Last spring/summer I was an exchange student at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. The whole semester was different than anyone could have expected. Mostly because of the coronavirus. The semester started normally, and everything went well at first. However, after about a month, the coronavirus began to spread in Europe and at the same time began to affect the Netherlands. Shortly after this, our school and almost all companies closed their doors. Fortunately, no total lockdown came at any point, so we were allowed to move freely outside. Most of the exchange students went back to their home countries. I decided to stay in The Hague myself and did not return to Finland until the end of the summer.
The decision to stay in the Netherlands for the whole time was great. I got to see and experience a lot despite the hard times. Towards the end, the restrictions eased, and we were able to travel a little again. I got to visit Germany, France, and Belgium during my exchange and we also traveled a lot within the Netherlands. Our school stayed online until the end, but it was organized well, and I didn’t have any problems with it.
As a whole, my exchange was an awesome experience that I will surely remember for the rest of my life. I gained a lot of new experiences and made new friends, so I can totally recommend exchange studies for everyone and if you are thinking of going to the Netherlands, then I can recommend The Hague. The city has a bit of everything, a big and beautiful beach, as well as lots of shops and canals. It’s also easy to travel around from there, Amsterdam is about 40 minutes and Rotterdam is about 20 minutes away.
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.
Moved to Scotland in Summer 2019 and have been finishing my studies at TAMK from here. Did my practical training for a video game company located in Edinburgh during the covid lock-down from the beginning of April to the end of July 2020. At my time in Haiku Interactive Ltd. I composed and produced music and created sound design for a video game called Dwerg Saga. There is not too much to tell of that time. Obviously, I worked from home via internet and saw no one else face to face but my family members. Had daily Zoom meetings with my boss though. Groceries were delivered to our door weekly. Spent most of my free time with my family in our back garden.
At the beginning of August things eased up a bit and we took a holiday at Highlands. Saw Loch Ness but not the monster though. According to news there has been more Nessie sightings this year than usual. I guess these times brings out the freaks from some of us who are not used to have this much time in their hands and nothing to do…
Restrictions has hit harder again in UK in October. Especially in Scotland’s Central Belt, reaching from Edinburgh in the east coast to Glasgow in the west coast of Scotland. For example, the pubs are not allowed to serve alcohol after six o’clock, no more than six persons can gather from maximum of two households, and you are not allowed to visit anyone at their home. At least for now day-care and schools are open, but the autumn holiday was extended in Scotland to two weeks to kill off maximum amount of sleeping covid cases.
It would be nice to see a band live once more or maybe even travel to Finland to meet friends and family. So, skip the student parties and tell your friends to skip them too. Stay safe and stay smart everybody!
As you can see from my photo collages below, I had an amazing time in Ensenada, Baja California; Situated about 2 hours south from San Diego. Over the course of Five Months, I had done so much things I’ve always wanted to do; I learned independence and made alot of new friends from around the world. I attended various wine festivals where they make most of Mexico’s wine for the whole country in Vineyards up in the mountains where it’s a warmer climate. I surfed all the time as well as got my first tattoo which didn’t cost too much at all. The food on it’s own though — Wow! It was so amazing and also spicy if you like it that way 😉 But overall, honestly helped me develop myself as Finland is quite a peaceful and chill place .. here you can jump out your comfort zone and go explore.
I studied in a private university where I only had a few classes a week, relatively from 16:00 – 20:00 and always had three day weekends for exploring. The teachers were really chill if you explained beforehand your plans but there was alot of presentations but we all managed to get really good grades from those. We travelled alot as a group and visited various landmarks within Baja California with a few good friends from the universities, had dinners with their families and of course had a lot of parties too. It was roughly around 25’C- 35’C depending on the hour of day but you always wore shorts and light clothes regardless. Would definitely recommend going there because you can easily hop across the border to Los Angeles and San Diego for shopping and exploring there as well.
All in all, would for sure go back some day. With love, from Mexico 🙂
I got to spend my exchange in Bruges Belgium. And I was in luck to have that time before the pandemic. I actually didn’t have any other beside Belgium, because the teachers visited in our school and told about Vives university and I liked it. I applied and it was actually pretty easy to get in there. I was the only Finnish person in there.
I was in study exchange so most of my weekdays went at school, studying. I study hospitality and management but there it was mainly business and we also had some basic knownledge about Belgium itself.
Spare time went by with exploring Bruges, tasting beers and eating. A lot of fries with good sauces, clams, different waffles and of course beer. My favorites!
And longer weekends and holidays by visiting other cities. Bruges was so beautiful city!
I spent 4 months in the ever rainy Glasgow and I got to say I really enjoyed my time! This luckily happened before all this covid stuff so we had the chance to attend lots of events and trips with my flatmates who were from all around the Europe.
The studies were really great in my opinion, the teaching was high-quality and the course content was spot on. I managed to learn a lot of new and important stuff that could help me in future projects besides gaining a lot of new material for my portfolio. Most of the classes were practical which I really liked, though it was always backed up with some proper theory to get going.
We had a lot of freedom when to do our course tasks which meant there was quite good amount of spare time to spend, which I did by spending time with my flatmates. The school (Glasgow Caledonian University that is) held great amount of events we took part of and we also did some trips to smaller islands and whisky distilleries by ourselves. Our exchange held great amount of time sitting in Glasgow’s pubs having some pints of Scotland’s finest beer Tennent’s and watching some Celtic FC’s football (which they are crazy about).
The study culture was quite the same as in Finland from my experience, though it did contain more self-study as the teacher would usually just link the material and everybody would go through it on their own phase and ask for help if needed. The people studying was bit younger than we usually have in Finland which was probably the biggest difference. The amount of studying/working for the courses was roughly the same as we’ve had in Finland
Living and studying in the Netherlands was quite the experience for me. It wasn’t the “best time of my life” as most people say after their exchange but I did live a lot, make great memories and stories and I would do it again any day. Here’s a few tips you might find useful if you consider Utrecht as your exchange destination.
Studying in Utrecht can be different to Finland depending on the university you study at. I studied Music Marketing & Management at the HU University of Applied Sciences and I had school 2-3 times per week for a few hours and the whole study program was incredibly easy. For anyone wanting to study music business, the program in HU is a fair choice but I reckon there are better schools and programs out there. I was personally disappointed in the program. If you want to make the most of your exchange and don’t want to focus too much on school, HU is the place. It’s stupid how well you can do with minimum effort. For the folks who actually want to study and learn, Utrecht University is your jam.
Netherlands is a great destination country if you want to travel around Europe, as many countries are just a train ride or a short flight away. Trains are relatively expensive but you can find cheap flight tickets if you take advantage of different student deals that are available. I focused mainly on enjoying the student life in Utrecht and exploring the different cities within the country but did visit a few countries during the Autumn.
One major thing to take into consideration is accommodation. To put it simply: housing in Utrecht is terrible. If you want student housing, you need to book and pay for it the minute it is possible, even if you don’t know if you got accepted into the school. The rooms will go very quickly and if you’re not able to get one, the school can’t do anything for you. I didn’t get student housing and ended up living 6 months in the upstairs of a very sketchy driving school, which later on turned out to be illegal. So don’t be like me, be early! The rents in Utrecht are high and most flats have mildew but that’s just the way it is here. Ain’t no changing that.
Living in Manchester, especially during winter, is a very interesting experience. It gets pretty similar to wintertime in Finland, just change the snow for rain. The sun rises around 8-9 am and it sets close to 3-4 pm. Streets are wet and you ought to carry an umbrella at all times because you never know when or where the rain is going to catch you, yes not even the weather forecast helps. But don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy my time in there. Manchester is a very vibrant and intercultural city, there is always something different happening which means there is always something to do.
For example for Halloween, streets and stores would be decorated giving the city a really festive environment. Diverse types of happenings related to the festivity and even huge sales at stores are part of the celebration. It is fun to see how everybody gets in the mood and prepares themselves for such event.
Manchester city centre decorated for Halloween, Photo by Pedro L (2019).
Studying in Manchester has also been a nice experience, though it differs from what I am used to in Finland. The teaching methods consist mostly of lectures and assignment as opposed to the Finnish methods that are more related to discussions and group work. There is also a marked vertical hierarchy between teachers and students which does not occur in Finland, where there is a horizontal treat in the class. However, all of this made this experience unique a very enriching, understanding and living another different culture have made me a more flexible and versatile person and I believe this will also help me in the work-life.
I spend my summer 2019 in Berlin Germany. My practical training was in youth social work at UFA Fabrik e.V. which is part of worldwide Settlement neighbourhood houses. During four month living in Berlin with local roommate and only speaking German was a great trip.
Free time was mostly hanging around in parks, fleamarkets, seeing great gigs, going theatre and art exhibitions. Also lots of pubs and club life includes naturally when you live in Berlin.
Working life was more communal in Germany than in Finland. At least in the social field. We spend lots of time together also in our free time some afterwork beers and culture happenings.