Since Covid-19 got all actual exchanges cancelled, I enrolled on a virtual one with The Hague University of Applied Sciences. It is quite fitting since my actual exchange would have also took part in The Netherlands. So all though I don’t get to physically be there, I get a virtual snippet of the Dutch culture and lots of interaction with the people of Hague.
My study module is called Artful Business Creations, and oh boy, artful it is. For 10 weeks we have two full school days a week with a different theme like “touch” or “taste and smell”. We have all kinds of interesting classes and exercises diving deeper to these topic, exploring the senses, and relating art and business. I wonder what it would be like in person, but through Teams it has also been surprisingly engaging and lots of fun.
Each ABC team also has their own grand project with an actual client. My team consists of myself and three Dutch students; Anastasia, Simone and Thomas, and we have had great times together, and with our client Dr. Martens. So far, I have really enjoyed Dutch people and their humor. It has been a pleasant experience working together and exchanging creative ideas. Compared to Finland I have really enjoyed the cheerful and engaging style of studying, and the dynamic yet relaxed way of working. Of course the artful course style in itself plays a big factor. This module has allowed me to to try lots of new things like meditation, reflective journaling, online dance classes and song writing.
The interesting thing about a virtual exchange seems to be that it takes even more creativity and planning, which is actually a good challenge. Everyone is in the comfort of their own home, but the real purpose of ABC is to get out of our comfort zones. Unfortunately one cannot spend their spare time exploring the target country, but on the bright side managing errands, relationships and other studies can be continued normally. If you aren’t able to physically go to student exchange, I definitely recommend considering a virtual one. Maybe one day I too get to go to The lovely Netherlands and see my classmates in face to face…
After doing an exchange in France the year before, I decided to apply to another exchange program. This time my destination was Munich, Germany. After my arrival to the city we had an introductory week at the school where we would get to know the different classrooms and buildings of the school. We also had an opportunity to get to know the other students during evenings. After the first week the government shut down the school because of the corona pandemic. The beginning of the semester was moved with a couple of weeks so I spent that time hanging out with the other exchange students.
(Student housing in the Olympic Village.)
After a while we were told that the classes would be held online through Zoom for the time being, and the government implemented stricter rules in Germany. At this point we were only allowed to move around within a 2 kilometer limit from our homes. I spent that time seeing the sights close to my apartment. Thankfully my apartment was in the Olympic Village of Munich, so I had great places to go biking, right next to my apartment.
We didn’t do any online classes in my school in Finland so that was a whole new thing for me. Otherwise the classes would be pretty similar to Finland, except that in Germany we had to do a lot more work. For every course we had a presentation and an essay and some courses had exams on top of that, so I must have written around 150 pages of essays that summer. A couple months after the lessons started we were told that the rest of the semester would be online so I saw my opportunity and returned home to continue my online classes. This exchange experience was certainly different than the first one, but I’m still glad I went.
I did my first ever exchange studies in Lyon, France in the fall of 2019. I had been in France before a couple times, but never in Lyon. So the city was new to me. I got an apartment right by the river with another exchange student from my school, so we had a nice view from our balcony. On spare time I would meet up with other exchange students to hang out or go sightseeing. Studying in France was more relaxed than in Finland. I expected more work and stricter rules, but we hardly had any homework, except for a couple projects. We also went for a school trip to Italy to visit milk farms and Parmigiano-Reggiano factories. It was fun to see how cheese was made, and a good opportunity to get to know our fellow students.
(View of Vieux Lyon)
For school we mainly did practical studies, for example we made chocolate pudding in the school’s laboratory to figure out how to decrease food waste in the process. I would also take advantage of Lyon’s position in the map to visit other cities close by. Almost every other weekend I went to a new city to experience a different atmosphere. I had a lot of fun during my exchange and I’m very glad I chose to go to Lyon.