Category Archives: Culture

Culture and Arts, Film and Television, Music, Music Pedagogy, Media Production

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 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. 

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!

 

Discovering immersive storyworlds in Aarhus, Denmark.

 

I started my studies in February as I landed in rainy and windy Denmark. Study group of ours, consisting of 10 different nationalities all over the world were warmly welcomed by the VIA University’s friendly staff on our first day. I could immediately feel hygge vibes within the school, people and city.

The New Screen Experience exchange studies have been covering all kinds of new media from VR to AR to XR together with stories. Our school is located at the industrial Filmbyen separated from main campuses together with 80 media companies around the area. 

Living in vibrant young student city with more than 60,000 students creates inspiring environment. Aarhus was nominated for the culture capital of Europe 2017,  I could see cultural projects taken further what it comes to art, architecture and technology. It is also easy city to access everywhere with bike, bus or tram within 20 min from different neighbourhoods. 

Aarhus is full of student events, museums, underground scene, flea markets, concerts, and festivals. Nightlife and pubs is the place where you easily socialise and meet new people besides school. Weekly sport activities and routines also helped to adapt with the local life even more. As a Fin, of course I had to find local sauna, and happily there was free public sauna around the Bay Area. Setting for the sauna was amazing with industrial harbour views, but disappointedly sauna experience wasn’t as hot as I expected. However, cold Tuborg pilsner tasted great afterwards!

 

When the corona outbreak happened all social events have turned into a lockdown, with studying from home and socialising online. Luckily spring have provided with great sunny weather to cycle around city and the restrictions have allowed enough freedom go out and gather in small groups. There have been a lot  to explore in local nature parks, lakes and sandy beaches. Just spending time in outdoors have made so much improvement daily life that I couldn’t image having quarantined in any other place.

However corona pandemic made this spring pretty special for studies, I could still make some comparison what it comes for the studies itself. I could see right away that the atmosphere in Filmbyen is pretty similar, like our studies at the Mediapolis. Studies are more hands on production, problem solving and group working. Some differences I could still see in course structures, since here the studies are in three different modules for the minor. As in our study minor we have more freedom over courses during the minor. Both have its benefits, but I felt more motivated about the module based program which were more structured to one topic and technology at the time, instead of having multiple topics whole minor. Overall study experience have been really interesting with visiting lecturers, groups tasks and online working.

I can fully recommend Aarhus as an easy going vibrant place for studies and living. Especially encouraging our media and film students to discover possibilities of new media in an inspiring environment.

안녕하세요 from Seoul!

I came to South Korea for my exchange studies on the 26th of February. When I arrived, COVID-19 was already an issue around here, but Seoul National University of Science and Technology (Seoultech) decided to keep their exchange program regardless.

I live on campus, on a very nice dorm room with my own kitchen, washing machine, and bathroom, and I was pleasantly surprised by just how big this campus is! We have a gym, a few cafés, multiple convenience stores, and a lot of places to just sit down and study.

Some cherry blossoms on campus.

The area where the University is located is a bit far from all the touristy and famous parts of Seoul, but the subway here is gigantic and covers almost everything you need!

Pro tip: Google Maps doesn’t really work here, since they only trust national apps – so Naver or Kakao Maps are your new best friends.

Hanok Village – traditional Korean houses

I ended up picking 6 classes, which is a bit more than the recommended and needed amount, and I will admit I regret it. It feels like more work than I had in Finland, specially since the teachers require weekly tasks to count our attendance for the online lessons (all our classes are online, because of COVID-19). Nothing compares to my Korean friends, who seem to have double the workload the exchange students do.

Despite the global pandemic, Korea never instituted a lockdown, so I was still able to visit the local highlights on my free time! The language is for sure an issue, since outside campus most people don’t speak English, but Koreans are incredibly hospitable and friendly, and they go out of their way to help even without speaking a word of it.

Gyeongbokgung palace

Cherry blossom season was for sure the highlight of my time here so far! I spent most of my free time hunting for nice cherry blossom spots, since the big parks were closed to prevent big crowds. It became a fun little adventure, and luckily, there are cherry blossoms everywhere! I’ve been having a blast photographing everything around here, and I carry my film camera almost everywhere I go. 

 

  

I still haven’t left Seoul to visit Busan or Jeju – since travelling was prohibited until May 6th. Something good came out of the online classes though: I can easily travel and attend the classes as long as I have my computer with me.

Lanterns in Temple for Buddha’s Birthday – 30th of April

I’ll return to Finland in the middle of July – hopefully, and I’m very lucky to be able to still experience my exchange studies in my dream destination in a situation where the entire world stopped, Korea didn’t, and the experience has been great so far!

Sziazstok from Hungary!

I am also one of those who had to interrupt their exchange studies due to the current uncertainty. I still got to spend a lovely one and a half months in Budapest, Hungary.
I studied in the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design. They had just finished building and renovating the campus in late 2019, so it was sparkling new and had a fascinatingly sterile feel to it. The facilities were amazing, they had a studio for everything: ceramics, metal-working, wood-working, textile, printing… It was the first time I saw such a big campus and studying there made me feel like an actual university student.

I went to MOME to study ceramic design, so I spent most of my time in the ceramic studio spaces. I also took some life model sculpting classes. My classmates and professors were very accommodating and nice to me, perhaps because I was the only exchange student on those courses. Most of them spoke English, but my courses were held in Hungarian and the professor explained things to me in English afterwards. I really enjoyed studying at MOME and I miss the campus. My courses changed into online courses which I continued (and finished) after returning to Finland.

Studying in Budapest did not differ much from studying in Tampere. I had no problems adapting to the culture. I took a course to learn the basics of Hungarian at MOME and I also learned some things beforehand, so it made things even more easy. I am always interested in learning new languages and Hungarian was most definitely interesting.

As for free time, I spent most of it with my dear newfound Erasmus friends (and a few Hungarians too!!). We went to see tourist spots and thriftshopped to the max. Most often we would gather in Budapest’s many ruin bars. There was a bar called Klub Vittula, which ended up being our most common hangout. I always had a great conversation starter when I met new people there…

There was always something to do in Budapest. Our campus had lots of activities too, like movie nights and free yoga classes. The price of food in restaurants was very cheap and for a vegetarian there was many places to choose from. The public transport was easy, and the city was beautiful. The cherry blossoms were blooming in March, right before I left.

 

One weekend we traveled to lake Balaton, the biggest lake in Hungary.

 

 

 

I am honestly still sad and gutted that my exchange plans went awry and I had to leave, but life goes on. I am really hoping to have another chance to meet all the cool people again and to just sit and chill at a ruin bar. Maybe someday!

Filming Sea Turtles in Guatemala

I spent 3 months in Guatemala (Oct-Dec) filming the research and conservation activities for sea turtles. It was part of a fine art studies internship, and I spent most of it in a rural area by the Pacific Coast, about 20 metres from the water. I also helped the researchers there quite a bit, as help was needed. Work there was hard and time-consuming, but purposeful. I had complete freedom to do things my own way, but I always had to consider that I wasn’t there for my own gain, but for helping others. I liked that very much.

During November not many turtles hatched, so I had more free time to travel within the country. I got to hike a volcano and spend the night camping and watching a neighboring volcano erupting every 5-15 minutes. I got to kayak in a large lake among volcanoes. I got to hike in the jungles and on warm, month-old lava, visit Mayan ruins, experience the Day of the Dead and eat all the avocado and pineapple I ever wanted (and get all the mosquitoes bites I never wanted).

 

People here are very chill when it comes to work. Sometimes too chill, as scheduling tends to be overly flexible most of the time. With that said, people do get the job done, just without much stress. Most of my work with others was helping them, as my work was something only I could do.

Overall, it was a great time and I am glad I got to experience it!

Cozy Graz

I did my exchange in Graz, Austria and I was studying music and especially flute. Graz is the second biggest city in Austria, although it was sometimes hard to believe. If I described Graz just by one word, the word would be cozy. The center of Graz is not very big but the suburbs are. Still the center is beautiful filled with old houses and view to Schlossberg, which is a hill in the middle of the center.

Schlossberg                                             Hauptplatz

I had the chance to study in University of Music and Performing Arts Graz and I couldn’t be happier that I got into that school. In Austria I studied in the programme of Orchestral Instruments, so I wasn’t able to do pedagogical studies there. Luckily I was able to do some courses as distance learning to TAMK.

 

University

 

The official language of the school is German, but there were some courses offered in English too. I was also lucky that my professor spoke good English, so the lessons with him were very rewarding.

The studying in KUG compared to TAMK was more demanding. For example our lessons with the professor were longer and he expected that we would have something new to play to him every week. Also every second week we had a group lesson, where we played by ear and we had to perform some study by heart in front of the class. Even though it was hard, I learnt a lot. I was happy to be at my professors’ class, because all the other students made me feel very welcomed.

In my free time I visited a lot of concerts and also premiere of Cinderella -ballet. The ticket to the premiere costed only 1€ for the students of KUG! I think the best concert I visited during the exchange was by Vienna Symphoniker who played Beethoven’s 5th and 6th symphonies.

 

Cinderella -ballet                     Some cake and sturm!

 

We also explored the city with my friends. I visited the Schlossberg and also Eggenberg, which both are beautiful places! I had to end my exchange very quickly because of the coronavirus situation, so there were still much more things I had planned to do in Graz. Luckily I am always able to go back there to visit my friends and do all the things I didn’t have time to do during my exchange!

Schlossberg                                                   Eggenberg

 

My studies at Reading, UK, place when you’ll never know when it’s going to rain

When I was choosing my location for abroad studies, my main goals were to learn to speak English better and more confidently, the place needs to be easily accessible to home and there would be no need for learning a new language. With all these three combined, I decided to send an application to the University of Reading. 

I didn’t know anything of this town before I searched the places, and the first impression of googling it out was “kinda like Joensuu but easier to access.” I got accepted, rented a room of these traditional, semi-attached houses and moved in a little after new year.

I chose to study some typography courses, virtual reality and modern Britain, and the studies itself were much different than in my home university at TAMK. 

I was used to learning by doing the thing, but Reading uni turned out to be very academic and their studies included a lot of reading (hehe), making notes and researching by yourself. Most of the study hours are self-studying, and it could be hard for a person like me who likes to know exactly what to do next and what you need to read to learn the right stuff. Most of the grades are given based on the tests. Difference could also be that my home studies are interactive media, and we do most of the stuff digitally. 

The University has a lot of student free time activities and social clubs, and you will find whatever suits you the best. I was just enjoying my time alone, and spent most of my time at home. Campus is its own little town: there are bars, a grocery store, a library, coffee houses, restaurants… If you live at the university halls, you don’t need to walk farther than the campus area to get along. 

Little bit about the place: Reading is a town, where people move when they get tired of London and they want to settle down. It’s really easy to travel to London for work, but it’s cheaper to live in Reading. London is only 40 minutes of train travel away, and the train takes you straight to Paddington station.

 

It’s also really easy to move around in town itself. Public transportation is easy to use and not too expensive, and buses are easily figured out. 

It was “middle winter” when I got there, but basically the whole 3 months were like a long spring to me. Grass was green, weather changed really quickly from sunny to pouring rain and nature was alive. It was so refreshing how green there was! And now I understand why Brits like to talk about weather. 

Brits itself are kinda like Finns: Helpful but a little bit reserved. Don’t try to smalltalk with the store clerk. And the same time, it also took me a while to learn to answer the “How are you”-question with just “Fine, you?”

Unfortunately, this spring the COVID-19 situation ended my (and many others) abroad studies earlier than expected, but I’m happy to be home safe and sound. University were really great at informing students about the situation. 

After all, I’m really happy of my time there, and I’ll look forward to visit the town again later in life. 

Sunny Exchange In Lisbon, Portugal

I chose to start my third year of culture and art studies in Lisbon, Portugal. My exchange school Escola Superior de Comunicacao Social mainly focused on social communication studies, whereas my studies in TAMK focus on film and television. I had school only around 10 hours a week and projects and essays did not take a lot of time either. The level of teaching was notably lower than in TAMK and therefore my exchange was way more about free time and travelling than studying. I do not recommend this school if you really want to study, but for more relaxed semester Lisbon is the perfect place.

Portuguese people are also quite chill, which is a nice way of living. However, when you need to get things done it can get frustrating. I had a lot of problems to get even accepted to my exchange school, just because they did not do the paper work on time and it took weeks to answer my emails. Buses never come on time and workers at cafes do not hurry with your coffee. For Finnish people it can be irritating, because we are used to get things done on time. After accepting the slow and relaxed way of Portuguese people, I started to enjoy the relaxed and laid-back way of life.

Lisbon is known for the countless amazing viewpoints around the city, where you can enjoy a wide view of the city and cheap wine. Most of the things in Portugal is cheaper than in Finland, which makes life even more relaxed. The weather is amazing all-around year and it really affects your mood and helps with autumn depression. This year beach weather lasted till the end of October and in December and January it was still mainly sunny and about 15-20 degrees. There are tens of beaches close to Lisbon and trying out surfing is a must. Portugal is a quite small country, so all the beautiful places of Portugal are easily reachable, for example Porto, Algarve and Obidos. Also, it is easier to find cheap flights to other European countries, one way starting from 10€. I recommend buying Erasmus cards to ESN and ELL, the Erasmus organizations which arrange various events, trips and parties. For example, I got to do skydiving and surfing, which were great experiences.

My experience with the school was not the best, but I would not change anything about the experience. Lisbon and Portugal is full of other opportunities, so you will not get bored during the exchange.