If you’re a postgraduate student looking to enhance your education and broaden your horizons in a new country, then it’s likely the UK will make your shortlist. Hardly surprising when you think of its ancient universities, innovative research and rich culture. However, with Brexit imminent and the reported stockpiling of everything from food to medicine, you’re now probably thinking twice. Not many want to study in a country being torn asunder by politics. Thankfully, there’s a country that’s recently been named not only the happiest, but the 3rd best governed in the world. What’s more, it beats the UK for student living in a whole host of ways. Say hei to Finland.
1. You’ll get to enjoy the wonders of winter sports
When the never-ending drizzle and rain of the UK turn into sleet and slush, Finns are enjoying a world of winter fun. Wintertime Finland is not only the home of northern lights and ice-swimming but also a place to thoroughly enjoy winter sports.
Want to experience the thrill of snowboarding? Marvel at the beauty of the sun reflecting from a frozen lake you’re skating across? Thrill at the chants of ice-hockey fans cheering for Finland’s national team Leijonat, the Lions?
You’re in the right place. There’s even a national sledging day with some universities, such as Turku, hosting Fastlaskiainen, a sledging festival. Here you’ll see student teams compete by trying to find the right balance between sledging skills and fashion sense to be named rulers of the hills.
Unlike the UK, Finland comes alive with opportunity during the winter in ways that are as cool as they are, well, cool.
2. You’ll live in a place big on gender equality
Whenever different countries’ equality standings are compared, Finland ranks high. Some of these rankings include the world’s 2nd best country for girls in 2016 by Save the Children and 3rd in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017. By comparison, the UK ranked 15th in both categories.
If you look at history, it’s easy to see why. Finland was a world-leader in women’s political rights for over a century. Way back in 1906 it was the second country in the world, first in Europe, to grant women the right vote. Nearly a hundred years later, in 2003, it was the first country in the world to simultaneously have a female president and prime minister.
The UK might have the Spice Girls reunited, but Finland offers its female residents real girl power.
3. You’ll live in a safer and more relaxed society
In 2013, Reader’s Digest conducted a social experiment in which reporters dropped and lost 12 wallets in 16 different cities. The catch was to see how many of them would be returned. In Helsinki, the ratio was 11 out 12, the best on the list, while in London it was 5 out of 12. What’s more, one of the people to return a wallet in London was originally from Poland.
If you need more statistics to support the Reader’s Digest findings, here’s a few. In addition to being the world’s safest country, Finland is also the most stable country in the world and has the least organised crime in the world.
Shockingly, according to the same sources, the UK was the world’s 78th safest country, 20th when it comes to stability – though the ranking might plummet post Brexit – and 34th when it comes to the amount of organised crime. In short, for all its charm, the UK is far less chilled.
4. You’ll get to enjoy a uniquely quirky student culture
Besides identifying with your fellow students clad in colourful overalls, Finland offers quite a few other unique student experiences you will find nowhere else. I’ve already mentioned Fastlaskiainen, but Hämeenkadun Appro, and The World Championships of Academic Kyykkä are equally entertaining examples.
Hämeenkadun Appro in Tampere could be best described as a pub crawl, but it’s the biggest of its kind in Finland, gathering together around 10,000 students from all over the country. Also, this pub crawl offers interesting activities as a side dish, like a sauna in the middle of the central square and a bungee jump opportunity.
Other university cities organise different types of appro. During the Herkkuappro in Kuopio, for example, students collect stamps by enjoying delicacies from selected coffee shops and bakeries. Yum yum.
Academic Kyykkä follows the general rules of the kyykkä game. In this throwing game, you need to knock your opponent’s wooden blocks – kyykkäs – out of a designated square area by chucking a wooden bat at them. Some unusual techniques in the academic version include trying to bribe the judges and kicking your team’s kyykkäs inside the borders of the square when no-one is watching. Needless to say, this is always a ton of fun.
As someone who’s had the great good fortune to study in both Finland and the UK, I have no doubt that both have lots to offer. But as a result of Brexit, and thanks to Finland’s winter fun, respect for women, safety and unique student culture, Finland tops my list. Why not give it a try? I promise you won’t regret it...even if you do fall off your sledge.
Over 65 Master's degree programmes to choose from
Finland University combines the leading research power of its renown member universities: the University of Eastern Finland, Tampere University, the University of Turku, and the Åbo Akademi University. The member universities offer a wide range of Master’s Degree programmes.
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