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Trying to go Far, ending up Near

I have less than one month left in my exchange studies to Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences in Germany. What has made this exchange very unique is of course the corona situation which for me meant, that I have been doing my exchange studies online from Finland to Germany. As the summer semester in Germany starts quite late in the spring the corona virus affected to the whole semester from the start. At first, they only postponed the start to April and hoped that things would return to normal, but it wasn’t long that they realized they had to implement the whole semester online.

I was lucky to be able to move to Germany in 8th of March to do my exchange. Unfortunately, I only got to live there for 9 days and decided to come home to follow the ongoing situation.

View of Bielefeld.

Bielefeld is a small city in a scale of German cities but compared to Tampere the population is almost the same. We were about 100 exchange students, but I was the only one from anywhere in the Nordic countries. FH Bielefeld has 3 campuses which include 5 faculties.  They have yearly about 11 000 students studying in those campuses.

 

In my time there I was able to get to know the city a bit and study German for a week. We managed to start our German intensive course but even that was cut short. So, in my spare time I did a lot of walking as the weather was great and warm, but not much more can be done in a week. FH Bielefeld offers a lot of choices to do sports and the semester contribution also includes a semester ticket to the public transport for the whole NRW (North-Rhine Westphalia) which would’ve been great for exploring Germany.

 

School lunch experience

My student housing was amazing. For the price of 320€/month I got a studio apartment which was build in 2019 and had everything you needed. The school offers everyone a spot in student housing, so I didn’t need to stress about my living.

 

FH Bielefeld

All my studies this semester have been implemented online. This situation has been very new to our German professors as well, so the teaching quality has varied a lot between different subjects. Some offer weekly zoom meeting which has been great in my opinion. Some offer lectures that are recorded beforehand and then zoom meetings are just for questions and related info’s. And then there is one who has only given us some pdfs to read and has only contacted us couple times by e-mail. I do prefer the zoom lectures as they keep me motivated and give my weeks a bit of structure. Now they have made the decisions about how to implement exams online as that was a difficult to adapt for Germans as they are very used to the traditional ways of having a paper and pen kind of exams. I will be having exams on most of my courses and they will be subject to 60 minutes written online exam. This will be an interesting experience as even the teachers have never held these kinds of exams, so we have no idea what kind of exams to expect.

Studying to FH Bielefeld, Germany like this has seemed very easy compared to Finland as we have not had any projects, group work or tasks really in any of the courses. I don’t know if that is the norm or is it just because of the online semester. The downside in this is although, that the upcoming exam is going to define the whole grade, which is a bit unnerving. But I hope I will do okay and will accomplish my studies and be credited with a certificate of International Business Manager.

Have a great summer peeps!

Dodgin ‘Rona in Rotterdam

What’s happening, peeps? I hope you’re doing well!

Man oh man if this spring has not been the weirdest, right? 2020 is doing a great job at being a pissy POS that just ruins the fun for everybody. Like seriously, start off with Australia looking like the end of Apocalypse Now, follow up with a global pandemic like it’s nothing, whip up a couple of earthquakes and other natural disasters, and finish it off with a little spice with the whole Kobe incident. Right now the USA is on fire because of the horribly sad and gut-wrenching case of George Floyd, and I’m just here, being 23, and for the first time in my life feeling so overwhelmed by all of this that I feel like like I am, in fact, stuck on a space rock zooming through the universe a million miles an hour without being in any control over of whatever the F will happen next to me, and to all of us.  So here’s to that – ain’t life just the darndest sometimes? But for real, if there is a god I hope they realize to hit the breaks soon enough.

Anyway, we’ve been dodging ‘Rona in Rotterdam for a few months now and I have to say it ain’t half that bad! I’ve had a decent time! I spend most of my days either studying my courses in the international logistics management program I’m involved in, or working out. Seriously, my days are a random combination of trying to be active, studying, eating and being social. But let’s talk about the studies, shall we?

The level of education I get here is intense. Like I have to admit, I was not quite expecting this, even if I had my expectations high. I had heard prior to applying that in the Netherlands you get to actually study and I heard it’s going to be tough and time-consuming. I just thought it can’t be that bad and that it’s probably worth it. And yes it is, both of those things.

The quality of teaching in Hogeschool Rotterdam is crazy good. I feel like I’ve learned the most when I’ve been here. The teachers are very professional and know their fields throughout, and they all seem to have an understanding of pedagogy as well, because their lectures, materials and methods are very effective. Before coming here, I think I wouldn’t have called myself even a SCM familiar, but I have to say that after studying here, the idea of being a specialist in Supply Chain Management seems quite close actually. These people know what they’re doing, especially when it comes to logistics and SCM.

Other than that I mean, I still got a month or so to go and returning to Finland is acute again and uhh…. yeah, I should graduate by the end of the year as well. I got my thesis topic down and I get to start working on that which is nice. So the courses I have here are my final actual studies before graduating and thus closing this chapter of my life. And I am glad that I get to say with pure honesty that I’m happy I chose Rotterdam. I feel confident starting my thesis and taking the next steps on my career. I know I got this in the bag, and I have to say it’s mostly because of my time here. Wish me luck tho!

But that’s about it. I’m sorry don’t have any pictures for you, so here’s one of me and one of my POV while writing this thing:

Be happy!
– Kalle Lahtinen

Des moments inoubliables à Bordeaux!

I spent my exchange studies in France, in Bordeaux for this spring. It is a typical French city, the wine capital city of the world and it is like a small Paris. I loved it! All the people are so friendly, buildings are beautiful and Garonne river flows through the city. It is located in the Southwest of France, near to Spain and Atlantic Ocean. The city is perfect size, you can walk almost everywhere or jump into the tram so easily. It is a perfect city for the students.

I studied in a private business school, BBA INSEEC, and I chose the IBM 1 program which consists of three-week modules and it is in English. Studying was pretty much the same kind of as we have at TAMK, including group work and oral presentations. I studied personal development, cross cultural understanding, marketing and leadership modules as well as French for foreigners. The group size was small and it consisted mainly of exchange students. I liked that a lot because when we all were in the same new situation, I got a lot of new friends! The school helped me to find an accommodation too. They had a website in collaboration with “Studapart” and I rent a room from the comfort, renovated flat with roommates.

The weather felt so warm already and Bordeaux really showed its best sides on warm sunny days. I spent my free time with my new friends. We often went to drink coffee, sightseeing, shopping to the Rue Sainte-Catherine shopping street, do a picnic to the garden or for example bowling. I loved the French food: macarons, baguettes, croissants, crêpes and cheese, they were so delicious! We made the trips to Toulouse and near to the Pyrenees, to the city of Lourdes.

I really enjoyed the time I spent over there even thought it was a shorter period because of the coronavirus pandemic. The best things about the exchange studies are that you meet a lot of new people, you can strength your language skills and get courage, as well as see a lot of new beautiful and interesting places alongside studies. It was an unforgettable experience!

Memorable but unhappy spring semester in Porto

I started my journey in Porto in the beginning of February. I loved city of Porto at the first sight. City was super pretty, and the size was just perfect to walk around. All the people I met were super kind and helpful.

I did my studies in ISCAP, which ended up being really nice school for foreign students, as there were a lot of exchange students and also a lot of organized events for us.

I study business administration and ISCAP was good school for business students. The whole master’s degree was in English, which is nice for the international students. Even though we do bachelor’s degrees, ISCAP offers the master courses for the exchange students also. Some of them are quite hard, but some of them can be compared to lectures in TAMK.

Lectures were similar than in TAMK. Some of them were really difficult as the teaching was also in English of course, and in Finland we have been used to study in Finnish and the vocabulary is new. Some of the courses were really practical and had a lot of group works. One thing I found out that was really different there, was that students were not allowed to question the teacher. While in Finland the teachers want students to question them.

I spent my spare time with my new friends I got to know there. I really loved the city of Porto. We loved to go to see the sunset and enjoy picnics with some wine and baguette.

 

We travelled together to Lisbon and one smaller city called Aveiro. One of the best things in exchange is to get to travel around. That was one of the reasons I selected Porto, because I wanted to be able to travel around and also enjoy the ocean. Actually, I just had time to go to Madrid also right before corona exploded. Coronavirus certainly interrupted my Erasmus exchange which was stupid and sad. That means that I needed to quit my exchange period in Porto after 1,5 months. 🙁 But I will go back for sure 🙂

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.