My name is Phuong Bui and I am a first-year PhD student at the Learning,Teaching and Learning Environments Research Doctoral Programme at the Faculty of Education, University of Turku. Prior to this, I had completed my Masters degree in Education and Learning at the same faculty. I came from warm Vietnam and in the beginning it was tricky for me to adapt to Finnish winter. However, today I am going to share some suggestions how to enjoy it based on my experience.
1. Keep warm
This sounds so simple, yet it took quite awhile for me to learn how to dress properly in winter. Winter in Finland is very much different with what I had experienced in Vietnam and elsewhere. Sometimes, it looked like the sun was shining, and it could be warm, but in fact it was freezing cold.
The general rules are dressing in layers, dressing for appropriate activities, and staying dry with waterproof (or water-resistant) boots and out-layers. It is also very important to keep your head and hands warm with beanie and mittens. The wind can be unbelievably strong sometimes, so covering your head is very crucial.
Depending on where you live, the weather could be even more extreme. VisitFinland has made a very nice video to show how to dress for outside activities in sub-temperatures weather. When you learn how to dress properly, winter could be very fun with many different activities.
2. Stay active
Exercising is always important, we should do it all year around. Yet, when the day is short and cold, the temptation to avoid going out and just be lazy gets stronger. A healthy diet and regular exercises would tremendously help you coping with the darkness and overall passiveness in the winter. Speaking of diets, it is also recommended to take Vitamin D during this time of the year.
If running in winter sounds a bit too extreme, then maybe joining a local gym, yoga courses, or a student sport club would be ideal options. There are also many different winter sports that can only be possible to do in countries like Finland such as snow walking, downhill skiing, ice-swimming, ice-hockey, etc.
Staying active does not mean only exercising or working out. It is also important to keep your mind stimulated. Engaging oneself into a new hobby like picking up a new language, learning new skills or committing to volunteering activities are several popular options for students during those winter months. As a student in Finland, you are entitled to many benefits such as discounts or even free courses at universities or summer schools. So if there is something you have always wanted to learn, probably now would be a good time.
3. Be safe
During the winter months, the weather can be quite tough. It is not just the snow, but the icy roads and pavements are the hidden dangers when snow starts to melt. While walking, it is recommended to wear proper winter boots, or adding spikes strap to the shoes. While driving, cars are required to be changed to winter tires (same as bicycles). Even so, it is still needed to pay extra caution while being in traffic.
When the darkness gets longer, you will start seeing people wearing safety reflectors / lights on their out jackets, bags, or on their pets when they are outside. Safety reflector is one of the famous Finnish inventions, and it is not only useful, it is also required by law for pedestrians to wear reflectors while moving in the dark.
Do not underestimate these little things, because you will soon realize how dark it gets. These reflectors can be bought easily at any normal shops; but one tip is that they are also given out for free by different companies and organizations throughout the year, especially for new students.
4. Enjoy it while it lasts
Winter in Finland is not all bad, more like the opposite. When the snow arrives, the whole landscape will turn into the magical wonderland as stories we were told in our childhood. In some parts of Finland, it is even possible to walk on or drive through frozen lakes.
Traveling through Finland in winter is very easy and convenient, it is also affordable for students since there are always discounts for train and bus tickets for those with valid student cards. One thing to remember is to dress really properly when traveling to colder parts of Finland. Usually in temperatures like -15 and colder, you would need to wear special winter clothes and gears if you want to stay outside for a long period of time.
When winter arrives, it is also the most magical time of the year. Soon, spring will sprung again and the days will stay a bit longer everyday. Embrace it & make the most of it. We wish all who apply this year best luck, so that you can come and experience Finnish winter yourself.
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