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From Winter to Summer – Finland to Australia

I had only a couple of days to decide whether I should go to Australia or not. Some reasons were making it challenging for me to decide. For example, there were bushfires and smoke in many parts of Australia, including Canberra, where my internship would take place. Still, Finally, I booked my tickets and took a flight to Canberra.

Both above Pictures show Canberra city, both are during the bushfires, but the first one is when the fires got close to the town.

My internship was at the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. I was working there as a Financial Assistant. The placement was what I was seeking to get more practical experience.

In my spare time, I visited a lot of places like Hyams Beach, Hyams Beach is surrounded by national and Marine Parks, Hyams Beach has an abundance of native plants and animals, and the crystal clear water is frequently visited by whales and dolphins.

Other than Hyams Beach, I visited some other places as well as Bondi Beach in Sydney, and one of the burned forests called Nerriga. I drove almost one hour within the woods at a speed of 90km/hr, and all I was seeing was burned trees.

In my spare time, I was also reading books and going for a walk at least one time per day to a hill close to my resident place.

And about the Afghans, working culture modernization has resulted in the infiltration of western influences into the Afghani culture, which is most profound in the country’s major cities. The same like that it is possible to find different styles in different Afghan organizations around the world.

It is said that Australians have a unique working culture. There are some similarities between Finnish and Australian working cultures. In both cultures being late to work is not cool at all and there should be a legit reason for that and beside that one should let the office know about the situation. Australia is also similar to Finland and Nordic countries in terms of mentality: both cultures prefer quality over quantity. Both cultures’ highest priorities are wellbeing and healthy lifestyle.

One big match of both cultures is talking on the point, unlike most other cultures. A Finn and an Australian prefer to come to the point without beating around the bush.

The embassy was where most of the employees are Afghan Nationals, But I found some excellent sources on the working culture differences and want to share them here:

Useful links related to working culture in Finland, Australia, and Afghanistan

24 things expats find surprising about Australian working culture

https://bit.ly/3aBkN6l

Why Finland leads the world in flexible work

https://bbc.in/2WQQvse

Afghanistan – Guide to Language, Culture, Customs, and Etiquette

https://bit.ly/2JlJ3x3

Spring in Madrid

I did my exchange studies in the capital city of Spain aka Madrid! I have to say that I fell in love with the city, culture and the people there. My favourite thing was definitely getting to speak Spanish and enjoying the nice weather and sun.

The university I attended was Universidad Fransisco de Vitoria, a private university located a little bit outside of Madrid’s center. I really liked the university and the campus. There was a lot of activities offered (trips, buddy program, choir, sports, acting workshop etc.) and the campus area was nice.  Also, the location was not a problem since there was a shuttle bus from and to the city center that took only 15 minutes. I think that studying was fairly similar to what I was used to at TAMK. The class sizes were small and the amount of group works and homework was the same in my opinion.

Madrid has a lot of activities and events all the time, so there was no way to get bored! Even just strolling around in the different neighborhoods was so nice. I usually did that or something fun with my friends or went to the gym or dance classes.

     

I also had time to travel and see new places in Spain! Madrid is very well connected everywhere, so it was easy to just choose a place and go. There are a lot of smaller historical places 0,5 – 2 hours away like Toledo and El Escorial which I really recommend. But also more exotic places like Morocco are closer than you would think!

I would definitely recommend doing an exchange no matter what the place. From my experience Madrid is a perfect place if you want to learn Spanish, have a lot of activities to do and enjoy people around you!

Madrid

My exchange at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid started on the 28th of January 2020. This was a little after the start of the Coronavirus situation in China. Back then I didn’t really think much of the virus and really looked forward to my exchange. I finished my internship on the 24th and was already in Madrid on the 26th, ready and eager to start school and meet new people.

On my first week, I noticed there weren’t many exchange students in my courses, they were mainly Spanish and degree students. I, however, did meet another exchange student who helped me a lot. I managed to change some courses which I really wasn’t interested in. On the second week and with my new courses, I started to meet a lot of new people from all around the world. Classes were fun but quite hard, the teachers expect a lot from the students and ask a lot of questions during classes. A lot of mathematics is used here in every subject.

Not everything was about school and classes though. We started hanging out a lot in a group of exchange students. We went out to parties and did sports together and went hiking. I became close friends with a bunch of new people. We even got the chance to go watch football at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, which was a great experience.

A little over a month and a half after my exchange started, the situation with the Coronavirus was starting to get really bad in Europe. For a week I really thought about it but finally decided it was time to come back to Finland and study online from here. I am still currently enrolled in UAM and hopefully manage to get some credits from there since I am looking forward to graduating in the summer here. It is a pity this had to happen now but that’s what happens sometimes. I enjoyed my month and a half in Madrid and for sure will go back there one day and will definitely meet up with the friends I made there.

Egészségére és köszönöm Magyarország!

I did my exchange in Budapest, the capital city of Hungary. As many others, I had also visited and enjoyed this amazing city previously as a tourist. Living there was even better than I expected, so I chose to prolong my stay as much as possible after the semester had come to an end.

My school was Budapest Business School (BGE) and I did my Business Administration studies in the Faculty of Commerce, Hospitality and Tourism. The buildings were located right next to the renowned Parliament Building. Many of the available courses were quite unique and I learned a lot about the tourism industry especially. The courses had always a mixture of local Hungarian students mixed with fellow exchange students which worked great in my opinion. This way it was easy to get to know some of the local people too. Studying wasn’t very taxing which was great. Most of the courses consisted of lectures, seminars, presentations and a written or spoken test in the end of the course. I enjoyed all of my courses and I found the teaching generally to be on a good level.

Budapest is one of the most compact and lively cities in the whole of Europe and one can never run out of things to do and experience no matter what you are into. I spent my free time exploring and experiencing the city as much as I could. I especially enjoyed the many museums, cool bars, restaurants, sights, cafes and so many other activities (like sporting events, escape rooms, thermal baths) that the city offers. The people are going out all days of the week. The prices are also very affordable compared to Finland and I found myself eating out 80% of my almost 6 month stay there. The local cuisine is also very good for the type of people like me – who love big portions of paprika, meat, potatoes and the like.

Countryside by the Danube River

One of the best things about studying in Budapest is the excellent cheap travel options due to the location. I went to Serbia, Poland, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia – in addition I visited numerous Hungarian cities and towns. Hungary has so much history and sights spread throughout the country that are worth visiting. Even in a seemingly most quiet and unknown village there are often times statues, museums and historical significance. I really enjoyed how you could just grab a train ticket for 1-3 euros and do day trips very efficiently.

 

The exchange all in all went perfectly, apart from the first house. I made the mistake of taking the cheapest accommodation I could find, turns out sometimes you get what you pay for, but this time it was inhabitable. Finding a place to stay can be difficult in the city, there aren’t student dormitories either. After the first month I managed to move to another place which was brilliant, but perhaps I wouldn’t have been so lucky had I not got the place through a friend that was moving out at the time.

Warmly recommend Budapest and BGE as a school for anyone looking to study abroad!

-Niko

 

 

Experience Madrid’s full potential

I am going to share my Madrid experience with a few tips and tricks on how to experience Madrid’s full potential as an exchange student!

Apartment hunting is the very first thing exchange student needs to tackle when moving and there are many options depending on what kind of traveller you are and what are your criteria for housing. Spanish skills are going to take you a long way in this process and if your language skills are not the best, you might consider using housing middleman such as Spot-a-home. I booked my apartment through their services and everything went smoothly! If you prefer practice your Spanish skills idealista is full of rentals in shared and studio apartments! Either way, you must act fast. Good apartments are gone before you know it.


My apartment was on this very cozy street right in the city center. Perfect!

Now that the housing is all settled it is time to get to know the city more. Best possible way to meet new people, get information and help is Citylife Madrid. They organize a lot of events that include culture, food events and parties all for free or included on their Citylife Madrid pass. Events alone are worth joining because they are a great way to get to know the city and people. First week there I also got a lot of useful info by stopping by their office and they helped me to book an appointment where I got my metro pass.

When introduced to the city a little bit, it is time to get familiar with the city on your own terms. What I enjoyed the most was a day of shopping in endless supply of second hand and vintage stores and long lunch in some outside seated cafe. To find out unique spots and activities that interest you follow Naked Madrid for detailed tips about all that Madrid has to offer!

With a combination of just finding places, people and things to do on my own and good recommendations I got to experience Madrid’s full potential in a short period of time. Hopefully my short tips help you to experience Madrid as a tourist or as an exchange student.

Vibrant, beautiful Ghent

My exchange destination is not so known place called Ghent. This city of Belgium is the second largest in Flanders community and ranking third in the whole Belgium after Brussels and Antwerp. I studied international business management during the autumn semester in this beautiful city full of history, stories, colorful streets, and delicacies.

Bikes are a huge thing in Ghent. They are everywhere. I have around three kilometers to the campus, so I rented one as well. Locals said that when you have a bike, you are “the king of the streets”. And that was surely it. There are specifically marked bike streets meaning that cars are not allowed to pass. Having a bike makes moving easy – you can pass the traffic jams, you do not have to wait buses or trams and you save money. It is also environmentally better option than a car. The central area is a low emission zone and restricted to cars – mainly taxes are driving there. Therefore, most of the students and inhabitants have their own or rented bikes. I really like the biking culture and got keen on my bike. Now that I had to return it, I felt kind of that something important is missing.

Ghent is truly a student city in Belgium. There are student activities almost every week and a bar street located near the campus. I spent my spare time as a typical exchange student – travelling, hanging out with other students, roaming around and of course by exploring the food and drink culture. The location is great. You can book a trip to Amsterdam, Paris or some other city just the night before at affordable prices.

When it comes to the studying itself and group works which we have a lot, Belgian students are not that motivated or hard working. The lack of motivation might be explained partly by the fact that they do not have to take entrance examination so everyone can attend school. Power distance and school environment are quite different than in Finland; disputes are not that welcomed, and breaks are shorter. Also, the eating habits are different as students are having chocolate bars, candies or waffles for lunch. The canteen is serving lunch only for couple hours with poor selection and the other campus only have a machine that offers sweets and some sandwiches. So, for me it was quite a surprise and made me to appreciate more the canteen in TAMK. I went home to eat during the gaps which was not a bad thing at all as I got fresh air and exercise.

     

Mooie Nederlands

Beautiful (but rainy) Netherlands, as the caption states, was my exchange destination. More specifically I stayed in a city called Zwolle, which is the capital of the region Overijssel, located in the middle of the Netherlands. The city has old city center and a lot of history behind it. Museums, churches, stores, monuments, market every friday & saturday as well as many great restaurants. Lovely city overall and easy to get around with a bike to everywhere. Bike is essential as they cycle everywhere in the Netherlands, in fact there are more bikes than people in the country overall.

     

In addition to cycling, Netherlands is a great place if you want to see many places during exchange. With extensive railway network and short distances within the country, almost every single city is a daytrip distance away. Also Belgium, Germany and France are close by, so weekend trips are also possible to other countries. This is what I did mostly during my freetime on the weekends. When I stayed in Zwolle, I visited many restaurants, played games with my friends and took part in student activities and parties.

I chose Zwolle because I wanted to apply sustainability as a part of my studies. The module I chose in the Netherlands was Global Project & Change Management. I enjoyed my courses, the new perspective on business as well as all the driven people in the programme, both the lecturers and the students. It’s a real community they have been able to build and the atmosphere in the studies is very encouraging.

Studying at a Dutch University has been really easy. The study methods are very close to the ones in TAMK, where most of the studies are project and team based and the approach is very hands on. I like this since I have never been the kind of person who learns by reading. I enjoy learning new things and then getting to apply that to practice straight away.  Also the projects, both in the Netherlands and Finland are done with real-life companies, or as I did, the Municipality of Zwolle. This is a great way to build your international network for future.

Student life in Belgium

I have been studying in Belgium, Ghent about 4 months now, so I feel pretty familiar with all the different practicalities. I’m studying international business management in Artevelde University College and I’m living in a Upkot dormitory organized by my school. The distance between my dorm and school is about 3km so I go to school by bike. Ghent is a big bike city so it made sense to rent one.

The school system in Artevelde differs quite a lot compared to TAMK. The education is much more theoretical and focusing less on practicalities. During the lessons students are expected to make notes and raise their hand if they have something to say. Teachers don’t really like to be questioned or “challenged”. Studying from the book or from the lesson slides is the best way to succeed in exams. Also, most local students are aged between 19-20 since they start higher education immediately without gap years. This was quite a surprise to me. Even though the education is more theoretical we have had team works as well. Also here in Artevelde, we have had a lot of small tests before the final course exam.

I have traveled a lot during my spare time. Belgium is a relatively small country, so it is really easy and (usually) cheap to travel to other countries. Trains and buses are the most common modes of transportation. If i don’t have time to travel, I usually hang out with other exchange students. Ghent is a big student city, so there are a lot of students. Also, local Erasmus student organization has organized many different activities. My daily routines include going to the gym, studying and meeting friends. There are also days that I just have to focus on school works.

It only takes around 3 hours and 12-14e by bus to travel from Ghent to Paris!

Hallo, Kristi, Servus aus München!

Almost time to say Tschüss to Hochschule München! It is beginning of the exam period and since I only got one exam, I am almost done here! It was truly a good experience! After some problems with finding suitable courses, waiting whether I got enrolled or not and  and if I get enough ECTS for the stay.

I ended up feeling good with the courses I selected, the teachers were great and really made things interesting! I was really happy about that, since my first goal for the exchange was to come and study and learn new things! There were no studies in English from my faculty, social science, but I found good ones from business, design and common studies that I think really gave me new skills and mindset for the future!  

I expected university to be more modern and on point in a German efficient way, and it really was not. Systems were really old school and could be so much faster, easier and efficient with newer tools and apps. So, I found myself to be very spoiled with Finnish new technology and Tuudo app. Nothing like that in here 😀 but in the end, like things usually do, everything worked out!

I was living during my exchange in Innsbruck, so I had quite a commute to university 2,5 h one way, but it was fine, since I was able to make nice timetable and didn’t need to attend classes many days a week. And actually it is not mandatory to attend classes in here, so actually you saw most of the other students only just before the exam period when they started to show up, until that, classes were quite empty 😛

I enjoyed my time in the alps, its nature and the mountains. So, it was worth it to stay there instead of the city. During the days in Münich I took most of the culture and art the city offers, and all the multiple nice restaurants and coffee places it has!

During my exchange I also fi Finished my Master thesis, so it was actually really good not to have too full calendar, but it also meant that I did not have too much free time. When in the weekends many exchange students travelled around Europe, I just stayed home and relaxed and enjoyed all the goodness my surroundings had to offer, like going biking, hiking or snowboarding!

Liebe Grüße

Emma

Greetings from Pompey!

Greetings from Portsmouth!

I did my exchange in Portsmouth, England, which is located on the south coast of England, and as you can see from the picture it wasn’t all cloudy and rainy all the time. At the moment I’am already back in not so sunny Tampere, but my exchange went well. The studies were nice and interesting and Portsmouth really is a student town as the population there is around 200 000 with about 20 000 of them students. I had two supply chain courses and one finance and accounting course. The courses where structured nicely as all of the lesson involved a theoretical part which was then followed by a practical part. It made the learning easier. The only minus was that the courses I had chosen happened to have all of their assignments in January, so I had a pretty busy couple of weeks.

I did, of course, still have a good amount of spare time. Portsmouth is a very small town, so there isn’t much to see there after the first few weeks. Luckily, there is a lot to see around the UK and for example London is only about an hour away by train. By the way, if you want get cheap train tickets in the UK, you should book them well in advance. I also visited London for a couple of days and I have to say, It never lets you down! I also went to Southampton, which is also about an hour away and has way better shopping opportunities than Portsmouth. I also took a bus to Manchester, which was a bit of a mistake, but as the train tickets get massive expensive when you travel a longer distance, I had no choice. And now I have experienced the standstill traffic on M6. It was a nice 9-hour trip on the buses. A place you must visit when in Portsmouth, is the Isle of Wight. It is an hour ferry ride away from Portsmouth and the landscape there is just breathtaking. We also went to Pompey FC’s football match, which was quite something. And yes, Portsmouth is called Pompey for some reason.

The studies were quite different from Finland or at least from Tamk. Because it is an actual university, the focus was on the academic side all the time. I have now become a master at referencing as that seemed to be the main focus.  In your essays you can’t even say that the earth is round without having an appropriate reference for it. The rules were also stricter and attendance was always compulsory and it was monitored with your student card that you had to scan always before a lecture. If you were sick, you had to get a note from a doctor, otherwise it was a forbidden absence. Reports and essays also have s strict word limit and if you go above that just by 1 word, you get 10% taken off from your mark. How crazy is that! But all in all, the exchange was a nice experience and it also made me appreciate Finland more. The student accommodation there was absolutely awful with mold, small rooms and sky-high rents so it is really nice to have Toas and cheap and comfortable apartments. School is also nicer in Finland as you don’t have to worry about all these different kind of penalties if you go above a word limit or return the assignment a minute late.

 

Br,

Katri