Studying on Exchange in Finland
The 4th year students of the Institute of Philology Ekaterina Kryshkina studied on exchange at the University of Oulu (Finland) from September to December 2019.
“Enforced quarantine is a good time to recall the opportunities offered to students by the university and start planning your next term (and of course, mind the deadlines).”
Ekaterina shared her experience and impressions:
“The decision to take part in the exchange program was made on the fly and even now I can’t explain why I have chosen Oulu. On the one hand, I’ve decided I wanted to go to Finland; on the other hand, I wanted to stay away from well-known tourist cities.
Oulu is the capital and the oldest city in Northern Finland. The University is 5 kilometers away from the center of the city; yet the road to the campus goes through a forest, not across the city. I think what immediately amazed me in Oulu is the closeness to nature. Next to the student dormitory, there is a botanical garden, and right behind it is a forest with a lake.
The campus of the University of Oulu is considered one of the largest in Finland. The premises have ordinary lecture halls and classrooms, numerous laboratories, study spaces for students, rooms for meditation and rest, around 10 cafes and canteens for students and teachers and even apartments. What is even more amazing is that you can stay on campus all day, especially if you have an access card.
All the same, I would like to speak about studies in detail. The University of Oulu focuses on studying modern information technologies and natural sciences, yet I, a philology student, felt welcome there. I studied the program Scandinavian Studies and enrolled in such courses as the Finnish and Scandinavian Literature, the Finnish language, History of the Vikings’ Era and Mythology of the Nordic Countries. The course list was diverse. Form of studying largely depended on a teacher: the course on the history of the Vikings’ era was a common lecture course that required minimal involvement on our part, while the teacher of the mythology course let our imagination run wild and made us decipher symbols on Sami drums, look for Kalevala traces in Finnish rock music and draw our labyrinths.
Students from other countries had different expectations, as some were not ready to write a free composition, some have never been exposed to project activities. I can testify for myself that studying at PetrSU has prepared me for everything!
Interestingly the language courses unite students of all programs, from economists to agronomists. All students study German in one group and it all depends on the level of proficiency. I took classes in the Finnish and German languages. The focus is on work in pairs and groups, in every class, we had a speaking practice.
Still, many Finnish students choose another approach to studying a foreign language as they learn in tandem. The idea is that a Finnish and an international student teach each other their native languages. A teacher’s part in this is small as he or she just provides a list of topics to discuss and checks the final report. The students have absolute freedom and together we baked Finnish cookies and Russian bliny, watched the Moomins, and once went to the island of Hailuoto, not far from Oulu.
Being part of an exchange program involves not only studying but traveling too. Thanks to Erasmus Student Network I have visited Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and all this in three days! They also have arranged tours to Lapland and Norway, a cruise to Stockholm, and of course to Russia. Many students take a genuine interest in Russian culture, yet the stereotypes abound as well. All the same, the stereotypes disappeared without a trace after the annual festival of cultures, during which the hall of the university was illuminated with the diversity of cultures and traditions from all around the world.
Studying on exchange has been an invaluable experience for me. Now, several months later, I realize what an impression this time had on me. I try to stay in touch with friends from different countries and put my new knowledge to practice. Exchange can be a truly unforgettable experience in your life, as long as you dare and act!
Participation in an exchange program is an opportunity to change your whole life, learn about lifestyle in a foreign country, immerse in its culture, and meet amazing people from all around the world!