Monthly Archives: August 2020

Hallo! Greetings from Berlin!

I spent six months in Berlin doing my exchange studies and I had a great time! The university was Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin (HTW), and very different from TAMK, in my opinion. There was not many spaces to study with friends and their library is pretty different, it was more like Tamk’s silent room. You can not go inside with your bag, jacket, food/drinks, you have to leave everything in a locker outside, and you cannot make any noise. Also, if you want to rent a book you need to ask the librarian. One nice area with sofas to study and meet your friends is, surprisingly, a bar. Yes, there is a bar in the uni.

Facilities aside, I had some nice courses and good teachers. The duration of classes were three hours and fifteen minutes, those fifteen being a break in the middle and the teaching style was similar to Tamk’s.

I lived in a student residence called Victor Jara together with many Erasmus students, which was awesome! Everyone had its own studio but lived in the same building.  There was a big common area outside, felt like a private park, with some chairs, grill and even a beach volleyball court. And there was also a student bar in the building (that is Berlin, my friends) that opened every Tuesday and Friday and had the cheapest drinks possible.

First picture in the area outside the building and second picture is the bar, Bierkeller, when we celebrated its 65 years.

There is loads of things to do in Berlin on your spare time! It is a huge and multicultural city and you can find anything you want. The history and the culture of the city, and the country, is impressive and you can learn about it just walking through Berlin or going in one of the many museums. Museums of history, art, photography, technology, everything.

Berlin is a beautiful city (a bit dirty though) with a lot to offer. There are many touristic places to visit, food from all over the world to eat, a lot of vegan too, and people from everywhere. The thing I loved most about this city was its freedom. People are free, they dress and walk in the way they want and no one is judging or being judged.

Berliner Dom and Brandenburger Tor.

One thing you must, and probably, know is that Germans love sausage and beer! And unlike Finland, a lot of cheap beer and alcohol.  Berlin is also known from its street art, which you can see everywhere, and for its club night life. It is the techno city, and it is crazy. If you are going there, be free and enjoy!

“I love my life” (all photos were taken by me).

 

Daily hikes up Steep Hill! Greetings from Lincoln, UK

 

Lincoln Cathedral, United Kingdom

I spent my exchange in Lincoln, a relatively small historic city in the eastern midlands of England.

My studies at The University of Lincoln were mostly theoretical and consisted of a lot of reading and writing academic texts. I study film and screenwriting, which made the theoretical nature of the education a bit frustrating to get used to at first, because back at home, all we do is very much practical. I’m used to learn things by doing things, and I’m not good at writing essays at all, not to mention the inability I have to focus while sitting still for long stretches of time… But I’m very proud of myself for experiencing and learning from these differences!

I will miss this place a lot. Lincoln is an old Roman city full of history, and one of those places where history can literally be touched and felt.

There are ruins scattered throughout the city centre and the Roman city walls built around a steep hill called, well, Steep Hill. If I remember correctly, it features the steepest street in all of United Kingdom with shops on it, and leads to the nearly 1000-year-old Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle sitting on top of the hill.

It only makes sense that I spent most of my free time hiking up Steep Hill, looking at Antique shops, sipping hot chocolate in bookshops, walking in nature, exploring tiny old villages around the neighbouring counties (and I even ventured as far as Wales and Scotland! But I never got the chance to visit Ireland as I had planned to go there in the summer, and well… that didn’t work out as I had planned).

Let’s just say I got very used to having sore feet.

I think back on my time in Lincoln with a sense of bittersweetness. I had a wonderful time there, but I wish I had done much more and travelled much more. I wish there had never come a situation where I had to return home before summer, because I had made so many plans specifically for the summer months. But what did I learn? Never wait until summer to do anything! Maybe that’s why Finns love to do the sauna + lake thing so much in the winter months…? 😀

I will definitely l return to Lincoln as soon as I can afford it and the virus situation has settled down! And this time I’ll visit Ireland as well!

 

Greetings from China

My study exchange in Shanghai was for 4 months. During this time I learned a little bit of Mandarin Chinese, how to move around the city and how to survive in China.

First of all, everything is surprisingly hard when you don’t speak the language. Many Chinese people don’t know even one word of English and are not eager to even try to communicate with Western people. After few weeks of being in Shanghai and getting to know the most important words in Chinese everything got simpler.

During my free time I traveled inside China, studied the language and did some shopping. Shanghai has bigger shopping centers than you can even imagine!

Studying in China differs a lot from studying in Finland. In China teachers are really strict, schooldays are every day +10 hours long and students go to school in the morning about one hour before the first lecture to prepare themselves for the school day.

Shanghai is a city that never sleeps. There is always a traffic jam with hundreds of electric scooters chaotically going from one place to another, restaurants are open till midnight and buses are always crowded with people.

Shanghai is definitely a place everyone should visit even once!

Greetings from Bruges

When I first walked in the Bruges city center I was enchanted. The architecture of the city is medieval and the whole city is like it’s from a fairy tale. Cute buildings, canals,  small shops and the atmosphere of the city is magical.

 

I really enjoyed my time in Bruges. I like the Belgian lifestyle and culture. My school, Vives, was nice, and all the teachers spoke very good English. I had an unprecedented motivation to study and I had some nice people around me. Unfortunately, the corona virus situation messed everything up, and I decided to go back home after spending just 2 months in Belgium. My Erasmus experience continued online, so I got all the credits of this spring.

 

 

Even though Belgians are very punctual, hard working and formal, they know how to enjoy their lives. They are very nice and chill. Even when I was in somebody’s way in the supermarket, or if I had blocked the way with my bike, they just smiled at me and minded their own business. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and I really like that attitude.

I really liked studying in Bruges. The teachers spoke very good English and I attended very interesting courses. I learned a lot about Belgium, Belgium’s history and culture, the EU and European- and International laws.

Belgians are very punctual; they don’t accept delays in School, and you have compulsory attendance in class. If you were  more than 15 minutes late, you were not able to take part in class. If you were absent you needed a doctor’s certificate of it. That’s probably even why I was early at School.

I usually spent my free  time with the other exchange students. I lived in b/kot, which is residence own by Vives, so all the other exchange students lived there too. I lived on the same floor with 7 Spanish girls, so there was noise and action all day and all night, and they didn’t understand why I didn’t want to go to club every night. Regardless, I still loved their company.

 

 

 

 

I went to the gym and jogging weekly. I also did Hot Yoga, when my schedule matched with the yoga studio. We also spent time in the pubs, played pool and tasted Belgian beers. Sometimes I went to the club with my Spanish friends. There is also some good cafées in Bruges, and there is a place that serves the best turmeric latte in the world!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In normal circumstances Belgium is a good country to see western Europe, because everything is so close. Me and my friends went to Amsterdam, before corona hit.

 

Greetings from Gdansk

Greetings from Poland

I really enjoyed my exchange in Gdansk. The city is nice and beautiful and it’s easy to travel to other cities in Poland. The public transportation is good and really cheap compared to Finland. Also the taxis are cheap so you know you can always get to where you need to go. 

I’m really satisfied with my studies during my exchange. I chose good courses and I’m really happy with the progress I made during my studies. During my exchange I focused on my instrumental skills so pretty much all the courses I chose had something to do with cello. I didn’t have a lot lessons that required my presence which allowed me to focus on practicing. I had approximately one hour of school per day. My days consisted of going to practice in the morning then a lesson or two during the day and back to practice after seven pm when there were class rooms available again. 

 

During my free time I would go and visit the city center or hang out with other exchange students. We had a really good group of exchange students and we explored the city together. We also made trips to other cities in Poland. I lived in the music campus so I went to the student concerts whenever I had the time. It was truly great to have live music so close to whereyou live. 


The school is surprisingly big. I didn’t realize there would be so many students in it. I think it’s bigger than any music school in Finland. It’s a good thing since there is a lot of courses you can choose from so you have more options on what to focus on. Also you can do bigger projects since you know there are 

 

enough students. However I think in Finland the students are more on the same level with their skills while in Poland there are some really good musicians and some that aren’t quite as good at least at the beginning of their studies. 

All in all I have had a really great time with my exchange. 

My studies at Stoke-On-Trent, UK

Living and studying in Stoke-On-Trent, England for almost 7 months has been one of the best experiences in my life, regardless of the ongoing pandemic. I started my exchange program in January 2020 and returned to Finland halfway through July. Stoke-On-Trent (often just Stoke) is located in Northern Staffordshire which in my opinion is the perfect location for an exchange student in England; it’s not far from London or Manchester and travelling is fairly easy and cheap, especially with the railcard. Stoke has lot to offer such as lovely parks, shopping centre, museums, pubs and restaurants and everything is fairly close. You can easily walk everywhere.

I did my exchange studies in the Staffordshire University. The courses I studied were really interesting and I learned so many new things! In total I did three modules during my studies which meant having lectures 3 days a week leaving me with a lot of spare time for travelling and other activities. I did lots of travelling between Stoke-On-Trent and London. The professors in my chosen modules were so nice and helpful and I could not have asked a better study experience. Studying in a University in England differs a lot from studying in a University in Finland (or at least in TAMK) since the focus was on theoretical learning all the time. We did hardly any practical studies which was a little bit disappointing. Our focus was on theory and assignments and we had to write one essay for each module at the end of the semester. Your final mark depended on how well you did on your essay. For each lecture we had to do some preparatory work; this could be for example reading an article, doing some research or watch a documentary. We would have a discussions, or some sort of group work activity on each lecture based on the given assignment. Most of the study hours in England are meant for studying by yourself and sometimes it did feel like I had no spare time because of the studies taking so much time of my day.

Staffordshire University offered a lot of spare time activities such as social clubs and a gym. The campus area was surrounded with bars, coffee shops, restaurants and grocery stores. I spent good amount of my time during my studies in the library doing research and assignments with my classmates before the lockdown. I am so happy I did not have to cut my exchange studies short because of the lockdown and was able to stay in England. Distance learning on it’s own was an experience as well!

I can’t wait to visit Stoke-On-Trent again one day and look back to all the memories I made during my exchange studies!

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!