Quiet life in a quiet city

I did my exchange studies in International College of Liberal Arts (iCLA), which is a part of Yamanashi Gakuin University in Kofu, Japan. Kofu is a small city in the Japanese scale with a population of almost 200,000 people. It’s around the same size as Tampere, so it didn’t feel tiny for someone from Finland. The city center has everything you need and there’s also a big shopping mall one short train ride away. The area is surrounded by beautiful mountains and Mt. Fuji is visible from the campus on a clear day. The area is known for it’s grapes, peaches and it’s famous warlord from the Sengoku period, Takeda Shingen.

Due to the situation with the ongoing pandemic, all the courses were held online. I study media and arts and could find courses and workshops relevant to my studies, like graphic design, interactive art and the basics of game development. The credits (as of now) are worth double in the Finnish system. The online teaching works okay, but for some courses it’s been quite a challenge (like acting class). I also heard that the online teaching will continue on the autumn semester as well, so if by any chance someone is going there, keep that in mind. The courses itself have been okay and I have learned some new things. There’s also quite interesting workshops available which you can experience in Japan only, like shugendo and Mt. Fuji excursion.

It’s hard to say what normal studies at iCLA would be like. I’ve heard stories of the normal student life with all the festivals, galas and trips. For us, everything got cancelled (understandable). We didn’t have the entrance ceremony or any of the offline orientation programme. The student lounge closed after a few weeks into the semester and we were told not to hang out together or travel. There were no places to exercise in, the hobby clubs were closed and the Wi-Fi outside of the locked student lounge didn’t support gaming either. Even the meal plan we all had to enroll in served the meals in plastic boxes so we wouldn’t eat in the same space. It was a struggle to adjust to this new lifestyle at first because suddenly all the things you were used to were taken away, but after some time you learned to live with the situation.  I am not blaming the school for taking all these precautions, but I feel like something else could’ve been given to us in return. From what I’ve heard the situation is really different from the previous semester. Everybody seems to truly love iCLA and were sorry that it had to work out like this for me.

Something to keep in mind when moving to iCLA: everybody has to be a part of the meal plan (unless you have a doctor write you an confirmation that you can be excused due to allergies or health issues) and the food is served three times a day, usually in the cafeteria, the dorms are separated by sex and connected to the school building itself and the staff is very helpful and willing to answer questions. There’s an art room for artists to work and sew in and a student lounge connected to it where people could meet and play together. The average age of a student is around 20 years old, so keep that in mind if you’re an older student wishing for company around your own age.

To spend time people usually talk with each other or visit the restaurants nearby. Sometimes we would go to the mountains or karaoke, but as the situation was what it was, there wasn’t much to do. However in a normal situation I am sure people would be able to experience many wonderful things in this city, join hobby clubs and meet lots of new people. And any nerd would be happy to hear that Yamanashi’s mountain area is the inspiration for Pokémon’s Viridian Forest! It truly felt like that as well. You will know if you visit the forest during summertime. If you’re into anime pilgrimages, Yuru Camp is based in Yamanashi and can be seen advertised all around Kofu.

Based on other’s stories and the nice personnel in iCLA, I would recommend the school to anyone planning on going to Japan for an exchange. However I would not recommend going anywhere during a pandemic. Stay safe!

 

Groetjes uit Nederland

My exchange period is almost over and I think now is good time to tell you something about my studies and the Netherlands. My studies here have been quite intensive and I was well prepared for that. I am studying in The Hague University of Applied Sciences and I participated in course called ‘Smart Manufacturing and Robotics’. The basic idea of this course is to design automation systems for companies, and I would totally recommend this course for somebody who is studying automation or mechanics and is ready to study from 9am to 5pm every day. The course may be a little bit different than what we are used to in Finland and in TAMK. There is more freedom but also a lot of self-studying and hard work. I have really liked this course but because of corona it wasn’t quite same experience what it would be normally.

But for those people who want to have more free time I would say that choose another course. Because free time in the Netherlands goes really quickly. The thing what I liked the most in the Netherlands is the possibility to travel another countries really quickly and easily. Even despite of the Covid-19 I managed to make one week trip to Frankfurt, Zürich and Luxembourg. If you want to stay inside of the borders you will still have plenty to do. The Netherlands is a beautiful country, especially in the springtime. If you want to see beautiful landscapes you should go to watch tulip fields and for those who are more into sports go to watch football, hockey and F1. There is also many museums and historical places.

 

Living in the Netherlands is quite similar to Finland but there is one thing what you must have and that’s a bike. The bike is the king of the transportation although the public transport works also well. Price of the food is quite similar as in Finland and grocery store selections are good. But there is one product which is much cheaper than in Finland and that’s alcohol. For a poor student who likes to taste different beer brands I would say that go to the Netherlands.

 

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!

Salutations de Lyon!

I went on a study exchange to Lyon with my friend from the same class. On our course (sustainable development in food industries) we have quite similar classes and assignments (lots of teamwork) as in TAMK. Also we get to take part in a case that is given by a real company in France. Course consisted of a class trip in nothern Italy in the end of September. We visited companies such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Lavazza, Granarolo, Parma Ham and Alpina Savoie. We got to spend the nights in a hostel that used to be monastery, which was cool and different.

There are different choices to move from A to B, you can use public transport (bus, trams, metro + even one funicular) and electric scooters or city bikes. Every now and then there’s some manifestations (mostly calm), so some public transport lines might be cut off because of them. In the beginning of December started a strike which affected a lot on public transport.

Lyon is the food capital of France and you can sense those nice vibes especially in old town. Praline pastries are the specialty and you can find all different kinds of versions of it all around the city. One of the big attractions of Lyon is definitely Parc de la Tête d’Or, which is a very big park that includes a lot of different things: open zoo, normal park area, botanical greenhouses, rose garden, several kiosks etc. On Saturdays there were nice outside markets, where you could buy vegetables, fruits, meat, cheese, fried chicken, clothes, flowers.. and mostly cheaper than in stores. Our place (rented apartment from a private landlord) was located right next to Rhône river, which was very splendid and convenient at the same time.

One weekend in November we visited Nice, Cannes and Monaco. We used cheap Flix buses and trains to travel. Nice was my favourite, with the turquise sea water it was breathtakingly beautiful. It also wasn’t really the turist season, so it wasn’t so packed with people.

Studying methods were mostly familiar, as we use a lot of same ones in TAMK. Teachers and students have a different kind of relationship, feels like it’s a little bit more distant in France. Communication between teachers and students is also not as good as I’m used to, but I think the language barrier is the biggest issue in this case. Eating breaks are longer in France, they could be 1,5-2 hours, so with many other exchange students we asked for small possible change in that (after that we started evening classes about 0,5h earlier if it was possible for the teacher).

Au revoir!

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

Discovering immersive storyworlds in Aarhus, Denmark.

 

I started my studies in February as I landed in rainy and windy Denmark. Study group of ours, consisting of 10 different nationalities all over the world were warmly welcomed by the VIA University’s friendly staff on our first day. I could immediately feel hygge vibes within the school, people and city.

The New Screen Experience exchange studies have been covering all kinds of new media from VR to AR to XR together with stories. Our school is located at the industrial Filmbyen separated from main campuses together with 80 media companies around the area. 

Living in vibrant young student city with more than 60,000 students creates inspiring environment. Aarhus was nominated for the culture capital of Europe 2017,  I could see cultural projects taken further what it comes to art, architecture and technology. It is also easy city to access everywhere with bike, bus or tram within 20 min from different neighbourhoods. 

Aarhus is full of student events, museums, underground scene, flea markets, concerts, and festivals. Nightlife and pubs is the place where you easily socialise and meet new people besides school. Weekly sport activities and routines also helped to adapt with the local life even more. As a Fin, of course I had to find local sauna, and happily there was free public sauna around the Bay Area. Setting for the sauna was amazing with industrial harbour views, but disappointedly sauna experience wasn’t as hot as I expected. However, cold Tuborg pilsner tasted great afterwards!

 

When the corona outbreak happened all social events have turned into a lockdown, with studying from home and socialising online. Luckily spring have provided with great sunny weather to cycle around city and the restrictions have allowed enough freedom go out and gather in small groups. There have been a lot  to explore in local nature parks, lakes and sandy beaches. Just spending time in outdoors have made so much improvement daily life that I couldn’t image having quarantined in any other place.

However corona pandemic made this spring pretty special for studies, I could still make some comparison what it comes for the studies itself. I could see right away that the atmosphere in Filmbyen is pretty similar, like our studies at the Mediapolis. Studies are more hands on production, problem solving and group working. Some differences I could still see in course structures, since here the studies are in three different modules for the minor. As in our study minor we have more freedom over courses during the minor. Both have its benefits, but I felt more motivated about the module based program which were more structured to one topic and technology at the time, instead of having multiple topics whole minor. Overall study experience have been really interesting with visiting lecturers, groups tasks and online working.

I can fully recommend Aarhus as an easy going vibrant place for studies and living. Especially encouraging our media and film students to discover possibilities of new media in an inspiring environment.

안녕하세요 from Seoul!

I came to South Korea for my exchange studies on the 26th of February. When I arrived, COVID-19 was already an issue around here, but Seoul National University of Science and Technology (Seoultech) decided to keep their exchange program regardless.

I live on campus, on a very nice dorm room with my own kitchen, washing machine, and bathroom, and I was pleasantly surprised by just how big this campus is! We have a gym, a few cafés, multiple convenience stores, and a lot of places to just sit down and study.

Some cherry blossoms on campus.

The area where the University is located is a bit far from all the touristy and famous parts of Seoul, but the subway here is gigantic and covers almost everything you need!

Pro tip: Google Maps doesn’t really work here, since they only trust national apps – so Naver or Kakao Maps are your new best friends.

Hanok Village – traditional Korean houses

I ended up picking 6 classes, which is a bit more than the recommended and needed amount, and I will admit I regret it. It feels like more work than I had in Finland, specially since the teachers require weekly tasks to count our attendance for the online lessons (all our classes are online, because of COVID-19). Nothing compares to my Korean friends, who seem to have double the workload the exchange students do.

Despite the global pandemic, Korea never instituted a lockdown, so I was still able to visit the local highlights on my free time! The language is for sure an issue, since outside campus most people don’t speak English, but Koreans are incredibly hospitable and friendly, and they go out of their way to help even without speaking a word of it.

Gyeongbokgung palace

Cherry blossom season was for sure the highlight of my time here so far! I spent most of my free time hunting for nice cherry blossom spots, since the big parks were closed to prevent big crowds. It became a fun little adventure, and luckily, there are cherry blossoms everywhere! I’ve been having a blast photographing everything around here, and I carry my film camera almost everywhere I go. 

 

  

I still haven’t left Seoul to visit Busan or Jeju – since travelling was prohibited until May 6th. Something good came out of the online classes though: I can easily travel and attend the classes as long as I have my computer with me.

Lanterns in Temple for Buddha’s Birthday – 30th of April

I’ll return to Finland in the middle of July – hopefully, and I’m very lucky to be able to still experience my exchange studies in my dream destination in a situation where the entire world stopped, Korea didn’t, and the experience has been great so far!

Sziazstok from Hungary!

I am also one of those who had to interrupt their exchange studies due to the current uncertainty. I still got to spend a lovely one and a half months in Budapest, Hungary.
I studied in the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design. They had just finished building and renovating the campus in late 2019, so it was sparkling new and had a fascinatingly sterile feel to it. The facilities were amazing, they had a studio for everything: ceramics, metal-working, wood-working, textile, printing… It was the first time I saw such a big campus and studying there made me feel like an actual university student.

I went to MOME to study ceramic design, so I spent most of my time in the ceramic studio spaces. I also took some life model sculpting classes. My classmates and professors were very accommodating and nice to me, perhaps because I was the only exchange student on those courses. Most of them spoke English, but my courses were held in Hungarian and the professor explained things to me in English afterwards. I really enjoyed studying at MOME and I miss the campus. My courses changed into online courses which I continued (and finished) after returning to Finland.

Studying in Budapest did not differ much from studying in Tampere. I had no problems adapting to the culture. I took a course to learn the basics of Hungarian at MOME and I also learned some things beforehand, so it made things even more easy. I am always interested in learning new languages and Hungarian was most definitely interesting.

As for free time, I spent most of it with my dear newfound Erasmus friends (and a few Hungarians too!!). We went to see tourist spots and thriftshopped to the max. Most often we would gather in Budapest’s many ruin bars. There was a bar called Klub Vittula, which ended up being our most common hangout. I always had a great conversation starter when I met new people there…

There was always something to do in Budapest. Our campus had lots of activities too, like movie nights and free yoga classes. The price of food in restaurants was very cheap and for a vegetarian there was many places to choose from. The public transport was easy, and the city was beautiful. The cherry blossoms were blooming in March, right before I left.

 

One weekend we traveled to lake Balaton, the biggest lake in Hungary.

 

 

 

I am honestly still sad and gutted that my exchange plans went awry and I had to leave, but life goes on. I am really hoping to have another chance to meet all the cool people again and to just sit and chill at a ruin bar. Maybe someday!

Filming Sea Turtles in Guatemala

I spent 3 months in Guatemala (Oct-Dec) filming the research and conservation activities for sea turtles. It was part of a fine art studies internship, and I spent most of it in a rural area by the Pacific Coast, about 20 metres from the water. I also helped the researchers there quite a bit, as help was needed. Work there was hard and time-consuming, but purposeful. I had complete freedom to do things my own way, but I always had to consider that I wasn’t there for my own gain, but for helping others. I liked that very much.

During November not many turtles hatched, so I had more free time to travel within the country. I got to hike a volcano and spend the night camping and watching a neighboring volcano erupting every 5-15 minutes. I got to kayak in a large lake among volcanoes. I got to hike in the jungles and on warm, month-old lava, visit Mayan ruins, experience the Day of the Dead and eat all the avocado and pineapple I ever wanted (and get all the mosquitoes bites I never wanted).

 

People here are very chill when it comes to work. Sometimes too chill, as scheduling tends to be overly flexible most of the time. With that said, people do get the job done, just without much stress. Most of my work with others was helping them, as my work was something only I could do.

Overall, it was a great time and I am glad I got to experience it!

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!