In middle of August 2015 I arrived to the country of windmills, bikes and the home of Heineken. During the very first train ride from Amsterdam Schiphol to Leeuwarden I saw more sheep and cows than possible to imagine, as well as bikes and bikeways. Now afterwards thinking of the whole exchange period, it went by extremely fast and was definitely an experience worth having.
In TAMK I study film and television and in the Netherlands I went to an internationally orientated school called Stenden University of Applied Sciences, taking courses from business school, and media and entertainment management. About Stenden I have very mixed feelings. I learned so much about branding, marketing and management, and developed my own professional identity. In the same time, however, I never got quite used to their educational system, which was highly focused on group discussions and group assignments. During my stay there I learned that sometimes instead of studying and knowledge you have, it is more important to be social and talkative, and choose your group assignment members carefully. Nevertheless, going on exchange and selecting Stenden and these particular courses has been one of the best decisions I have ever made career wise.
What comes to Leeuwarden and the Netherlands, I immediately fell in love with them. Settling down in the Netherlands was not hard. Quite opposite, it was actually very easy. Everything was organized rather well, even though there were some difficulties, such as being unable to pay with any of my bankcards (even MasterCard) in stores. Therefore, opening a local bank account was more or less a necessity in the beginning.
Comparing the Netherlands and Finland, they are actually very much the same. They are both very egalitarian in nature, strive for consensus in decision-making and do not show off too much to mention some similar characteristics. On the other hand, some things are very different in Netherlands. Most notably people, oh my gosh, they were so tall compared to everybody I know back in Finland. Even the exchange coordinator in Stenden was nearly two meters tall. Obviously, as time went by I got to know many Dutch who were not that tall. Even though most of them were.
About Heineken… I knew it was Dutch, but I had no clue how big it was over there! Heineken Experience in Amsterdam was definitely worth visiting and it blew my mind. I have never been into beer, but I have to admit Heineken got into me eventually. Of course, amongst students it was considered rather ‘posh beer’, since it costs almost one euro a bottle…
The best part of the whole experience was, however, travelling and all the people I met. I could not be more happy and grateful for making friends with such amazing people from all over the world, as well as meeting and catching up with dear, old friends who I had not seen in years. I travelled inside the Netherlands, enjoying Amsterdam and Maastricht the most. In addition I got to spend an amazing weekend full of sports in Hamburg, Germany with athletics junior athletes of Tampereen Pyrintö that I used to coach; I travelled to Glasgow in Scotland to visit my friends and (ex) fellow students from University of Glasgow; and we took part in an exchange student trip taking a night bus to Prague in Czech Republic and drank cheap beer till the dawn.
What more can I say? Take a leap of faith and go on foreign exchange!
It won’t let you down!