Category Archives: Culture

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

日本から From Japan

Here in the city of Kofu my daily life is full of studying at iCLA, Yamanashi Gakuin University of Liberal Arts. I spend my days watching films and discussing about them and their impact to Japan’s culture, or studying acting guided by a professional actor from States. I also read many novels and poems for the literature class where we talk about them and how they give a shape to their writer’s thoughts and how they reflect society. Of course, I also study nihongo, which means Japanese in Japanese language.

Most of my time goes for doing my homework and reading for exams, but when I have time I try to visit new places, or I hang out with my international friends. We love to go to eat sushi, or to go to drink coffee in different coffee shops. iCLA is half an hour away from Kofu’s city center, but you can get there really fast by local train. We like to go there sometimes to sing in a karaoke and spend time. You can also get to Tokyo by a bus and it takes only two hours to get there. I have visited Tokyo two times and it is very popular place to go among students. Tokyo is huge compared to any city in Finland, there is so much to see and so many people walking on streets, so much life! I have visited many old temples and admired Japanese architecture here in Kofu, and I went to see Mount Fuji up close, Kofu is located so near to Fuji that it only took me one hour to get there by a local bus.

Differences between studying in Japan and in Finland is that you really must study in Japan. There are so many school assignments to do! You really must do your homework and read for those exams, so it is common that you are still working for school during late hours. Or that you don’t get to sleep much during nights.

Film studies are different, we mostly watch films and talk about their plots and how they have been affecting society, and why such films are made. Back in TAMK we study film making, which is totally different. We don’t really talk about meanings of those films (or maybe they do in script writing studies, I don’t know because my major is light & camera and sound design ), but we go to and make them from script to screen.

 

The Uruguayan Bubble

South America, Uruguay, Montevideo. Very little country which seem to have it own “bubble”, so unlike it’s often said – also by the humble Uruguayans – the country is nothing like Brazil or Argentina. My university here is private: Universidad ORT Uruguay. There is just one public university and the rest are private. That changes things for sure. The other students are either spoiled or those ones who are working along side of their studies really hard! The studing is kind of relaxed, but when it comes to middle of the semester exams and the finals, they are really strict and the minimum points to pass the exam are suprisingly high. For my career, Audiovisual – Cinema & Television, there aren’t practically an exams, just creative work or essays to do. Of course this depends how academic courses one wants to take. Still, studying in a private university makes automatically a gap between the social class distinctions, which I mean that many people starts to threat you very differently (and not in the good way) when they heard where I study.  So in very early phase I learned always to add up that the exchange is free for me.

Like mentioned, the social-economical classes varies a lot here and has huge differences, not the biggest ones in SA, but still huge compared to European countries. This makes kind of problem of where to fit, of course it’s allways a problem in a new culture and country, but here it kind of means that you have to “take sides”. It’s horrible, but for example I accomplished to be disrespectful between the classes, trying to fit them but ending up being two-faced. Not my purpose, but to be fair and understanding, it’s very difficult, but in the end I succesfully was accepted in many different kind of social groups, which was very satisfying for me and supposly for them also.

The spare time is mostly hanging, relaxing on a siesta time. Uruguayans don’t worry too much, they aren’t very ambisious unlike Argentinians could be. The being, just hanging around could sound boring or waste of time, but unwise they get most from the moment, they are very life like people who doesn’t do or stress nothing that they doesn’t have to.

 

In life and with studies Finland is much more counciouss about goals in life and the studies. That makes automatically a pressure that one needs to become something. In Uruguay it’s kind of confussing, their way of teaching isn’t very professional or coherent, but instead of becoming they subjectively just decide to be what they want to be. That doesn’t lead in very great actions or accomplishments generally, but one’s life doesn’t have to be anything huge or especial, it matters what you are for yourself. So if someones wants to come really study hard and a learn a lot of new things in that sense, Uruguay can be frustrating, but if one wants to come more far from that occidental accomplishing and making an own signifigance meaning by success or others opinions, this is a right place. This country is a small bubble where the people are the heroes of their own lives. Along all the relaxing atmosphere I still have to remind that this is South America, which means need to be caucious and sometimes things are restless, not violent or corrupted, but restless. It doesn’t take a lot of time to figure out where you can go, at what time, who to trust etc. Still one should be open minded here, because the most typical Uruguayan characteristics and people I met in the streets. Good hearted, eccentric, but not maybe the most trustable with an indegious Uruguayan accent which I still don’t understand practically nothing..

Sziasztok! Greetings from Budapest!

Budapest is a very beautiful city, and you can see interesting historical buildings everywhere. The river Danube splits the city in half. The other side, called Buda, is full of hills while the other, Pest, is totally flat. My apartment is situated on the Pest side, which is also the busier side of the city, full of bars, shops and restaurants. Most of the Erasmus people live on this side, as it’s a little cheaper and more active than the Buda side.
I study at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design (MOME). The actual university building is being renovated during my stay, so basically the whole school has been temporarily moved to another building, which is located on the Buda side, close to the Danube.My studies have been very independent. Most of the courses have no actual classes, but we are expected to work on our own. Once a week we have a meeting where everyone shows their progress, and the teacher gives some advice and feedback.Compared to my studies in TAMK, this level of independence is quite different, and it requires a lot of responsibility to be productive. I have managed to do it though, and I like the fact that in many of the assignments the teachers actually encourage us students to explore the city in our works as well. Another difference is that in MOME the official language is Hungarian, as opposed to English which is used in my department (Media & Arts) in TAMK. It meant us exchange students are mostly on different courses than the locals, but luckily there are some exceptions as well.One thing I really like about MOME is that they have a huge selection of theoretical courses, which are really interesting.On my spare time I have really taken advantage of the fact that eating out is pretty cheap here compared to Finland. Even on a student budget it is possible to try out some exotic dishes from Lebanese to Japanese, not to forget the local foods which are delicious as well.

Another thing I have really enjoyed are the thermal baths. They are located mostly on the Buda-side. Most of them have been built during the time when Hungary was ruled by the Ottoman Empire (1541-1699), so they are very old and not much has been changed. I really like the sense of history in them, and of course the baths as well. Some of them even feature a Finnish sauna!Other than that I have done some traveling, and been to all the famous sights and museums. For anyone visiting Budapest I recommend hiring a bike to move around more quickly, as the distances can get quite long here.

 

¡Viva México!

Nevado de Toluca

Mexico has been something I could never have imagined. Amazing landscapes, cities, beaches and people, without forgetting arguably one of the most delicious cuisines in the world. I have stayed in the city of Toluca for 5 months now, and my cinema studies here in Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México are already done. At first I had some difficulties getting used to the language, since all the classes were in spanish and I didn’t speak it almost at all beforehand. Though after a month or two it got a lot easier and I started to understand the language and the classes more and more.

The school system here is quite different, it’s based on exams and grades in a much larger scale than the cinema side in Finland. But the quality of the teaching is pretty much on the same level, and I learned a lot alongside the spanish language.

This journey hasn’t gone without problems, there’s been a couple damaging earthquakes, I’ve been robbed twice and other such things, but I’m still alive and well, and luckily my insurance has covered the lost items. For people seeking comfort and security Mexico might not be the first choice, but if you’re willing to accept the possible setbacks and use common sense, you will survive and enjoy this country to the fullest.

Sayulita, Jalisco

I’m very delighted that I got the chance to travel and see the country, because there are a bunch of truly beautiful places to visit. The west coast has some incredible beaches, and for a city trip Mexico City is amazing and only about 50 kilometers away from Toluca, so you can easily go on a weekend trip there anytime. Toluca itself is quite a big city, but there’s not a lot going on so travelling is a great choice to spend your free time.

For me this has been an unforgettable experience and Mexico and its people will stay in my heart, as cheesy as it sounds. Now, off to the beach for the holidays so I can prepare myself to survive the winter of Finland once again.

Ahoj

Merry Christmas from the beautiful city of Prague

Christmas holiday is about to begin, which means it is the end of the autumn semester at FAMU film university, where I’m doing my exchange study.

so far my exchange here has been okay, the school is a bit disappointing but the city is wonderful so I guess that compensates. I live in a nice area in Prague called Zizkov, which is Praha 3. it’s really walking distance to anywhere you wanna go, very central and about 10-20 minutes walk to Praha 1 (center).

if you got a chance, please come and visit Prague.

 

Among new vibes

Alarm rings at seven o’clock. Even though I have got used to it, for me it’s still (and maybe will always be?) hard to leave warm, cosy bed every morning. After basic morning routines I put my sneakers on and get outside: it’s time for morning running!

In Finland I am studying musical theatre and here I am focusing more on theatre and that makes the biggest difference in my studies if I compare them. My studies here in Estonia consist of different types of practical theatre lectures, such as body awareness, stage movement, acting, singing… And I also study Estonian language, which is quite useful here. At first it definitely wasn’t the easiest way to study, (to be the only one in a group of seventeen people who is not speaking Estonian and lectures are held mostly in that language) but definitely the best way to learn a language! The similarity between Finnish and Estonian language has of course helped me a lot also.

Viljandi, where I live, is adorable, peaceful, little town in easter Estonia. Everything is so near that you can mostly walk everywhere and even me who I am always biking from place to another have survived easily here without a bike. Here you do not have big shopping centers or vivid nightlife – but what you have is that so called ”Viljandi-vibe” which I love. Cosy cafeterias, nature everywhere – parks and forest in the centre, empty streets in the night, same dog walker passing by every morning… and many kind of cultural events which are keeping this town alive. I can say I haven’t been drinking this much green tea, seeing this much concerts or walking so many lazy walks in a parks just for fun – for a very long time.

Sure I have been exploring other Estonian also – but there is so much still to see! I have visited in Tartu and Tallinn several times and to those two months I still have left my plan is to include at least trip to Riga and some places in Estonia as well.

Christmas market at Tallinn Town Hall Square

Here the weather is quite the same than in Finland. They sell Fazerin sininen and rye bread in the stores. We have many similar words, same kind of ways to behave. I love the architecture that they have still so many old buildings left and cobbled streets.. But for me culture and behaving seems to be quite similar anyway. But here I live in student dormitory which is not usual in Finland – and this has been maybe the longest time in my life when I haven’t been in sauna. (Well, if I really would like to I could find it here somewhere as well.) As they say – everything has it’s time and place. And for now, this is definitely the right one.

Graz, a city in a valley

Hello!

I’m an exchange student at University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, Austria. I study singing as my main subject and I’m here for 6 months, the summer semester 2017. I love my school and the city. It must not come as  a surprise, but this country is a dream for a student of classical music! I was so lucky that I got to take my boyfriend and our 2-year-old son with me, so the 3 of us are experiencing this all together.

I have been planning to travel more on my spare time, but life has been quite busy with school.  The only places I went to were Salzburg and Vienna. It’s very handy with Flixbus! Though always when we have a little chance to do something, we have been getting to know the city more. Especially after getting to know some local friends, we have found amazingly beautiful places, mostly on tops of some mountains. Well, like the topic describes, Graz is surrounded my mountains. There is also one in the middle of the city called “Schlossberg” with an amazing view of course, and places to have a beer… And because of the mountains the city itself gets very hot at the beginning of June and lasts for long! No air-conditioning trough the mountains 😀

Between TAMK and here.. we can see that in Graz the school can afford more different kinds of courses. Of course it’s a fact that people around the whole world want to study classical music in Austria, it’s very popular. Singers get 2,5 singing lessons per week, they learn French and Italian for all 4 years. They have individual lessons with correpetitors twice a week and on the side of a big opera project each year they offer high quality opera-class projects. They even have individual weekly classes with professional opera directors. The level is so high that I can only listen to my colleagues and learn how they do it all!

I’m so happy to have had this experience. And Graz is so magical !!! <3

Yours,

Piia

Lenge siden sist!

It’s been a little while since I came back to Finland, but I still long to be back in Oslo. When I took the bus towards the airport at the end of summer 2016, I had absolutely no idea what kind of an adventure I would have in Norway.

World famous statues and views from Vigelandsparken in Oslo, Norway

I arrived in Oslo about a week before the start of my studies. I did this because I wanted to spend the week just indulging in the more touristy things, aka visiting land marks and shopping. Walking around the city was a good way to get a little more familiar with the surrounding area and the place that I would be spending the following year in. At first the city seemed huge but as I got to know it a little more, I was surprised how cozy it felt after a while. Pretty much everything was within a walking distance, which was a huge perk.

Once my 3D-graphics -studies started at Westerdals School of Arts, Communication and Technology, I was bombarded by deadlines and tasks that were challenging to say the least. One course I was interested in was unfortunately entirely in Norwegian. I told my teacher I had no issue having to translate things on my own, if I could just enroll myself. He not only enrolled me, but he actually managed to switch the course language for me, including the lectures and all study material. This just shows how hospitable Norwegians can be! Out of +40 students, the language of an entire 4 month course was changed because of one foreigner. Talk about being lucky!

I also befriended people in my class and I was able to relax and wind down with them after each school day and during weekends.  We enjoyed just hanging out by watching movies and playing games, but we also took walks on top of Grefsenkollen, which is a hill (almost a mountain) overseeing Oslo. I recommend anyone who goes to Oslo to check it out, the pictures do not do it justice!

You can see the entire dowtown of Oslo from Grefsenkollen. Climbing to the top is a great way to spend a chill sunday

I spent the first half a year living right in the city center. The school was just a few minutes of walking away and I could get pretty much anywhere in the matter of 15 minutes. This was nice, but unfortunately the noise was quite bad at times, especially during weekends. This is to be expected of course, living in the center of a capital city and all. I was, however, relieved to move to a new apartment in Ullevål at the start of 2017. I had to take a tram to get to school each day, but the environment was a lot more quiet, which was huge for me.

Tramstop near my apartment on January 2017

After a few months of staying in Oslo, I was comfortable calling it my home. The language barrier was hardly ever an issue and most people were extremely helpful and friendly towards me. The year I spent abroad was definitely one of the best years of my entire life!

Tiny cottage by Akerselva, the river that runs all the way across Oslo

 

 

Greetings from Sofia

Hello! I live in the capital of Bulgaria – Sofia. My stepmother is Bulgarian and she has been getting me acknowledged with Bulgarian culture and traditions, so to improve the language skills and general knowledge of Bulgaria. I have many friends and relatives here, caring about me. I never feel lonely, yet sometimes I want to be alone, as there is always someone next to me. They care about me too much, and are afraid, that something may happen, as it is not safe to be alone on the streets of Sofia at night.
When it comes to my local school – National Academy of Music ”Pancho Vladigerov”, it reminds me of the Soviet Union, in a way. They have very strict teachers, each specialising on one specific musical instrument. Students have no right to speak their own opinions out loud and have to be absolutely quiet when teachers speak to the class. It seems that every student is always afraid to speak out or to do something wrong. I had such fear as well, so I did my best during my violin practice, in order to master it to a desired level.
I was treated the same way as native students; I was not an exception. Apparently, it is because I am Russian and come from the Slavic origin, just like Bulgarians. Perhaps, it was also because of how well I spoke Bulgarian; even looked like one. Meanwhile, I had friends from another parts of Europe attending the very same class, who were treated more kindly than us.
When it comes to my spare time in Bulgaria, I used it well, travelling around the country as much as I could afford. I had been to many places including: Kavarna, Varna, Dobrich, Burgas, Selistra, Blagoevgrad, Pernik, Mezdra, Plovdiv, Pazardjik, Haskovo, Starazagora and Banke. They all were, in their own charming way, special to me. And yet, I spent the most of my time in Sofia with one Bulgarian family, who are close friends of mine.
One of my favourite places to spend time was at the mountains. Out there, I enjoyed speaking to God, as it is such a peaceful and quiet place for a prayer.

When it comes to educational difference between Bulgaria and Finland, it seems harder to study in Bulgaria, as you have less freedom of choice when it comes to what to do and how to do, strictly following your professor’s orders. For example, during the aural training, teachers are the ones who pick individual singers, and you have to obey at once, if you are the one who is chosen, with no right to express your opinion or decline. In Finland, you may choose, whether you sing in a group or by yourself. However, in my point of view, Bulgarian students are more developed than Finnish, due to such strict orders and discipline.
I like it to be here, even though it is difficult. I have a great deal of old and new friends here. Everything is great! 

Hilsen fra Norge!

I have been busy getting to know the city better and all the people around me, at my school and neighbourhood. How lovely city Oslo is! Balance between beautiful old buildings and modern architecture, the sea, the nature nearby, but still the feeling of quite a big city. I love to live almost in the city centre and having all things near me just a few minutes’ walk away!

My school is nice and cosy, as it is quite small. There are many talented students and good teachers, I think! It has been nice to notice that my Norwegian skills improve day by day. I am glad that I had the courage to use the local language since the first day here. The studies have been quite similar to the ones at my school in Finland. I have been playing in orchestra periods and chamber music with other students. I have had my private cello lessons, and I have also been in classes with all the other cellists. In lectures I understand the language more and more. We even arranged our own festival called Fagerborgfestspillene! And one of the biggest advantages we have here is that there are enough classrooms for practicing at our school, yay!

The 17th of May was a great experience in Oslo! The whole city full of people, music and joy! “Hip, hip, hurra!”