I am Edward Gerald Hingert from Thailand and currently studying in the Master's degree programme of Leadership for Change at University of Tampere. Today, I want to share my experience of spending first 10 days in Finland.
It was 1:30 am and I was sitting asleep on a chair in the Starbucks at Helsinki International Airport. It looked really cold on the other side of the door, but hey, I came from a country with 21 degrees Celsius in mid-winter.
The two choices I had in mind were to either sit asleep at the airport until I could see the sun, or take a bus to Tampere and wander aimlessly until I could access my apartment. Neither one sounded convenient, really.
As a Master’s degree student who arrived one month after the semester had started, due to a problem back home, the experience was totally different from the other students. There are usually orientation days for upcoming students in the beginning of study year to make them adapt faster and smoother into a totally new environment. Also tutors always arrange pick ups from station, which is a great advantage. Due to the fact I came too late, orientation days were ended, thereby I did not want to disturb anyone from their studies, and decided to organize everything by my own.
It was a thrilling experience from just the thought that I was moving to a new country far away from home. However, not everything was gloomy for me, and the weather that day was in fact amazing.
I arrived on Friday at 5 am to Tampere bus station without any clue how the local transportation system works. Google map was not an option for me, since I was not from a European country and therefore, my phone number was rendered useless the moment I took off.
Fortunately, I met an exchange student from Germany, who helped me get to the train station, where I learned that ‘R-Kioski’ was a place you can address for any information regarding the navigation in the city. R-Kioski is a small convenient store that operates in many spots in the city and provides many services ranging from mobile phone top-up service to bus ticket topping up and subscription service.
I made it to my apartment eventually with the help of a city map given to me by a clerk from that store.
Since it was Friday, I was juggling between a jet lag and a race against time to get all my official paperwork done before the offices close for the weekend.
To put it in a simple sentence, it involved mainly a lot of walking, because I did not want to pay 3 euros for each and every single trip by public transport, and also because I did not know exactly which bus to take. Thereby, I navigated through the whole town and processes such as:
- paying student union fee at bank
- getting telephone/internet subscription
- getting a bus subscription ticket
- picking up keys for my room at the dormitory office
- shopping for some electrical appliances, purely by asking the local people. Surprisingly, Finnish people are so helpful despite their very introvert look and lifestyle.
Despite my best efforts, I did not manage to finish everything in one day, so I had to continue during the following weekdays.
Due to my late arrival, I had to catch up with a lot of studies that I had missed the past month, and I managed to do most of them within the first week. This by no means, means that I locked myself up and only studied.
As of the time that I am writing this, I am living in Lapinkaari (student housing), which accommodates mostly international exchange and degree students, and this place allows me to meet and make friends.
I spent my time mostly balancing between catching up with studies and exploring the city. A noteworthy point here, especially for students who come from Asia, is that in order to open a bank account, it is required to set up an appointment with the bank and not every bank branch in Tampere provides all types of financial services.
Most importantly, the resident permit card is not considered as a proper identification document, and therefore, it is mandatory to bring your passport for bank services, official services and even to enter places like bars, and so on.
The majority of the students would most likely have a different arrival impression and I would like to emphasize that my arrival was slightly different. If I had to summarize my first 10 days in Finland in only two words, I would say it was very chaotic and fruitful at the same time. So, my first advice for students who will come to Finland in the future, is never be afraid to ask.
As I had known later, the orientation days I mentioned above were one the of the best part after arriving for all international students. Students got there plenty of useful information regarding the studies, had fun after and some of them even made new friends; I felt really upset I could not make it! Accordingly, my second advice is to arrive to the campus on time to benefit the support for new students arranged by the university, which guarantees a smooth arrival and adaptation in Finland.
Also I was lucky enough to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) from the lake behind my apartment!
At the end of the tenth day, I had all my paperwork sorted out and I was going to the university and adapted for new classes. However, I cannot speak Finnish yet, but I am still trying.
Do not believe what the internet memes say about this place: Finland is a very welcoming country despite the first impression. I was able to fit in and even made a couple of really good Finnish friends, but that is a story for another time.
Learn more about studying in Finland
Finland University serves as a gateway to one of the finest Finnish multidisciplinary Universities on offer. If you are interested in studying in Finland and would like to find out more, there's good news: the downloadable Finland University guide provides a quick starting package of how to apply for international master’s degree programmes and scholarships in the member universities of Finland University.
Interested? Download the guide and learn more!