Exchange in Finland exposed me to several different cultures Past Review

By (International Business., Western Washington University) for

Aalto University: Greater Helsinki - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Overall, this was an excellent experience for me. I gained quite a few friends from places all over the world, and made some great memories. I learned so many small details about other cultures that you can't gain from reading textbooks. The exchange also allowed me to travel around Europe and experience several different countries. Being an international business major, I knew I wanted to work outside of the States, but this exchange helped me to pick which countries I would like to work in. I really would recommend this trip to International Business students.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

3 out of my 4 professors were excellent teachers. The only American professor was the one I was least satisfied with, but I was told that was her last time teaching in Mikkeli. The other professors however were all British and had teaching methods similar to professors at WWU. The grading system was different for each module, and was on the 1-5 scale instead of they typical American GPA grading system. Overall, the workload was less than WWU simply because you only take one class at a time for three weeks (a module system) instead of many classes at once. Being a native English speaker also made the workload seem less challenging.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The interesting thing about the Mikkeli campus is that everything seems to be run by the students. All professors are visiting faculty and there seem to be only a few members of actual staff. However, those members were very helpful,especially the one that worked on the exchanges. She was very informative and always available if we needed any extra help. Mikkeli is a very small school (less than 200 people), so that was probably the biggest shock. Because it's so small, there are not as many facilities as we were used to at WWU. However, the few computer labs they did have had new technology and were user-friendly. It's also a very close group of students with many, many activities for students to participate in. Joining the clubs and signing up for all events was the best way to get to know the student body. That really made the experience great for me.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in the student housing apartments in Mikkeli with the only other American on the exchange. It was a two-bedroom apartment that was not in horrible shape, but not a fantastic apartment. However, it was what is pretty typical for student housing. Our apartment did have some various kitchen and cleaning supplies, but the university was able to supply some bedding and some other random things. However, we did need to some small shopping the first week to make sure we had all of the necessary supplies. All of the international students were on the same street, but spread out throughout the apartment complexes. There was never any worry about our safety, and the apartments were a very quick walk to school and the city center. Since the city is so small, pretty much everything is close together. The apartments are right next to an excellent trail/park area perfect for walking or nordic skiing. Laundry was included in the rent and there was never much of a problem with too many people using the laundry at once. Overall, the housing situation was very nice.

* Food:

Finland is extremely expensive, so dining out is not a great option. Groceries are also expensive compared to the rest of Europe, but the better option. Finnish food is also not very exciting, so when we did go out, we looked for any ethnic options. I am a vegetarian and did not have too many problems finding food options. However, in the smaller cities like Mikkeli, many restuarants only have one or two vegetarian choices, but that's similar to the States.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The Mikkeli exchange in the Fall had a great mix of cultures and nationalities. I have heard the Spring exchange is mostly French students though. I had a great time with the other exchanges, but you will want to schedule trips together to get out of tiny Mikkeli. For Finnish life, you need to make sure to attend the Orientation Week the first week before classes start. It's a great opportunity to party with the Finnish students and other exchanges. Finnish culture is closely tied to alcohol, so be prepared for that. Also, the school put on a couple of Sits party that were extremely enjoyable. They aso had a Skibba club that put on sporting events like a floorball team. There is also a Grand Ball in November that is also popular among the students.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

During my time, there were no issues or incidents. However, when people were sick they were usually directed the nearest physician and a Finn usually went with them to help with translating. There were no special vaccines needed or anything like that.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Direct Enrollment/Exchange

* Did you study abroad through an exchange program or did you directly enroll in the foreign university? Exchange

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Diversity in exchange students
  • Amount of social activities put on by student body
* What could be improved?
  • More information on how budget should be adapted for Scandinavian prices
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? This is a great trip to get to know people from all around the world, especially Europe. I met fantastic people and really had a great time. Scandanavia was much more expensive than I expected, so please be prepared to go over your budget. I also recommend taking some time to travel around Europe. I was able to travel to 8 other countries and had a great time with that. At the Mikkeli campus, it is really important to try to join the Finnish activities. The other students are very friendly, but they are not outgoing, so you need to approach them. The classes are not very difficult, but most of them were very interesting and had a lot of group work. That was a great way to find out how to work with other nationalities. Also, be prepared to get a little bored in the small city of Mikkeli. You will want to take many train rides to Helsinki for the weekend. Also, Finnish students are very much into the party scene, so that's the best way to get to know them. There were a few exchanges who did not like to drink and they still had fun, but were a little seperated from the rest of the group. If you are averse to alcohol or partying, this may not be the best trip for you.