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It’s Kati again! As I stated above, I was half-a-year student in China, Jinan. Let me tell you some aspects of my daily life!
Studying in an Asian country is -of course- very study oriented, but the courses are not so difficult. The campus is big (1,5 million squares according to Wikipedia) so the distances between school buildings are very long. You easily got 10,000 steps by just going to classes and canteen. There were many school buildings, about 15 when counting 3 canteens, library and doctor’s together, which was a huge surprise compared to tiny little Tampere University of Applied Sciences. Everyone should be addressed with their surname, like Mr. Wang. There was also a brewery, tea house and other warrants of the school which we visited.
Picture: Me(second from the right) and other transfer student in the tea house of Qilu school.
There were many ways to spend your free time and many Chinese chose to study. I found different ways to stabilize my everyday life by going to jog and to a gym, hang around in bars, playing pool and table tennis, hiking a mountain, travelling to different cities, seeing different tourist attractions, and just walking around the schoolyard. Why I mentioned walking around the school? Well, there were many statues, places to relax and they were usually quiet and empty. There were many opportunities nearby the school, you decide where you want to spend your days!
Picture: City of Jinan
There were also different kind of weather, as there only snowed once during my stay, even I was there on the autumn semester! The snowflakes were tiny and melted away in an instant. Also, the lunchtime were about 2 hours as there were 15,000-25,000 people on the same time who went to lunch. Sometimes we went to the nearby restaurant to have lunch as in the canteens there were very noisy and no seats left. One cool aspect of the school was to see different kind of clubs, as in TAMK there is only (maybe) 2 clubs, which are Paperikerho, a “club” for paper engineers and Ääriraja, a theater “club”. During my free time I saw for example the band club, rollerblading club, hiking club and dancing club. I wish there would be as many clubs in Finland too.
I have lived and studied in Upper Austria now for three and half months and now it’s time to tell you a little bit about my stay here.
It has been a really interesting for me to experience a bit of Austrian school system. Basically, I had no prejudices or expectations about it before I came here, but now I can say that it has been a positive surprise for me so far. There’s a couple of characteristics that I would like to highlight.
In Austria, people are extremely punctual and they really appreciate and even demand punctuality from everyone. You can be sure that you will be scolded if you arrive late on the lecture. Working and studuying culture is also very formal here. All the professors are well-dressed and students address them with their correct titles, and actually in everyday life also, elder must be addressed with “Frau” (Ms.) or “Herr” (Mr.).
All in all, my studies here have been interesting but challenging as well. Professors speak fluent english and the teching methods are quite similar than in Finland, so studying itself is not that different here than in TAMK.
Naturally, student exchange is not just studying. Actually I have had plenty of day offs in my schedule, so I have had a lot of time to travel and explore. My favourite way to spend free time here, has for sure been mountain hiking in the Alps. And as Austrians boast the second highest consumption of beer per capita worldwide, I haven’t been able to avoid tasting the local beer specialties.
It has been great and memorable time here and I can greatly recommend Austria as a travel destination for everyone.
I came to Republic of Korea (commonly known as South Korea) about three and a half months ago, and it has been an amazing experience! Korea is so much different than Finland: the food, the people, the amount of people, the city of Seoul, everything is far from what I’m used to at home. The biggest difference is the studies. Koreans really enjoy studying everything by hard, and to spend a lot of time doing so. I’m used to learn how to the solve the problems and close the book, but Koreans keep studying from 9am to 9pm and extend that a little when exams are near.
When I arrived, this was a bit of a shock for me and I didn’t know how to catch with all of the local students and their motivation/memory skills. So, after some time I decided I would not do that and continued to learn the way I’m used to. This gave me way more time to enjoy Seoul and everything else outside of school.
Here are a few photos during my journey in Korea:
The temples. In South Korea, there are hundreds and hundreds of places to visit from the early ages in terms of buildings, sites and museums. This was something I really enjoyed, since it gave really fun way to learn about the Korean culture and history.
The food. In the picture you can see what is called Korean bbq. You order your meat raw and then cook it with your friends in the middle of table. Usually when we went for a bbq with exchange students, there was some beer and soju (Korean alcohol drink made from rice) involved.
The atmosphere. Seoul has a population of 10 million people inside the city borders. If you count the actual metropolitan area, the number becomes 25 million. And it felt like every single one of them took the same subway route, visited the same market and was on the move at the same time as I was. This was an amazing experience since my home town is only some 230000 people.
If you are considering Korea as your destination for exchange period, I can highly recommend! Flights to neighboring countries are cheap and short, the people and food is amazing and it won’t be anything you can experience in the western countries!
After a proper period of stay it’s good to make a little summarize about living in one of the biggest cities in the world. I have studied in the Seoul National University of Sciences and Technology in Seoul, South-Korea. There is a huge difference in an everyday living between Seoul and any city in Finland. Seoul metropolitan area with more than 25 million inhabitants is definitely stunning thing to experience for boy a small-town boy like me.
South Korea is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and especially the last 50 years have been so explosive that the phenomenon is called “Miracle of the Han river”. Now that I’ve lived here for some time it is easy to understand what’s the reason for that. People’s studying and work motivation is just something else what I’ve never seen. It is totally common to see university students to study in library still at midnight and people are assessed, for example, in a job search situation based solely on grades. For this reason, studying in the university is a little different than what I’m accustomed to in Finland. Professors expect students to learn a lot of things by memorize and that’s something what I personally don’t believe to be the best way to study. Nevertheless, I feel that my studies have gone well, thanks to a good teaching and motivating atmosphere.
Here have been a lot of different things that have made a big impression to me and to name one is that even though city is that big, there is a nature quite nearby. Seoul city is surrounded by mountains and that make awesome view over city skyline, especially during sunset. Mountains were historically an important part of a city defense and those were another reason why Seoul was built at the place where it is nowadays. The city center of a Seoul is split by a river that you can see on a Figure 1. The river was the main reason for the birth of a city. Seoul was that close to the North Korean border that there was no shipping on the river because the other end of the river led to the other side of the border.
Even though Seoul is highly developed city as well as the whole South Korea as a country, here is a plenty of historical culture to see. One of the “must-see” things what you can find when you make a Google-search about staying in Seoul is definitely the palaces nearby city center. In 1392-19210 Korean Peninsula was ruled by dynasty of Joseon. The dynasty built five great palaces in Seoul which are popular tourist destinations nowadays. In figure 3 there is a photo of building belonging to one of these palaces.
So far, I have enjoyed my time in Seoul more than I could ever imagine and I definitely feel this city to be my home. The biggest reason for that is, no doubt, kindness of strangers and benevolence of peoples. One concrete example of this is food culture. It is very common thing that food is shared with every people in a table and usually the meals last a lot longer than I was used to in Finland. In figure four you can see maybe the most traditional Korean dish, called Korean barbeque.
Lastly, I hope every exchange student have had as awesome exchange period so far and let’s enjoy the rest of it what’s left!
After three months exchange in Maribor it might be a good time to tell something about this second-largest city in Slovenia. Before my exchange I didn’t have any expectations from this city or even the country. But now when I am thinking about Maribor as an exchange city, there is a few things I would like to share with you. First of all, I can’t skip a fact that this is the wine city. Maribor is surrounded by mountains. The biggest mountain called Pohorje is a well-known ski resort but every other mountain is full of vineyards. In fact, here is also the oldest vine in the world. It’s more than 400 years old.
I didn’t know this first but Maribor is also very famous from its Erasmus life. Students come here just because of that. Instead of just one welcome week we had two of them and also a lot of activities during the semester. This might be the reason why here is more than 400 Erasmus students at the time and it’s growing every year.
One rare thing comparing to other countries is student coupons. What? With student coupons you can go almost every restourant in the city and order portion from their menu. And the price is 0 to 3 euros including soup, salad, main dish and fruit/desert. If eating was cheap I can also happily tell you that drinking is even more cheaper. And actually the average price level is way lower than in Finland.
I am studying in faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in University of Maribor. Usually faculties organize separate lectures for Erasmus students. But I have one course where I am the only Erasmus so I have to study by my own. This kind of studying method was totally new for me. But in generally studying here is almost same like in Finland. We have laboratory exercises almost in every course and I like this kind of practical work. After laboratory exercise I had to write report but basically we didn’t have any homework.
Of course this was a great oportunity to travel. Slovenia has a beautiful nature and it’s surrounded by interesting countries. I have visited five countries and for sure more than twenty cities. In addition to many cities, I met a lot of awesome people from different countries and culture.
Only few weeks left here so I’ll stop writing and go to enjoy these last moments!
Autumn here in Halmstad has gone really fast, and I have had some great experiences during my exchange period. Halmstad is a small but cozy city, which especially blooms in the summertime. Last summer was the warmest for a long time in Sweden, and thousands of people travelled here to enjoy the best beaches in the country.
Studying here is a bit different than in TAMK. Usually you have only two courses at the same time, and they last for two months each. I have had much less lectures with the teacher than in Finland, but every course has a bigger group project or a report that you have to work on during the course and present in the end, and this is a big part of the course evaluation. Otherwise the degree of difficulty is quite the same than in Finland. I study construction engineering, but here I have also taken courses in environmental engineering. I have found them quite interesting and sustainability and green thinking seems to be the specialty of Halmstad University. The highlight of my studies has definitely been a study trip to Copenhagen with my Sustainable Urban Development -course class!
Pictures from Halmstad and it’s beaches:
Halmstad is also very well located for exploring the area, many big cities such as Lund, Malmö, Gothenburg, Helsingborg and Copenhagen easily accessible by train or car. Most of my weekends here I have spent travelling in Sweden, Denmark and Norway and exploring new places. Halmstad Student Union also organizes a one week trip to Swedish Lapland which was really great.
I have spent my exchange period in Shenyang, China. Shenyang is medium sized city in China with about 8 million habitants. The city is located in the northeast of China about 250 kilometres of the North Korean border. The name of my university is Shenyang Jianzhu or SJZU. There are about 19 000 students of which approximately 200 are international students in the university.
Teaching language is English. The way of teaching is similar to Finnish type of teaching where professor takes the lead and students (at least try to) pay attention. There are many project oriented courses too but I’m only studying languages and Chinese culture so I don’t have to take any part in those projects. However, study timetable is different from what I have used to. Morning lessons starts at 8.30am and they last until 11.30am. Afternoon lessons starts at 1.30pm and they can last until 5 or 6pm.
There are many international students in my university, but most of them come here to study whole university degree or master’s degree. At the moment you can find only three students through exchange program, two from Germany and one Finn. Most of the majoring students comes from Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and many African countries, for example Nigeria and Tansania.
Most of the other international students don’t know Finland at all or have very stereotypical knowledge about it (Nokia, cold country, possibility to have a good life and Santa Claus). Somehow many students think that we speak English as our native language in Finland.. Well, sometimes I like to shock other students telling about stories how I enjoy eating reindeers or rolling in the snow while taking a good sauna session.
There are many different reasons why life in Shenyang is so different compared to life in Finland. Biggest impact comes with a language. Shenyang is not so international city and that makes communication sometimes very hard with locals. Most of the people can’t understand English language at all and on the other hand my Chinese level is very basic and poor in spelling. In Chinese language same words have a different meaning depending how tones are said. There are four different tones and if you spell word with wrong tone you can say something very bad or locals have no idea what you are trying to say. Sometimes people try to communicate with me by writing some information with Chinese characters but I have no idea how to read them.
At the beginning I found it very hard to communicate with people but now I have learned tricks for it. Communication usually happens with simple phrases, hand signals, gestures and by using translator applications. Luckily I have managed to have few local English speaking friends who I can rely if things get too problematic. I can say that Chinese friends are the most helpful people I know on this Earth.
Other things that affects differently to my life here are huge amount of people, traffic and pollution. In this city is impossible to walk alone in the streets or sometimes even fit on the sidewalk. Don’t even think that you can find a place to sit in subway or bus. Just run inside, jump on people and try to survive! Luckily I took a single room in my dormitory so I have place to hide if things get too hectic for me.
Using public transports is very cheap in Shenyang. Subway ticket costs about 3-5 (0,5€) yuan depending how far you go. Jumping in the bus costs 1-2 (20 cents) yuan and you can drive as far as you want with that price! Driving with taxi about 10 kilometers can cost you about 40 to 50 yuan (about 4 or 5 euros). Usually drivers are honest and put the taximeter on but sometimes they can drive around a same block few times to gain more money from people who don’t know the city so well.
Traffic in Shenyang is very chaotic and makes no logic for me. Many of the taxi drivers are driving very high speeds and they use every path available (sidewalks, alleys, etc). On top of that there is no seat belts available in most of taxis. On the other hand I have to admire the way they race through city without crashing their cars.
Air pollution is a big problem in China and you can feel it also in Shenyang. Air pollution index (US AQI) can vary something about 50-150 (good day) to 200-400 (don’t go outside). Some days you can really see the pollution in the air. You can smell the diesel, coal and exhaust fumes in the air. If you are wild enough you can put your mask on and go for a jog or walk. For comparison, in Finland air pollution index is usually between 5 and 40.
Usually I spend my spare time with local or international friends. Going to city with local friends is always very interesting. They can show and tell you many different things about Chinese culture and different cuisines. I have tasted hundreds of differents foods in China. Some of them are very delicious, some are not. My personal favorite is hot pot for a lunch or dinner.
I have plans to travel and see different places in China. For now I have had time to see Dandong, Shanghai and countryside in Benxi. Getting to Dandong takes about 2 hours with train. It’s very interesting city to me because from there you can see to real North Korea. Shanghai is far more developed and international city than Shenyang. It’s a shame I had only four days to spend there. In the countryside I saw beautiful mountains and nature, cornfields everywhere and very primitive little villages.
As a construction site management student I have found China very interesting. Especially the ways how the things get build in here. Chinese people don’t really waste time when they want to build something. Building a new restaurant in my campus area took only about 3 weeks. The size of the buildings is humongous if compared with buildings in Finland! A block of flats with more than 40 layers is standard in China. They have a lot of knowledge how to build big and monumental structures in this country.
There is one familiar looking building in my campus area that got my attention when I roamed around in the first two weeks. It reminded me of a Finnish wooden house that looked a bit odd somehow. Maybe it was because of the windows? A closer look told me that the house was built in co-operation with TAMK in 2010.
There is a lot of other things I could tell about my staying here in China, but I fear that this blog post is getting too long already. I don’t regret coming here. Somehow I have spent maybe the best time of my life here in spite of the hardness of life sometimes. I’m quite sure I will return to China someday.
It’s now half way of my exchange so I thought that it might be good time to write some thoughts here. In spring 2018 I decided to go study abroad and after long consideration the best city for me looked to be Kortrijk in Belgium. Kortrijk is quite small city with only 75 000 citizens, but the center isn’t feeling so small as you might think because most of the people are living there and that makes Kortrijk look bigger than what it is. Kortrijk is located in the west part of Belgium and main language here is Dutch, but many people can speak French too.
I’m studying automation technics and the school where I study here is called VIVES University of Applied Sciences. I have studied mostly by myself or with local students because here isn’t any other Erasmus student from a different country in my field of studies. In my opinion studying here is more practical than in TAMK. After short part of theory there are many project-based courses where you need to be ready to study independently. Of course, teachers will help you every time you ask some help from them. In the matter of fact, local students are also very helpful at the lessons.
Before I came here in Belgium I searched apartments where to live and found that there is chance to get a room from a student house by VIVES. There’s approximately 80 apartments at the house and they are all wanted so I was very lucky to got one. Rent is also quite reasonable, 350€ per month. The best part of the house is that it’s full of exchange students (well mostly Spanish of course because they are the most eager people to do exchange with their big groups…) so it’s easy get familiar with people from different culture. One thing that has surprised me is that Erasmus students here is quite bad in English (me included as you can see) but luckily locals are much better, and they are willing to speak English.
In weekdays after school I usually do some sports or then I hang out with other Erasmus students at the residence. In the weekends it’s very easy to do trips to other city in Belgium, France, Netherlands or Germany. Travelling with train here is very cheap, only 6-7 € per ticket and if that feels too expensive, you can take Flixbus which is even more cheaper. During my exchange I have visited in four different counties and ten difference cities.
I have still couple months left my exchange and I’m going to enjoy every second of it!
I’ve been doing my exchange in Brno. Brno is located in South-East part of Czech Republic, and Czech Republic is located in the heart of Europe.
Brno is student city, as roughly 20% of population are students. And there are around 400 000 people living in city of Brno. Wherever you’re walking, you always meet up with students. This makes the city to increase the amount of services offered especially for students. For example traveling is really cheap – train ticket to Prague can be under 1 euro.
When traveling outside of the capital Prague, be prepared to use hand gestures for communicating or learn at least a little bit of Czech. People over age 40 do not speak English at all in general. And most of the people working in customer service don’t either speak English usually.
Living in general is really cheap compared to Finland, and I haven’t really needed to think how I’m spending my money on everyday purchases. I’m afraid to return to Finland and feel Finland’s prices again 🙂
Studying is based more on individual doing than in Finland. You are given lectures, and then you have laboratories where you have to do certain task in given time. I have most courses from faculty of Information Technology, where level of teaching is pretty high in my opinion. Difficulty of subject varies a lot depending on course, but mainly the courses are easier than same courses given for local students. That is good in my opinion, so Erasmus students don’t have to spend all time studying in the library. Difficulty isn’t really be comparable to Finland, as I’m not studying same subjects, although work amount is roughly the same.
Faculty of Information Technology is combination of old and new. It used to be an old monastery, and it is well renovated.
The best part is definitely getting know to new people, and amount of traveling that is possible to do here with small amount of money. Also the amount of nice castles and churches is surprising. You don’t necessarily have to go to search for them – you will find them when you are doing road trip in Czech Republic. For example here’s a nice backyard of a castle in a small city where we just went to take some gasoline.
Also don’t be surprised if you get a beer like this. This is the normal Czech way of pouring beer. Foam is there to protect the flavors from running out.
I have enjoyed my time in Erasmus, and I will most definitely enjoy it until the very end. If you’re thinking whether to go to exchange or not – do it. I have not found anyone who hasn’t liked his stay here, or who hasn’t found a group of friends to share the experience.
I am spending my exchange period in Belgium, in a small town called Kortrijk. Kortrijk’s population is approximately 70 000 and it’s located right next to border between Belgium and France, only 30 km away from Lille. Daily life is very similar than in Finland except the culture of using bicycle for going to school or work. In first weeks I also rented a bike and joined this massive group of cyclists. First two months have gone so fast that I haven’t even noticed it! Let’s open things a bit.
Studying in Belgium is quite similar that it is back in Finland. You have lectures for theory and then lots of laboratory work to support theory. Here in Kortrijk school have great facilities and resources for those laboratory courses. Every time in the laboratory there is all the time teacher from who you can ask help if you need. I have done some laboratory works in the lab while there are local students, beside working only with exchange students, and I have found out that they are very kind and helpful if you just ask something from them, local students english skills are also in a good level. Same thing is with teachers here, they help you with good patience and knowledge and make sure that you really understood. After all teaching methods doesn’t really difference from Finland style, it hasn’t been as big cultural shock as I thought before exchange began!
I am living in residence owned by the VIVES (school where I am studying). There’s over 100 people living in there, mostly exchange students but also some local students. In my spare time I go to gym and spend time with my friends at the residence. In the residence atmosphere is very nice so everyone gets along with everyone. Belgium is a small country, so couple of other countries are just couple hours away from our city for example Netherlands and France. So far I have visited with my friends cities like Brussel, Brugge, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Lille and couple smaller towns in Belgium. In autumn break we did four days visit to Milan, Italy. Cities in Belgium looks similar a lot compared to each other; old churches, market square and same architecture all around cities.
Now I understand why Belgian beers are so famous, even though they are strong they doesn’t taste like that. So far Belgian beers have been best beers I have ever tasted. Beer is also very cheap here! Belgian waffles, fries and chocolate are also very good according to my experiences with them. I have also seen two Belgium’s top league football game and one Italy Serie A game during this time.
There is still few weeks left of this exchange and I’m going to take all advantage of this time left in here.