I did my exchange period in Dortmund, Germany. Dortmund is located in the west part of Germany, in a state (=Bundesstaat) Northrhine-Wesphalia. Dortmund is middle-sized city in Germany with its almost 600 000 citizens.
There is not much to see in Dortmund. Dortmund is famous for its football team, Borussia Dortmund (BVB). During BVB’s matches the football stadion Westfalenstadion ( or as the new name, Signal Iduna Park) is always full with more than 81 000 football fans. I had the chance to go to one match and it was totally worth the money!
Luckily it was free to us to travel in regional trains to other cities in the same state – Cologne (Köln), Düsseldorf, Bonn, Aachen and to many others. Cologne was my favorite of these and had a lot of history and of course the Cologne Cathedral. We also went to see a world championships of ice hockey which was organized by Paris and Cologne this year.
The school days were shorter than in TAMK but more demanding and theorical. The bureaucracy was something unbelievable, everyone should experince the paper war with German authorities.
The student life in Dortmund was very good with cheap student bar near the dormitories and the ESN Dortmund arranged lot of freetime activities. The German food culture (sausages, Schnitzel) also became very familiar. It was easy to travel to Netherlands from Dortmund and you can also take the train to Paris in 4,5 hours 🙂
I came to Barcelona in the beginning of April when I got my internship here in a large international translation company. I’ll be staying here until the end of September so I’m a bit over half way through my stay in this gorgeous city.
As I mentioned I’m working in a translation company and I’m an intern in project management in one of the multicultural marketing teams. My daily tasks are mainly to help the team with different clients we have, so my days are filled with emails to find linguists for the needed jobs and paying them for their work and to check that the final translations are perfect for the clients. So far, I have enjoyed my internship and I have learned a lot.
The only thing I still find myself struggling with is the working hours. I work from 10 to 19 and as a Finn I would prefer to go in earlier to get out earlier too. Often, I end up feeling that I just spent the whole day at work and there’s really no time to do anything else, but I still need to try to get used to the Spanish way of living. Besides this I don’t really see many differences working in Finland and in Spain.
During my free time, which I mainly have on the weekends and bank holidays I tend to spend time with friends, going to the beach or just wandering around the city. Barcelona is a wonderful city because it has everything; the beach, the big city vibe and a lot to see and do! I have also done weekend trips to Montpellier in France and another one to Andorra. With the time I have left here, I hope to explore a bit more of Spain too.
The ground of a narrow hillside path burns my feet through my shoes as I wipe sweat off from my forehead. In the distance I hear a ship horn, closer around me the chirping concert of thousands of cicadas. An old lady appears from behind a corner, gives a smile and says “Konnichiwa”. I respond with the same and smile back. But the smile doesn’t last long as I am immediately forced to swipe off more sweat from my face. It’s so scorching hot and incredibly humid that even the cats that this town is famous for lay in the short shadows as an occasional sweaty tourist tries to take pictures of them.
Welcome to Onomichi, a lovely small port town of about 40,000 residents in Hiroshima prefecture, Japan. I’ve been working here as a practical trainee/helper staff in a guesthouse/café since mid-June. The place I work for is called Miharashi-tei, a building originally built in 1921 in the traditional Saen(tea culture) architectural style. It stands on a stone wall cliff about 300 steps up from the town. It operated as an inn for a short while after the second world war but had been out of use for almost 30 years before it was renovated into the guesthouse that it has been operating as since March 2016. The guesthouse is run by a non-profit organization.
My main duty here is to help in the reception and give house tours for guests – both Japanese and foreign – after they have checked in at the reception desk in the guesthouse café. I take the guests around the facilities, explain house rules and finally show them to their rooms. I also help in the café/bar and when I have morning shifts I work with the cleaning/maintenance staff.
On my days off I have explored Onomichi and done a few daytrips to nearby cities such as Hiroshima and Okayama. I went to see the yearly Peace Ceremony in Hiroshima on the date of the atomic bomb of 1945. On normal evening shift workdays I spend the morning studying Japanese in the Onomichi Municipal (air-conditioned) Library.
Japanese work culture is known to be strictly hierarchical but a non-profit guesthouse is a slighty different thing. Here even the manager does dishes and fixes drinks. Everyone’s effort is equally valued and, as probably in every Japanese workplace, here also the sentence “otsukaresamadesu” is an essential part of the daily cycle. It’s a ritualistic Japanese expression which translates to something like “you must be tired” or “thank you for your good work”. People say it to each other when someone leaves the workplace.
Living and working in Japan has been my long-time dream and this training period has been a wonderful and useful glimpse into what life here is like in reality. I hope to be back as a trainee and exchange student before my permanent stay.
I came to London for two reasons, I wanted to work in a cocktail bar in the city which has the best bars in the world and secondly I wanted to visit those bars and see why they are the best.
Nine to five
I started work at the end of May in Bethnal Green, area in East London. The bar is called London Cocktail Club and it has eight venues all over the city. The venue I work in is the only one above ground and it has a terrace, which means I don’t have to rot the whole summer in a cellar bar without seeing the sun. We were also the only bar without air con, which meant lot of sweating during busy days. Luckily the those times are over, because now we have a cool breeze coming from the brand new air con -machine.
For the customers the bar is kind kind of a party place, like the company’s motto says: “… a bartenders paradise! A bar that parties like the best of them, and mixes the worlds greatest drinks to perfection. A place where you can dance on the tables whilst singing to AC/DC, sipping on the perfect dry Martini!” And it gets crazy during the weekends, customers are literally dancing on tables and everyone is having fun, including the staff.
But as we work there, we can’t just party all the time, we also work and train ourselves to be better. Lots of prepping and cleaning to do also, I’ve had to juice lemons, limes, grapefruits, make sugar syrup, pre-batch liquors, wash glasses by hand (we don’t have a dish washer) and break down stations after closing time. So basically just normal bar work, what I’ve used to do. But I have also learned a lot new things and skills during my time here.
For example I’ve had to learn a completely new way of pouring, free pouring, which means you can’t use a jigger and you have to count the amounts in your head while you make the drinks. That took a lot of practice and I still have to practice it daily, but I’ve become quite good at it now. I also had to memorize the whole menu and specs for the cocktails, which includes about 70 different drinks. That took me couple of weeks before I passed the spec test and pour test, so I could start bartending.
We also do training with the whole company on Thursdays, the subjects vary from different spirits to opening your own bar, so they have been very interesting and educational.
At the beginning, when I had more spare time, I spent a lot of time seeing things and going to places. Because I live kind of in the middle of the city, it’s not too far to walk anywhere, so I like to do it a lot, which is weird according to my work mates, even though the buses and tube are very easy to use as well.
I’ve visited many museums, like Tate modern and British museum, which is five minute walk away from my flat. My goal is to see everything in the British Museum before I leave, don’t know if I have time to finish that though. Another hobby of mine has been walking around looking for street art, especially Banksy’s.
Otherwise I have been kind of a bad tourist, because I have been here for almost three months and I still haven’t gone to see the Big Ben, and it took me almost two months before I even saw Thames.
My touristic sight seeing has been more of going to the bars which I’ve read a lot online and heard so much about, like Dandelyan, the top-3 bar in the world, The Gibson, bar that serves the weirdest looking cocktails what I’ve seen, and my personal favourite: Happiness Forgets, a small cellar bar with very good atmosphere and minimalistic cocktails.
I’ve also spent time with my work mates, we’ve been out couple of times together, seen movies and just hanged around, we even went to a festival in Victoria Park with everyone in the company.
On the other hand, I’ve spent a lot of my spare time at home watching Netflix and doing chores like laundry and washing dishes, because nowdays I work much more than in the beginning so it’s nice to relax and do nothing during the days off.
Differences to Finland
I see a lot of same in the working culture over here that we have in Finland. The British people like punctuality and precision like we do in Finland. The wages are about the same in both countries.
The biggest differences what I see is the customer service, because it is more personal in here, it is the most important thing what you have to do, little bit of small talk, making guests feel comfortable etc. Here it’s been taken to an another level compared to Finland. And that is one of the thing what I came here to learn. Partly customer service is on that level here is probably because of the general culture, like the small talk, and partly because some of the restaurants and bars have a service charge added to the bill, which goes directly to the staff, and if you don’t serve guests well, they don’t want to pay it. But still there is the certain something that makes you feel comfortable when you walk in to a venue with good service.
Here the alcohol industry is very close to you when you work here, there’s lot of different events, competitions, exhibitions and lot of leg work by brand ambassadors coming to showcase their products to you. And that brings you closer to professionals and industry leaders, and gives you more possibilities to advance in your career.
But all in all bar industry is pretty much the same everywhere and there is similar working cultures around the world and at the same time two bars on the same street might have totally different ways of working and doing things compared to each other.
I am studying Business Administration at Università degli studi di Torino. My journey here is almost finished and I feel both sad and relieved. Next week I am travelling back home and I will see my family and friends again – too excited about it! Then again I feel sad that I can’t spend time with these people that I have hanged out with the last four months, and that’s going to be weird.
Something about our University: Our university is one of the oldest universities in Italy. It was found in 1404 and most its buildings are old. Sometimes even the style of teaching feels like from that century- just kidding. We had this Irish professor that said that Italian teaching method is so old fashioned and should be changed. This is because the professors just sit in front of the class and speak from the slides. There were two professors standing up, but their bad skills of English blew it. The style of the lectures are very university like, but there were also some group tasks and case-studies. For me the case-studies worked the best. In TAMK the teaching method is more from practical point of view and that’s why I missed more of case-studying kind of method to the lectures. But it’s an old university, can’t forget that.
View from Monte di Capuchini – me and my flatmate
Now something about my spare time. At first I attended the Erasmus parties and other events for exchange students. I liked to go to this Tandem Linguisticoevery week- the idea of it was to practice different languages. In Torino there’s also a party called Baila Conmigo, where’s a free dance lesson about latin dances in the beginning and afterwards you can set your new skills free on the dance floor. Now that it’s summer I like to spend my time in the big park of Torino called Parco del’ Valentino. We also like to have apericena, which is a combo of aperitivo and dinner.
Baila Conmigo in LAB
I have also done a lot of travelling while being in here, mostly in Italy. I have seen Rome, Naples, Bari, Aosta, Alba, Ivrea, Verona, Venice, Genova and Paestum. Outside of Italy I have travelled to Nice, Monaco and Athens. If your wondering how I had the time to do all that, it’s because our courses are held one at a time. Then after every course there’s always been a long enough vacation to travel. I’m so happy about this journey and all of the people I have met here. I’ve got to know people from so many different countries but after all I have to say- we are not that different from each other. 🙂
I wish all of the other exchange students the best time! Enjoy :):)