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So relatable, so much fun – Cork, Ireland

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 coast is so stunning.

“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 the city and separates the city centre on an island

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.

At the campus!

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.

Accommodation

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.

My lottery jackpot for four months

Transportation

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.

In most countries they drive on the right side of the road. In Ireland they drive on the correct side of the road. Misty view from a doubledecker bus’s second floor window in morning traffic jams

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.

What an amazing view! If only the fog could vanish

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.

The Friary pub had the best prinks!

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”.

You can find really weird stuff in weird places in Ireland. Take care of your feet and invest in quality shoes as you will walk a LOT !

Greetings from Utrecht, the Netherlands

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.

Utrecht centrum

Studying

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.

My school building

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.

My home street. You can see my house in the background
View from my room

Free time

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.

Amsterdam
Utrecht has a lot of restaurants right next to the canal

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.

Tot ziens!

Greetings from Krems an der Donau, Austria!

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!

The Danube river in September

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.

Wachau Valley is quite near to Krems. I took this photo during the excursion in September.
The Alps in Bad Gastein

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.

IMC Krems, Piaristengasse campus

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!

Frankfurt, die Bankenstadt

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.

Thanks,

Jere

Mis Experiencias en la Ciudad de México

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.

Liebe Grüße aus Bielefeld

I have been now in Bielefeld, Germany for 4,5 months and the exchange semester is about to come to an end. The time has flown by very fast and the experience has been very rewarding in many ways.

About the city of Bielefeld. 
Bielefeld is a city about the same size as Tampere, but still for Germany it cannot be counted as a big one. It has everything you need (even a tram/metro!) and (center) area is kind of cute, but is definitely not a very interesting city. There is a castle, which I think is the biggest sight in the whole city. Also, Dr. Ötker comes from Bielefeld and the factory is located also here. Luckily, with the semester ticket you will get, you can travel limitless within the state of North Rhine-Westphalia which includes also cities like Düsseldorf and Köln. That’s a lot of land to explore!

View from the Sparrenburg Castle over Bielefeld

Studying in FH Bielefeld
The semester started with an orientation weeks which included practical information about how everything works, at the university and with student dormitories (since most exchange-students lived in one). The main part of the orientation was still the German lessons which took place everyday for 5 hours (that’s first 3 ECTS right there!). For some reason there was a week break between the actual courses started, so I did an extra intensive course about Blockchain during this time of which I earned the most easiest 6 ECTS of my life.

For this reason I needed to take only 4 courses. I took German, Spanish, International Taxation and Consumer marketing. Each of these were 3h a week, some in 2 parts, so hour-wise it wasn’t much of sitting at the university. The lectures of non-language courses do not differ too much from what they are in TAMK. The biggest differences I see in the language courses, I cannot really explain but the style really doesn’t suit for me and I feel I have learned only very little from the classes and do the work at home. Also, the Spanish class in in German, so that makes the whole thing even more confusing.
All in all, the studying has been a bit easier here.

What was a bit unexpected, things aren’t as organized in Germany as in Finland. The information flow is very bad, the local Tabula etc. systems are ancient and a a lot of things are made unnecessarily difficult and formal + a lot of times I got the feeling no one knows anythings. Patience is what you need…

Christmas Market in Bielefeld

Living and free time
Living in Germany is cheaper than in Finland, especially in a city like Bielefeld where the rent prices are also super low! My Erasmus experience differs a lot compared to many other exchange students who came to Bielefeld and a big reason is that I was lucky to get a room from a private shared apartment instead of the student dormitories. I have been living with two German girls together and I couldn’t be happier about that. With them I have experienced and done so much more that I would have without. For example I have gone to the Köln Karnival, had  home made lunch at “Grandma’s” and even found myself from a Finnish SitSit style birthday party which was organized by Germans who had been to exchange in Finland! Also, I have been travelling quite a lot, since the prices are just so low not matter if you fly or take a bus.

Köln Karnival

If something, I would recommend to try to find a flat with the locals (WG-gesucht.de 😉 ). That gives so much more if you actually want to see the culture, make connections and live more cozy life than in dormitories (yes I have seen and heard about these). I can say that I have really been “exposed” to Germans and German culture and at the same time me German has improved massively! Surely there has been some Erasmus events but I didn’t take part in most. From other Erasmus students I have found a few very good friends but the most close friends are my roommates and they are one of the only things I will miss here!

Grüß Gott aus Wien!

I’m currently spending my exchange semester in a beautiful and amazing city; Vienna! Vienna is the capital city of Austria and is a perfect place to spend your exchange semester.

 

I study in FHWien der WKW. The school is mainly focused on management and communication and I have found there many interesting courses. This University of Applied Sciences is very similar with TAMK and the teaching methods are quite same; group works, presentations and exams. One thing that is different from TAMK is that my timetable changes almost every week! Some weeks I have only 1 or 2 lessons and some weeks I’m spending almost my whole time in school. All my teacher in here have been really nice and professional and their English skills are really good. All my courses are mainly with other Erasmus students and in English, but you can choose courses in German too.

I usually have school only 1-3 times a week and that is why I have had plenty of time to travel. Vienna has the perfect location to travel cheaply. During my exchange semester I have visited Bratislava, Venice, Ljubljana, Zagreb and Krakow. I have also made trips to Austria’s other beautiful cities such as Graz and Salzburg.

Vienna is full of beautiful architecture and the cultural activities are almost limitless. You can choose from many different kinds of museums, theaters and operas. Me and my friends have explored so many museums and cafes during our exchange. (Hint: on first Sundays of the month there are many museums that have free entrance). In every time of the year In Vienna there is so much to do and see! Autumn is so much warmer in here and the Christmas time in Vienna is amazing. The whole city is full of Christmas markets and the smell of Glühwein fills the air.

 

You can’t have boring moment in a city like this!

All in all, I can highly recommend Vienna as an exchange destination and if you have the chance to go abroad, take it!

My student life at Korea University

When I first got the notice that I will be attending one of the most prestigious universities in South Korea I could barely contain my excitement. SKY universities are the schools all Koreans with high academic aspirations strive to get into and where only the select few, the brightest and the most hardworking actually qualify for. They were going to be my peers and the standard all my professors were going to be expecting.

Seoul is an unfathomably massive city for a young man who grew up in a city of not even 200 000 people. Thoroughly exploring the city, let alone the country is going to require a stay longer than just 4 months.

I have eaten pretty much everything I came across. I have seen the tourist attractions and accessed secret places only known to locals. I explored the concrete jungle, made my way though forests, hiked up many mountains and laid on beaches all over the country.

  

And yet I still have so much more to do…

Love from Turin

I chose to do my Erasmus exchange in the University of Turin. Turin is an industrial university city in the north of Italy, near to the Alps and the boarder of France. There are roughly 900,000 inhabitants in the city and it`s well-known for their delicious chocolates. Within the university there is multiple campuses and my courses are luckily in just two of them, which makes going between the campuses a little bit easier.

I arrived here on September and now it`s already December and time to leave. The has gone by so fast by getting to know to a new country and most importantly to a new city. I had already visited a lot places in Italy but I have never been in Turin before I moved here to do my Erasmus. The city is full of historical things and me as an historic enthusiast, enjoy the view of the old buildings and museums I see every day, on my way to the university.

 

When someone says Italy, people usually think of a sunny country with people being happy all the time and eating a lot of pizza and pasta. People are eating pizza here for sure but the climate is totally different in Turin than you would think. It has been raining 90% of the time since I arrived here. A couple weeks ago the river was floating so badly that some of the restaurant next to the river had to be shut down due to water damage inside and making sure no one would get hurt. Being a runner myself, it has been real interesting to run in the rain for the last couple months to put it nicely.

In addition, of doing sports like already mentioned, I`ve visited some historical and cultural sights like Villa Della Regina which is a beautiful castle on top of a hill.

Villa Della Regina from the top of the hill

Villa Della Regina`s beautiful inside decor.

The city had some really nice sunsets which I was lucky enough to see from my own window and also got to admire when I took a walk next to the river Po.

Living in Turin was really different than in Finland and especially studying. The school system is not exactly the best one, so bending the rules and being really creative was something I had to learn. When you are used of things working pretty smoothly in a Finnish school, adapting the “rhythm” of an Italian school was not the easiest task first but little by living I got the hang of it.

 

Until next time Torino

Experiences from Tallinn

My studies in Tallinn have been an insightful experience into a different kind of education culture and to a top 3% technical university. My goal in question is to take advantage of the course offerings available for BA students on environmental economics and a plethora of law studies.  The courses have been far more difficult than anticipated, so it has definitely been a fit challenge and it has taught me a lot about study ethics.

Due to the nature of my exchange, I spent my spare time mostly at the academic hostel. Otherwise, since I’m not into partying, I prefer walks around the iconic, historical and beautiful old town and other places of Estonian cultural heritage. Obviously, there are the non-party related activities at the hostel with other exchange students, especially my Italian roommate Gaetano.

The studying culture is different from Finland, more formal and strict in practice. The teachers are just as approachable as in Finland and do not need to be addressed any more formally, but the in-school processes involve a lot of bureaucracy and the teachers themselves seem to have much less “power”, since most things – even the smallest exceptions – must be negotiated with the dean of the faculty.

Above is a picture of the old town from an aerial view!