Groetjes uit Utrecht!

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.

Utrecht Science Park

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.

Windmill in the outskirts of Utrecht

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.

 

Rainchester

Manchester, The Arndale at 08:23 am. Photo by Pedro L (2020).

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.

Greetings from the Netherlands!

I did spend my exchange in Breda, which is a small city in the southern part of the Netherlands, located in the province of North Brabant.  I studied at  Avans University of Applied Sciences and joined the minor in Environmental Geography. The first period of my studies was quite intense, but then I got used to it.

In my free time, I travelled a lot around the Netherlands and travelled to Germany. During my stay, I also made friends and spend time with them, we went together to events and explored the city of Breda.

The church in the centre of Breda

Life in the Netherlands is quite like life in Finland, the prices of groceries and housing are almost the same. One big difference is the bicycle traffic and the number of bikes – it is crazy! But it is the easiest and fastest way to travel around the city.

Berlin place to be

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.

Breda, the capital of North Brabant

I spent 6 months on my favorate city in Netherlands, in Breda. my trip started over a year ago and it ended just before the covid-19 pandemic reached Europe in february. I really fell in love to Breda. The architecture, the landscapes and the people. I Traveled to Breda 2 weks before my school started there and had plenty of time to get to know the place and the people there. And during that period it was +30 degrees everyday which was a bit different from Finland in september.

The city of Breda has about the same amunt of people living there as Tampere, but the area of the city is way smaller and the city is almost 1000 years old already so it has some really beautiful old buildings there. The gate abowe is a picture of the entrance to the prison of the city.

Finding a place to live as a foreign exchange student was really a handfull but after searching for about 6 weeks i managed to move into a small house with a yard (shown above). The downside of the flat was that i needed to share it with the owner who was a local musician in the respectful age of 75. So no parties in the house or any excess noise whatsoever. Thankfully the city centre wasn’t that far away so i could enjoy the student parties and the many pubs of the city.

I studied Biotechnology as a minor in Avans university and it involved a lot of different projects from cultivating Hela Cancer cells to studying beer DNA and isolating specific genes from the Yeast strains involved with beer making to study the effects of fermentation to the fravour of beer. It was a really interesting time in my live.

What’s up Seoul,#RepublicofKorea

I arrived at Incheon Airport on the 29th of February, when the coronavirus was blowing up and spreading uncontrollably in South Korea. Therefore, before coming to Korea, I expected a chaotic scenario at the airport, but everything was organized logically, and seeing everyone wearing masks was a relief. Seyoon is one of my most close friends in Mediapolis. When I just arrived at the airport, Seyoon’s father was there to pick me up and he drove me to my dormitory in Seoul. Thanks to him, I reached my dorm safe and sound.
I struggled a bit on the first day of figuring out how to charge the T-money card known as the public transportation card. Because that card can only recharge by cash, and I didn’t have any cash with me at that time either.

I was lucky that I have my old friend who has been living and studying in Seoul for 3 years. She helped me a lot with getting a new SIM card at a reasonable price, learning basic Korean language, and taking me around Seoul.

After I got the admission from Sungkyungkwan University (SKKU), I was added to a Kakao group with all the upcoming exchange students. Before coming to SKKU, my buddy (tutor) Yewon already contacted me to help me prepare everything documents and essential things for my exchange period. Because of the pandemic, we hadn’t had time to hang out with each other at first. But later, when the situation in Korea was controlled much better, we finally had a chance to meet up and catching up with each other about how everything was going on.

I’m always a big fan of the Korean concept and visual arts, so right after the art gallery and exhibition were allowed to open again, I went to some with my friends and my tutor. They were so well organized and mesmerizing. Sometimes, I didn’t need to go to any exhibition, because they exhibited some artworks everywhere, specifically, in the subway station

    
             (Inside Magritte exhibition)                             (subway exhibition)


                                                      (subway exhibition)

Because of the pandemic, I had online classes for the whole semester. Enrollment in Korea is much more competitive than in Finland. And to be honest, I couldn’t enroll in one course I like because I was late only a few seconds on the first enrollment day. I had to email the professor for letting me enroll in that course if there was any vacant slot for me. Luckily I finally got in. There was another story on my enrollment day. As I was so hustling to enroll in the course, I made a mistake in typing the course code, so BAAM! I enrolled in one course I thought I would never do which requires a lot of coding. I struggled a lot with that course, but thanks to that, now I got a new skill in coding with processing which I think I already forgot 70% of it. The learning system in SKKU is not that different compared to Mediapolis since we all studied online and had daily, weekly tasks after every lecture. In the last 2 weeks, we had some group meeting at SKKU campus with the professor for getting some instruction for the final project.

As normal, the spring semester would end on the 19th of June. However, this year there were a lot of things happened, so my semester ended much later (5th of July). After finishing the semester, I went to Busan which is a beach city in Korea with my friend as a short summer vacation.

Back in March, when I didn’t have many assignments and projects to do, I had a day hanging out around Seoul with my friend in Itaewon and Hongdae, and I also filmed it. You can check the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zW9ZYyY98jY

Photos were taken by Hy

 

The best city of Germany

I spent the last 6 months of my life in Munich. Ive visited many cities in Germany and liked this one the most!

We were not able to find that much courses related to our studies back home. Because of this I mainly studied Business which was nice for a change. It felt like the studies were a lot more difficult than in Finland. Could be that the remote studies and different language had something to do with it. I got 26 Credits with a gpa of 1.2 (finish 4.8). This was mainly because of boredom in the lockdown.

Ilmainen kuvapankkikuva tunnisteilla aikuinen, akateeminen, asu, copy space

 

There werent that many parties because of covid but i still miss the beer in germany. The best one has to be Augustiner Weissbier. I guess germany wasnt the main target for my exchange and because of that i travelled for almost 2 months of the exchange. I visited for example: Spain,2x Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, Ireland, Czech Republic and (Gibraltar).

 

 

Czech, in the blink of an eye

In the blink of an eye, it is now September when the sky turns greyer and the leaves turn more yellow in Finland, and I somehow still haven’t grasped the fact that I first set foot in the Czech Republic 8 months ago. The time I spent in a little Bohemian town called Pisek was just over 3 months. It was short, but it is meaningful.

I arrived at Prague late evening on a chilly January day and made it to Pisek after quite traveling. The next day I was introduced to the studies at The Film Academy of Miroslav Ondricek (FAMO) by the International Coordinator, Daniel. FAMO campus was not huge, but compact and was ideal to any cinephile, and even had some mini-exhibitions of vintage filmmaking gears. I learned a lot during the time there on traditional filmmaking through not only lectures about Film History, Production, or Scriptwriting but also from the hands-on experiences and through profound discussions with the lecturers. There was movie screening weekly on campus, which went through some of the classics of the Hollywood silence’s golden age to German Expressionism. However, one particular project that has been immensely influencing my vision, and lenses, is to produce from scratch and to direct a short film without any dialogues. Working on the project, I had many opportunities to discuss and to be consulted by the experienced and well-known filmmakers, scriptwriter, and producer. Unfortunately, the filming of the project was later canceled due to the coronavirus and the tough restrictions of the Czech authorities, and thus, the learning was switched to online platforms, and exams were introduced as a replacement. I kept on studying remotely with FAMO teachers even after my challenging journey back to Finland and ultimately decided to keep on finishing my uncompleted project here.

Let’s move on with the fun part: the life in Pisek. The city is small but incredibly scenic with old buildings, a stone bridge that crosses the Vltava river. I usually did some running on the riverbank and enjoyed the view.  The city is not at all touristic, so for me, I was living a very original and local lifestyle. I also realized that most inhabitants did not speak English at all, so I tried practicing my limited Czech vocabulary whenever I could, whether it is just an “Ahoy!” or “Děkuju!”. Living in Pisek was way cheaper than in Tampere, so I took the opportunity to go to some local restaurants sometimes. Besides having many good sausages and cheap beer, I also learned that Vietnamese people are considered a minority in the Czech Republic, and that was how I got to eat my home dishes a lot more frequently here. I have also grabbed the chance to visit Prague before social distancing happened, in which I booked a charity tour from a local and learned the 1600 years of Czech history. It was fun while it lasted.

It was an eye-opening learning experience for me, as I learned a different form and a different approach of moving images from what I learned in TAMK. In TAMK, there is a more contemporary aspect in teaching and there is also more freedom in making video arts than in traditional filmmaking. TAMK students are also independent artists of their own, while in FAMO, students are filmmakers that should follow the written rules and processes to enter the film industry. However, my opinions and ideas were both heard and given constructive comments from the lectures in both institutions.

That’s said, I wholeheartedly appreciate the experiences I gained living in Czech and studying at FAMO, given the extraordinary time that we live in. I will definitely come back to the country to immerse in its culture a bit more, and to learn more from this country of rich history in filmmaking. As an update, I have just finished shooting the project I started at FAMO independently, and as well made a short video of my journey back to Finland from Pisek here: https://youtu.be/-OMioBrBzCI

Enjoy!

Minh Pham

Note: The images and video in this post are taken by the author

 

Schöne Grüße aus München

In March 2020 I went to Munich to do my exchange studies and to enjoy my life. Munich was so great! The city has lots of old architecture and more than 20 churches. The price level in Munich is cheaper than in Finland, and at least beer was really cheap and tasty. I’d recommend to just go to a beer garden in Munich and order a Weißbier, after that you can’t drink Finnish beers anymore.

I was there six months and studied in Hochschule München. I didn’t have to spend time there because worldwide known pandemic came, so my courses were held online. I study electrical building services engineering, but I studied mostly business in Munich because I didn’t find any course which would have been related to electric. I chose 10 different courses which was a very bad idea. I had a lot of work and in the end of the semester, the deadlines were almost at the same time. It felt like I didn’t have time to do anything else than school stuff. But I had to get 25 ECTS so I just pushed myself forward and did it. Many of those courses were just 2 ECTS so I recommend choosing courses where you could get more ECTS points.

When borders opened again, I travelled almost 2 months straight around Europe, for example to Austria, Italy and Portugal. The location of Munich is so perfect that you can just rent a car and drive everywhere. I also travelled a lot by bus and plane. Many places were closed in Europe for example bars, clubs and restaurants but I didn’t care because I was abroad and having still good time.

Even though the pandemic was pain in the ass, I enjoyed my time in Munich. I will go back to Munich for sure in the future. I want to go there to see FC Bayern München football match because all the matches were cancelled during corona situation

Big plans to being back home

I had planned my practical training experience for almost a year. I had everything prepared-found an amazing work place in Vienna, Austria, singed the agreement, had a place to live for the summer, made plans where to travel during the weekends and then a world pandemic happened and my plans took another turn. The company stated they would be working remotely and so my practical training there was postponed. I was disappointed that my hard work to organize the internship in the best way possible was ruined.

 

Anyway, I had to act accordingly, so I started looking for a new place. Ironically, I found one 20 minutes away from my home town in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

The interview went well and had the opportunity to start immediately. Naturally the first few days were a bit odd, but I still felt like I was at the right place.

My practical training took place in a very hospitable company called Eco Resolve LTD. It is a consultancy company and expert in environmental management with expertise in many spheres including environmental impact assessment, safety work conditions and grassing and planting. The training was in total 2 month during which I had to get used to the atmosphere, to the work habits, had to process a big amount of information and work on tasks assigned to me. One would think that two month is a very short period to get used to a new work environment and I could not agree more but this was a summer experience I will remember for life.

 

 

Every day I was crossing the most beautiful part of Plovdiv, the heart of the city-the Old town. With its paved streets, lovely old houses and street artist preparing for their busy days it made my days start with a big smile and blissful heart.  *

 

 

At work I was reading a lot of documents containing vocabulary I hardly knew but I was absorbing every word and luckily there were my friendly colleagues who were helping me with everything they could. Some days were different to the others. We were not spending all the days in the office buried in documentation but also going on-site to talk with the clients and the views on the way to the sites were stunning. *

In my free time I was traveling with friends to the seaside, hiking in the mountains, attending festivals and other cultural events.

Open sky cinema and a festival in Plovdiv. *

Hiking sites in the Rhodopes.*

I can say I am could not be happier how my “failed” summer developed. The countless new friendships and connections, memorable events and valuable knowledge made this experience one in a lifetime.

*All photos taken by author