Category Archives: Culture

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

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.

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. ❤️

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.

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!

A wee greeting from Glasgow

I actually didn’t know what to expect. I left to this trip without expectations, so I could enjoy it fully and I kinda succeed in that. I had almost a week free before starting the school and that time I used to walk and get known to the city. Glasgow is full of beautiful old buildings and it makes you wonder what kind of life they had before the modern times.

Anyway.

The reason I chose Scotland for my destination was kind straight forward. I wanted to go to a country where I can manage with my own English and is not “too far away” from Finland and there I had it. Country where I can live with english and study environmental engineering.

Lectures started, and it was little different what I would have thought. Students mostly sat and listened and then we headed home, and work needed to be done at your free time, but I got used to it kind quickly.

Days went by day after day and week after week.

Since accommodation was next to the school no public transport was needed. Just crossed the road and there you are but there was a major difference, yes, I mean traffic. It took 2 months to get used to the fact that first you have to check right and then left. Not vice versa.

Free time mostly went just walking around the city but time to time school event team organized day trips to further away with cheap prices. I got to see Edinburg, Stirling, Kelpies and lots of many other things that cannot be seen in Finland. The most breathtaking and mesmerizing event was enchanted forest and it is way beyond describing.

I don’t see much of a difference in studies between Scotland and Finland. Both have lectures and esseys and reports you work at home. One thing you had to do was to “check in” with your student cards which indicates that you are in class.

Time went flying and my exchange studies have almost come to an end and I say you if you got the opportunity to do studies abroad, JUST DO IT.

My time in Munich

I chose Germany as my exchange destination since I have studied the language for a couple of years and because I have been snowboarding over there at the alps.

My school was located about five kilometers away from where I lived. I traveled to school every time by bicycle. The school itself was nice and they had very good food but the prices were very expensive..

Since I only had school 3 days a week I had lots of spare time. Most of the spare time I spent with a close Belgian friend. We went to the gym together, watched movies and went to parties, it was awesome!

We also went to Oktoberfest a couple of time and had really good times!

Also spent one entire week in the Alps in Austria, the weather could not have been better!

 

 

DIFFERENCES COMPARED TO SCHOOLS IN FINLAND

In Munich the school was very punctual, all the lessons and lectures started exactly on time. School food was much more expensive and the only way of paying for stuff in school was by first uploading money (cash) to your student card.

 

 

Wonderful life in Prague

Living and studying in Prague has been great. I fell in love with the city at first sight. Even though it’s the capital of Czech Republic it feels relaxed and very easy to get to know. The buildings and nature are gorgeous and that alone makes it great to live in Prague. The city is full of culture, one of my favourite things here has been going to a jazz club to listen good music in cosy atmosphere. I’ve seen a lot of stand up (in English), almost every evening there is stand up at some club for only 4 euros. Prague is full of cheap restaurants with great vegetarian and vegan options, which was a nice surprise. One of the best things is that here are a lot of dogs without a leash. They put a smile on my face every time.

The studies here have been great. I study film in FAMU (Academy of Performing Arts in Prague) which is located right next to Vltava. From the classrooms I can see the Prague Castle. I have a lot of classes which remind me of my years in university. The teachers are very enthusiastic and they really know what they are talking about. We have discussions in class and we watch a lot of films. Studying here have been a very inspiring experience. Comparing the courses to TAMK, it’s more theoretical here. In TAMK we do a lot of projects. It is possible to join the other students’ projects here, too, but I’ve really enjoyed the university-styled studies.

All in all I feel really good living here and hopefully I can return here after the exchange, too.

Konnichiwa from Beppu the onsen city!

The view from our dormitory lounge.

My exchange studies began well in Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University. The city of Beppu and region itself have been delightful and the life is so different here. It has been quite a learning process to get hang of everything (and a money sink) but nonetheless, it has been a nice experience.

The pictoresque twin towers of APU

In TAMK, I’m a media student but here in APU I’ve been studying more common topics: Japanese language, history and multicultural studies. The university offers some media courses but they are more analytical than practical ones that we have in TAMK (well, APU has media lab courses but they are in Japanese). My media studies here have been about analysing media theories and its history. Basically we have been watching movies and reading texts and then analysed them by discussing or writing essays about them. It has been interesting change of study style. And even though I ended up studying more non-media courses, it is nice and interesting to acquire common knowledge about this part of the world – I also think that the knowledge is very valuable if I try to get into Japanese media market in the future!

The lunches are very nice and tasty in APU cafeteria.

The study style is very different in APU when compared with TAMK. APU is an academic university so the studies are more about listening to lectures and writing essays. It took some time to get used to it. The class schedule can also be quite daunting: earliest classes start around 9 a.m. and last ones end at 8 p.m.! The school days can be quite long, depending on what courses you pick (I’m still wondering how the actual degree students here cope with it because they have even more courses than I!). APU does not have separate lunch hour for students and therefore, we have to schedule our lunches or snack breaks by ourselves – which might be hard if you have multiple subsequent lectures on a day. It is not a surprise that multiple third-party food stalls dot the university yard, providing grab-and-go sustenance for the busy students.

Beppu offers multiple nice activities to do during my spare time. The region is especially famous for its big number of onsen (hot springs), e.g. “Hells of Beppu”, but there are of course many other tourist attractions like the monkey mountain, aquarium, shopping centers etc.

The monkey park in Beppu
Otherwordly hot spring at Hells of Beppu attraction.

The area is also very beautiful: it is nice to stroll around the city and check out the Japanese architecture and nature because it is so different in comparison with Finland. There are always interesting new side alleys, little shrines and nooks to explore. I’m not a big foodie person but it is still very delightful to try out the local restaurants because the price level is a lot cheaper here! Obviously, the food tastes crazy good too – even though I have to evade seaweed and raw fish almost all the time (not a big friend of those).

Lots of sweet and snack stalls were present at the Christmas fair of Beppu

See you!