35% of students would be exchange students.

I lived 5 minute away from my Campus in a local house. It is usually very unlikely to get a studio as an exchange student but I got very lucky. I really liked the neighborhood. In Seoul the neighborhood around schools are cheaper than anywhere else in the city, since mostly students live in the school area. There were a lot of places to eat and I didn’t have to pay more than 5€ from my lunches or dinners.

During my free time I spent time traveling around the country. I travelled a lot of cities in South Korea like Jeju island, Busan, Ulsan and Gangneung. Since I have visited South Korea few times before I didn’t experience any cultural shocks and I had the benefit of knowing the language which made it easier to live in here.

When I wasn’t traveling I usually just spent time with my boyfriend by exploring the Seoul itself. We visited a lot of exhibitions, mountains and tourist attractions, and tasted a lot of different kind of foods and drinks. 

I haven’t regretted going to South Korea. This experience gave me a lot of inspirations and it widened my view of how much opportunities there is when you leave your comfort zone. The best thing during the exchange was getting to know this culture I have liked for many years by actually experiencing the local life. I made a lot of amazing friends around the world and we made a lifelong friendship through this exchange. Korea is amazing country with a big history and culture, and I can’t wait to come back.