MEET THE EXCHANGE STUDENTS
Welcome to HUMAK’s Nurmijärvi campus! We are nine exchange students in the Youth Work and Civic Activities Program. For a little longer than three months, we live and study on the campus, all together.
Meet our lovely and colorful international group or, as we love to call it, family. First, there are our two Belgian best friends and teachers-to-be, Rani and Sarah who both turned 21 during the semester. Then there is Sonja, our mate from the Netherlands, she’s 22 and study orthopedagogy (special education) in Belgium. Julia, our youngest sister, is 19 and comes from Russia, where she studies Western Europe area. Our two sociology students, Eve-Anne and Pierre come from France. Adil, our big brother is French as well and study to become a social educator. Finally, us, Laura and Camille, are both 22 and study educational sciences in France.
Everyone who ever studied abroad would probably tell you the same, it is such an amazing experience. But studying abroad for a semester or a year is far for being trivial. It means, being far from home, family and friends for a while. Being immerged into a totally different culture is a challenge as much as it is a unique human experience.
We all came here for different reasons, most of our studies are related to education but Julia, Pierre and Eve-Anne study in different fields in their home country. We asked our mates about what they think about studying in Finland. Why did they choose this country over the others? Did it match their expectations?
“In Russia we don’t have Erasmus Program, but my University has contract with Finnish university of applied sciences, and I wanted to change my life, to meet new people, to practice my bad English, so I’m here.” – Julia
“During my studies I’ve always wanted to go on Erasmus exchange studies because I think it’s a good way to travel. I had the choice between Canada and Finland. I chose to come here because I wanted to see the education system of course, and I like Nordic countries, and English speaking countries.” – Adil
“I really wanted to go to Finland. Just to see the country, but another reason, also because I wanted to become more independent and some other stuff. What do I like here? Nature of course, and summer. Food, I like the cold, it’s a different cold than we have in the Netherlands and I like it. I like Helsinki, I like Lapland just like the all country.” – Sonja
“I was about to go on an Erasmus exchange program in Spain but, as soon as I knew that I could go to Finland, my choice was made. First, I’ve been looking forward to visit northern Europe and it sounded like the perfect opportunity to do it. Then as I know from my own studies, Finland is one of the best country regarding education, I was really willing to learn from this amazing system, totally different from the one we have in France. It was also a good point that the courses are in English, I wanted to improve my skill. And by using it every day, all of us did.” – Camille
Studying abroad may not always be a piece of cake. Although we’re trying our best to learn – thanks to our Finnish mates – none of us speak Finnish. When we asked them about the challenges they face in Finland, many of our exchange students mentioned Finnish language…
“it’s impossible to understand Finnish if you don’t know it, and Finnish is everywhere, and there is no English version, so yeah, it’s kind a problem sometimes.” – Julia
“Getting understood by bus drivers!” – Adil
“Going to Helsinki is one of them, hum, understand the language, and, hum, try to explain myself” – Sonja
Indeed, our campus is 40 kilometers away from Helsinki, it takes a bit longer than an hour to go there and there are not so many buses that stop at Kiljava. Most of our students are doing their internship in an international school in Vantaa, and have to spend almost 3 hours in the bus every day. Moreover, these bus tickets are also pretty expansive (even with the student discount!), it costs 11 euros to go there and come back. A monthly bus card costs about 120 euros.
This brings one of the other issues we all had to face in Finland, the cost of living. Food and transport are more expansive than in our own countries. Luckily, we have a cheap accommodation here and we can enjoy student prices lunches.
LIVING ON THE CAMPUS, TERVETULOA KOTIIN !
As we already mentioned, all of this awesome people live on the campus located in Kiljava, around 40 kilometers away from Helsinki. We live, eat and go to class in the very same building. Handy (we don’t even need to put shoes on)! We are accommodated for a reasonable price in single or double rooms and happily share the dorms with Finnish students who welcomed us with open arms and showed us the tricks to survive here. Indeed, we arrived in the middle of the winter, and the closest store is 6 kilometers away from the campus… More than driving us around, our “hosts” gave us a really good taste of Finnish culture and what it means to be a student here in Finland.
“We have like our own Finnish family here” – Julia
Apart from a store, we can find everything you need on the campus, a sports hall that we use every Tuesday and Thursday to play together, a gym and, last but not least, SAUNA! (It may sound trivial to our Finnish mates but for us foreigners, it’s something). Now that the weather gets warmer (finally!) we can also rent bikes, to go to the store or just enjoy a nice ride through the forest, and even boats to sail on the (no longer frozen) lake. Built right next to Sääksjärvi Lake, Kiljavanranta offers a beautiful landscape and wonderful sunsets. By studying abroad, some may seek a vibrant city life but if you chose Finland, this place pictures perfectly the peaceful and quiet atmosphere of this country.
“I feel like home here” – Julia
As we spend a lot of time together, we share a lot about our different cultures and ways of living. If you walked by the living room, you could hear four or five languages spoken at the same time. In such conditions, you get to know each other pretty soon, everyone bringing a piece to our multicultural puzzle.
As you may know, living with (many) other people sometimes mean making concessions. Sharing spaces such as the kitchen and the living room may be source of conflicts. A certain organization is needed here, regarding the food and the cleaning, we established some rules together to make sure it’s a comfortable place for everyone. If community life may sometimes be challenging, it’s nothing compared to the moments we spend together. Birthdays, holidays, every event is a good reason to celebrate and spend time together, cook for eachothers, or play in this giant playground Kiljava is.
“We take care of each other and share a lot of moments, just like members of the same family would.” – Camille