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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.
I was doing my internship for my studies in Business Information Systems in Benalmadena, around 10 kilometers south from Malaga. The weather was nice – raining twice or so during my stay. It was warm although cold of the night caught me by surprise. Not because of the temperature but because the apartment I had rent had no proper heating for the season. Something I was mistakenly expecting due to our Finnish heating system.
Okay, that’s enough of the weather. Let’s move on to my work. To put it simply, I was working at a organization consisting of voluntary workers. The organization and the members of it are all Finnish old people who have retired and either live permanently in Spain or are just visiting for few months.
So, my basic work day usually consists of helping the members of the organization and updating social media with current events. There are two days when the office is open and at those times people come to me asking for help with their devices. The open hours are very tight so I made reservations for home visits. I liked the fact that I got to travel around the city while on the job and talk to colorful personalities and see how they lived there.
On my free time I walked around the city. On the weekends I would plan ahead a destination and make a longer trip there. There are tons of places to see like Castillo Monumento Colomares and bull arenas and parks. My highlight was definitely climbing the nearby mountain, Calamorro. I did it exceptionally after my work. I did some calculations and came into conclusion that I can get up there and back before it gets dark. Oh how ignorant I was…
I also visited Málaga on my last week with my buddy. There was a castle up the hill so of course I had to climb that too.
I didn’t get to experience all the things in Málaga area but overall I am satisfied. There is still room for another eventful visit.
Want to do your exchange in an affordable, warm and idyllic location? Porto, Portugal might be the right choice for you! Even though the winter months might be quite rainy and a bit chilly, there is plenty of sunshine and warm weather well until November. Budget won’t be an issue either as a nice lunch will cost you only 5 euros in the center and 3€ if you use the services of ISCAP, the university.
I was surprised about the level of English, it is rather good in Portugal and the classes at ISCAP were actually held in English. The classes were quite similar to the ones in TAMK: there’s group work, some lectures and tests. There were two major differences: some classes were held even in the evening and students could choose between final or continuous assessment. In final assessment participation was not mandatory and there would be one final exam in January per course. Continuous assessment meant that 75% of the classes should be attended and there would be lighter tasks such as a group project and mini tests delivered throughout the course until Christmas. Like most, I chose the latter option.
I lived in a shared apartment with 11 other exchange students. I think for exchange, it is a good option as it forces you to make friendships, learn about different cultures and get involved more easily to free time activities.
Portugal is a more collectivist country compared to an Individualistic one of Finland. Yes, TAMK and Tampere has plenty of student activities to offer but I felt in Portugal people see them more as “we” rather than “I”. A great way to get involved in the local culture is by joining a sports group in the university. It was a nice experience to be part of the university team. In addition to practices and games, the collectivism can be noticed by for example pre-game lunches where all teammates are expected to participate before the battle.
ISCAP’s futsal team
If you really want to learn Portuguese, you should get involved in activities with the locals. As my studies were in English, I really needed to have some other places where I could maintain my Portuguese skills I’ve acquired from my high school exchange to Brazil. Not only did I play games with the ISCAP team but I also was welcome to be a part of a private futsal club, Sporting Clube de Silvalde. There I had to deal with the European Portuguese, learn new types of practices and some habits from the locals. It was a nice custom entering the locker room as teammates greeted every single person by handshakes. This is once again a difference between the Portuguese and Finns. Nothing wrong with the Finnish ways but it was nice to experience a more open and collectivist culture also.
In conclusion, exchange is mainly what you make of it. There are many possibilities to join student activities, make friendships with locals and even focus on studies if that is what you want. I had a nice experience on exchange, I hope you as well reading this blog post.
I chose to apply for exchange in Portugal mainly for two reasons. First, I wanted to do the exchange together with my boyfriend and we needed to find a destination where they accepted more than one student from TAMK. Second, we wanted to live in somewhere a bit warmer and relaxed than Finland and escape from the grey and dark autumn months of Finland. So, when we found out about the city of Porto in Portugal we were sold.
Studies at ISCAP the accounting and business school of Politecnico do Porto
My exchange experience at ISCAP didn’t begin quite as well as I had hoped for. Already on the first orientation day we were told that the exchange would be one and a half months shorter than we were told before arriving. This was a disappointment for many and also messed up a many exchange students Erasmus grants. Later, during the orientation week we were informed that some of the ECT’s of the courses were actually lower than what had been written on ISCAP’s websites. So again, many of us exchange students were in trouble, because suddenly we didn’t have enough credits. But as the exchange went on I came to learn that this was very normal in Portugal. Anything was never clear and straight forward and as the Portuguese say you should just relax and take it easy.
Otherwise studies at ISCAP were ok and I would say that the level of teaching and tasks were pretty much the same as in TAMK. However, what did disappoint me was that most of the courses I had were like basic level courses even though the when I was making the course decisions the descriptions had suggested the courses were more advanced.
At ISCAP students have the possibility to choose either continuous assessment method or final assessment method for the courses. In continuous assessment students have obligatory participation on the lectures and essays and group works that they have to do during the course. In final assessment students don’t have to participate on the lectures at all and they only have one big final exam at the end of the period. I had courses with both methods and this way only had to go two times a week to the campus.
Free time at Porto and Portugal
I started my Portugal experience with a road trip together with my boyfriend. We flew to the southern end of Portugal to Faro and rented a car from there. We spent two weeks driving along the coast up to Porto. In my opinion there couldn’t have been any better way to start the exchange.
During the exchange we also made quite many trips both in Portugal and abroad. Quite early on we made another road trip with a group of friends to the north of Spain to Vigo. A bit later we went on a one-day-trip with a company called Student Travels to see the Douro valley and its vineyards. In November we flew to Malta (with super cheap flights) and spent four days there. Just before Christmas we visited the town of Guimaraes which is said to be the birth place of Portugal. And the last four days in Portugal we spent in Madeira (highly recommended).
In Porto there is also a lot to do as long as you love partying. If you don’t (as I don’t), then you might feel a bit left out from the exchange groups and it might be hard to find other activities. Luckily there are a lot of great restaurants in Porto offering food form all over the world. Downside to this is that most of my money went to the restaurants even though they are a lot cheaper than in Finland.
When choosing Portugal as your exchange destination be aware that things don’t usually go as planned and that the culture is actually very different from Finland. For me since I guess I am a bit of control freak living in Portugal was very hard from time to time. However, travelling around Portugal and the destinations near it is amazing.
Now that it is almost the end of my exchange in the United Kingdom, it is good to go through my experience. I moved to Salford in the middle of September and I had a week to settle before the actual school started. Salford is a rather small city right next to Manchester. Salford itself isn’t the prettiest place but Manchester I really like. In Manchester, there are around 500,000 people but Manchester Metropolitan area (including Salford) has nearly 3 million people.
About my school, studies and accommodation – University of Salford
I really like the University and the fact that we have a big campus area. In the campus area, there are a lot of buildings, many cafeterias, a library, a few accommodation buildings and the school’s gym. We also have our own restaurant/bar on campus which is nice. In my university, there are only 2 semesters and I am here for the first one. I had school 4 days a week, but mostly I just had one class per day and the classes took only 2 hours. I had three modules and all of them were about marketing. All the three modules I had, took the whole semester, meaning that my schedule for the whole semester was the same every week. I really liked my modules and I learned a lot. In all these modules there were an assignment and an exam. One of these assignments was an individual assignment and the two were done in groups. Salford University has 3 campus areas. Two of them are almost next to each other and the third is in Media City. Media City is a beautiful part of Salford with its modern buildings, a theatre and a world war museum. Even though there were accommodation buildings in the campus areas, I wasn’t able to get a room from these buildings since they were only for first-year students. I was living outside campus but the walk to school took only 10-15 minutes. I lived in a flat with 3 other exchange students. We all had our own bedrooms and we shared a kitchen and a bathroom.
Campus area Views from my room
What did I do outside school?
As I told already, I had school 4 days a week. On some weekdays I and my friends usually studied in the school’s library and went to the gym. On weekends there was more time to do things. We got to know Manchester, which is a really nice city. There is a mixture of old and new, with skyscrapers and brick buildings. Manchester city centre is not that big and it is quite easy to get to know the city. In Manchester, there is a National Football Museum which was cool to experience. In Manchester, outside the city, there is a huge shopping centre, called the Trafford Centre. We also got to see some nature of England through the school’s societies. We went for a hike to Peak District and then for a day trip to Lake District. Both of these places were beautiful, that I hadn’t even heard before. I also got to see York and London, where the train took only 2 hours. I had also dreamed of getting to see a Premier League game and I did! We went to see Manchester City game, and I really enjoyed it! I really enjoyed my time in Salford and can recommend the school for everyone who is considering the UK as their exchange destination.
In early 2018 I was nominated by TAMK to exchange studies in Cork, Ireland. I heard the news when I was in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands on an international branding project. The few months of arranging my study leave from work, accommodation, government money and all that good stuff is something that I would describe as terrible, challenging, dragging me outside of my comfort zone and absolutely awful.
But it was totally worth it – and some.
“The Rebel City”
Cork is a little bit smaller city in population than Tampere, located in the southern coast of Ireland. The counties in Ireland are usually named after the biggest city in that county, hence County Cork, Cork city. Simple, as most of the things in Ireland. The name “Rebel City” characterizes the city quite well. Just like in Finland we have the love-hate-relationship between Turku and Tampere, it is the same with Cork and the capital city Dublin. They are rivals in sports, drinks – pretty much everything in general. All in good spirit, though.
The River Lee runs through a city that was founded in the 6th century by Saint Finbarr. The country is very catholic, though the younger generations have seemingly grown much more distant from religious beliefs.
Studies at Cork Institute of Technology
As the name suggests, CIT is very notorious from its technology studies. Business study programs were added later, when the school decided to expand in order to supply the demand in business experts. In Ireland, the academic year is split into Autumn and Spring terms from early September to early January and from January to May. Both terms end with “final exams” from each module (module = course, like “Accounting 1”) and during that exam period, there is no in-class teaching. Not every module (=course) has a final exam. For example, I participated in five different modules (5 credits each = 25 credits) and only one of them had a final exam. The final exams are very much like the matriculation examinations in Finland, which I found a bit amusing.
The classes are always 45-minutes long and there are 3-5 classes per module per week. Most of the modules did not require prior learning, but that might have been just my luck. During class, the lecturer usually arrives a few minutes late, talks for a good 35 minutes where a new subject is taught (like “Atkinson’s Model”) and then the class ends. Lecturers always have time to discuss with students after class and often continue with follow-up emails if necessary. There were individual reports, individual presentations, group-work reports and group presentations as assessments on those courses. I am a third-year BBA student so I joined the classes in the third year of Bachelor of International Business with a Language -program. The studies were very easy to be honest and did not require hardly any studying at home. Subjects covered in class were asked in the exams, nothing more. There were no requirements to attend classes. The students can decide whether to join the classes or not, the ability to master the learning outcomes were then tested in the exam. Therefore, I had a lot of free time to experience and travel in Ireland!
Lunch at school was 4-6 euros per meal, depending on how healthy one wanted it to be. I had a salad with bread (9,99 per kg + bread 0,35e) 3 times per week that cost around 4,50 each. Amazing cappuccinos with 2 euros. There were also two tiny stores at the campus, were one can buy office supplies, candy, lunch, chips, soda and condoms. Oh, and a bank.
The house crisis is a real thing in Ireland and one should really consider that before applying for exchange. Even regular families with stable jobs and children are unable to find accommodation. CIT does not have any student accommodation, nor can they make any contracts for you before arrival. They only have contacts to local accommodation providers. Bare this in mind when applying – the accommodation situation is terrible, expensive and over-priced in general. I feel like I won the lottery when I had my own private room with a semi-private bathroom in a hostel for the whole exchange period. It cost me 20 euros per night, which was even less than most of the rents of sharing a room with two or more people. To find out more about my lottery winning ticket, search for “Stay Cork hostel”. Hostel is a great way to avoid cleaning and bills from gas, electricity, internet, trash etc.
The public transportation works very well in Ireland, when traveling from one city to another. You can get by bus from Cork directly to any other city. The train is a much more convinient way to travel, so use it if possible. Student return tickets to Dublin by bus were 25€ and by train 30€. In Cork, the bus system is a total mess. A 6 km busride from city centre to CIT can take anywhere between 20-70 minutes based on traffic. The bus timetables are also not to be looked at. I suggest you just go to the bus stop and hope for the best but expect nothing. Another alternative is to use the city-bike rentals, they are pretty cheap. The weather can, however, be a bit challenging at times. You can get around the city nicely by bus however. One can also travel around County Cork by bus, but the fares vary. Traveling inside the “red zone” is 1,70€ per single ticket and does not include connecting to another bus. Going to the town of Kinsale is 6€ single ticket.
When I was not studying, I…
I brought my skateboard with me to Cork, which turned out to be an awesome decision. I made a good handful of great local friends at the skatepark who showed me around, invited me to parties and were always up for some skateboarding, neglecting the weather challenges. It really does rain in Ireland. From late September to Christmas it is +8 celcius outside on average. It is almost always windy, as Cork is one of the windiest cities in Europe. So, on a rainy day, the wind combined with rain makes umbrellas completely useless and if you have a rain coat, your legs will be totally soaked. It is pretty easy to get used to it and later in December I went back and forth to Lidl for groceries completely soaked and didn’t even care.
In Cork there is world-famous Guinness beer available (not always though), but the locals do not drink it, because it is from Dublin. They drink Beamish or Murphy’s, so bare that in mind when ordering the drink. You don’t have to pay tips anywhere, except for fancy restaurants, but there are tip jars at bars. There are over 200 pubs to choose from and the famous Irish tradition of “12 pubs” should be tried (at least) once. Amazing whiskeys, gins and beers. Beers are usually 4-6 euros per pint. Alcohol tax is the second highest in Europe, so going out partying costs roughly the same as in Finland.
Groceries are bought from Lidl.
I do not want to spoil any good travel destinations so I am just going to make a bucket list for you:
Kinsale (walking around)
Every church in every city (they are OLD)
Cliffs of Moher (90 meter cliffs)
Aran Islands (choose any of the three)
Galway City (amazing)
Rugby match (tickets sell out usually in a day)
Mizen Head (go there before the Cliffs of Moher)
Blarney Castle (Kiss the stone!!)
Lucky for you, the International Student Society (ISS) at CIT organizes trips to these places. They are usually weekend trips and you can save hundreds of euros by visiting these places with other exchange students in a big group.
SO IT WAS WORTH IT
As a summary, I really loved Ireland, the people, the culture, the green grasses, everything. Ireland is very much like Finland history-wise, so the culture is very easy to get used to once you do some studying on the history. Watch the “Michael Collins” movie (just don’t listen to Julia Roberts, her Irish accent is terrible) and learn to trust that Ireland will take care of you. I personally regained my trust in good will and happy people during my exchange. So yes, Ireland is a perfect location for someone who wants to go to an English-speaking country, have time to explore and experience and have a really, really good time. To be completely honest the accent in Cork is a little bit hard, but only like for two weeks. Then you will get the hang of it and smile (and possibly even giggle) every single time someone says “carpark”.
At the end of last August I started my exchange in Utrecht, Netherlands, a city for which I fell in love immediately. Utrecht has around 350 000 inhabitants, from which about 25% are students, so safe to say this is a proper student city. The atmosphere here is young and cozy, here they have a lot of cafes, restaurants and bars, but also a lot of activities, events, parties and trips organized by student organizations. Utrecht is a real Dutch-style city with a lot of canals and the beautiful old houses. And one the best parts is, it is only 25 minute train-ride away from the centrum of Amsterdam.
In Netherlands a school year includes four blocks, the same way as in Finland, so I’m studying here for two blocks. These two blocks last about 1,5 months each, and in between there was an autumn holiday and two weeks of “exam weeks”. During these exam weeks there is no lessons. I have had approximately 3 schooldays a week, and they have included only one subject per day and the lessons last around 2-4 hours. So there is not a lot of long lessons, but there is a lot to do outside these lessons. We have more assignments and group works than in Finland, and the amount of work was a bit of a shock in the beginning. There are usually always weekly assignments that you do in a group or individually (I have had mostly in groups) and even the weekly tasks can be many pages of writing. So the amount of things you have to do on your “free-time” is a lot more that I’m used to. The biggest difference to studying is the time schedule, usually in Finland there is remarkably more time to do something that we might do here in one week.
I still haven’t found the school being hard, and even though there might have been a lot of assignments to do, I haven’t had a feeling at any point that I don’t have enough free time. But if you decide to study in Netherlands, be prepared that you have to work for the school quite a bit.
Living and housing
I live in the school campus, area called De Uithof. This area is about 5 kilometers away from the centrum. This campus is like it’s own world with several school buildings, a lot of student housing, grocery store, few restaurants and bars. But still, there is fields with sheeps, cows and horses right next to the huge buildings! I just love that. I live with 4 other exchange students, we have a pretty big kitchen/living room area, and each one of us has quite a big room of their own. The best part is, that my school is right next to my home, right on the other side of the street.
On my free time I have traveled a lot with my friends. Travelling in Netherlands is very easy, there is a same card you can use in every place in this country in every bus, tram, metro and train station. Along with travelling around Netherlands, I have visited in 4 other countries in many different cities. Traveling in Europe is easy and very affordable, and it is definitely an opportunity to take an advantage of and use the free time to see new places. Everything is also pretty close, only a short flight (or rather long but very cheap bus ride) away! Other than traveling, free-time consists a lot of same things as in Finland; doing sports, watching Netflix and going out for lunch and dinners with friends. And last but not least, since I’m in the Netherlands and adjusting this Dutch culture, my free-time consists a lot of biking as well. I love the biking-culture, since everything is reachable with a bike and everyone does that no matter if it is sunny or a crazy rain.
I would definitely recommend Utrecht as an exchange destination, because this city just has it all. If you have any questions about doing an exchange here, don’t hesitate to contact me and ask.
In Lower Austria, in the middle of winery plantations and right by the Danube river, there is this charming city called Krems. Krems is an old and historic town with only 25 000 inhabitants and it is 80 km away from Vienna. It’s a city of many churches and universities!
My experience here has been quite nice, even though the school standards surprised me. Studying abroad has taught me to appreciate TAMK even more than before. Here in IMC Krems, you must work a lot to earn your credits. At least in my case, I’ve had to learn lots of things by heart to success in the exams. The grading here is very strict, and you must remember everything in detail. I have to say, that I’m not happy with the level of education here. It is partly because having this much theory is not a suitable way of learning for me – I’m more of a “learning by doing” type of person. On the other hand, I feel like in every course there has been poor instructions to projects or assignments in general. Compared to the level of teaching, the exams had been difficult and all in all, the professors could have been more supportive. Also, one big fault is the lack of school lunch. If you want to come to Krems, I recommend you take fewer courses than I did (26,5 ECTS), so you’ll have more time to travel and enjoy your exchange semester that way!
Seeing other cultures has opened my eyes and broadened my world view. During the exchange semester I have traveled to Germany, Slovakia and Hungary. I have also traveled inside Austria, to Vienna, Wachau Valley, Linz, St. Pölten and Bad Gastein (the Alps). Before I’m heading home, I’m still going to visit Graz and Hallstatt. One of the most enriching things here have been all the new people I have got to know from all over the world. Krems is a small town, so exchange students have become a close group. Throughout the time, everyone has behaved nicely towards each other and invited everyone to the parties. I’ve also got new friends from the locals, since I have studied mostly with them.
Especially during the first weeks we got to know some history about Krems and its buildings. One of the churches I mentioned is 1000 years old and IMCs’ Piaristengasse campus is a part of the same building! The campus is an old monastery and you can see the history on the ceilings and walls of the campus. The nature in Krems is beautiful as well. Danube river runs right outside of the city center and exotic vineyards locate on the other side.
As a summary, I would say that Krems is an extremely beautiful city with warm atmosphere and lots of students. You can easily go and travel around Austria and Europe and if you are interested in wines, this is a perfect place for you! If you enjoy studying theory instead of doing projects or group works, you might also enjoy the school. Even though it has been very hard for me sometimes, this experience has been amazing, and I am truly grateful that I had the chance to come here!
I started my exchange studies here in Frankfurt in the beginning of September. Now, a bit more than four months later, I can’t imagine how fast time has passed.
This was my third night in Frankfurt. I can’t imagine of a better start to the exchange than a pub crawl in Sachsenhausen.
In September, my only course was a German intensive course, so I had plenty of time to explore the city. All the other courses started in the middle of October (that’s when the “winter” semester starts here). All in all, the courses have been okay. Some teachers are better than the others, but I think that’s a common thing all around the world. I still have the exam week waiting for me in February, so I can’t compare the level of difficulty to TAMK yet. I hope they are passable.
Frankfurt at night.
During my stay here in Frankfurt, I’ve been able to travel easily. I’ve visited some towns nearby, as well as some further away. Here are some pictures:
In September, we visited a wine field in Rüdesheim, the wine was tasty.
Oktoberfest is a traditional festival in Germany. It is mainly celebrated in München. As one of my friends is doing their exchange there, I paid him a visit.
The Christmas markets in Frankfurt during Christmas time were very pleasant to the eye. Not to mention the skyscrapers giving the view a nice touch.
I also play a bit of ice hockey here. It has been nice to have something on the contrast to school. I’ve also made some awesome friends from my team. Without overlooking all the exchange students and other people I’ve met during my stay.
To sum it all up, if you have a chance to go study or work abroad, do it. At least I have enjoyed most of the time being here, and the experience or knowledge that I have gotten is something you can’t learn from books.
At the beginning of August 2018, I started my exchange studies in huge Mexico City. The five months in the city and in my university, Escuela Bancaria y Comercial, went really fast and I can recommend the place to everyone. Studying in Mexico was different than studying in TAMK and especially the courses taught in English were quite easy for us exchange students. In the courses I chose, I didn’t have to take any exams but mostly do group works. The teachers were very nice and understanding, and missing classes because of traveling was never a problem. In the picture below you can see my university.
My experience in Mexico was so much better than I expected. Adapting to a new, totally different culture was so much fun and eye-opening, also sometimes a little bit frustrating of course. Exploring the spicy food, learning about people who always want to help despite the language barriers, and experiencing traditions, national celebrations (for example, the Independence Day and the Day of the Death) and amazingly beautiful places are some things that I will always remember.
Before arriving, I was worried about many things and probably mostly about the safety and how I’m going to get used to so different culture. Now after 5 months, I’m happy to tell that not even for once I felt dangerous there. During the introduction week, we were told about safety in the city and what places to avoid, and I didn’t have any problems with anything.
In a city like Mexico City, you can’t run out of things to do in your free time. Outside of the school I was mostly exploring the city and visiting its touristic attractions which were all free for students, and during the weekends I made a lot of trips with my friends to the cities close by. Traveling in Mexico was quite cheap and by paying a couple of euros more, you can take “a luxury bus” with Wi-Fi, air condition and a movie selection. In Mexico City, I always took an Uber because it was the safest option and also cheap. There is a good and really cheap subway system as well but during the rush hours it gets really crowded and a bit dangerous.