Studying law in Finland – strong sides that surprised me/my article from LinkedIn

Recently, I published an article in Russian about studying law in Finland describing basic and universal things that actually served as a reason for me to pursue LL.M. in Finland. I listed things that you most probably know, but still they come as a strong benefit that you cannot take for granted if you come from abroad, having studied in a really different culture:

Freedom of studies

I was really positively surprised about the freedom I was given in planning my studies, prioritising spheres of law on my own and just setting own deadlines. In my article in Russian, I described how it actually helps to develop some sort of business intuition, self-organisation and knowing your strengths and weaknesses. No matter in what professional sphere you will end up, it is amazing.

Academic research tied to your life

In my bachelor studies outside Finland, I perceived it as an extended academic writing assignment. Here it turns out to be an inspiring academic entrepreneurship effort. When you are not restricted in the scope of jurisdictions you can research, when you can choose sphere of law according to your interests (and come up with interdisciplinary research) you actually learn more about yourself and your professional interests. Not to mention the freedom of research planning that allows you to balance your research and work.

Study, work and study when you work

Actually, a long paragraph of my original article is dedicated to work-study balance that Finnish students get. A possibility to start internships in law-firms from the very beginning of the studies, combine it with studies (which may happen at two universities at the same time) and attend lectures organised by your employer is definitely something that amazes me.

Photo by Alexandra Shtromberg


I was asked to write a blog on employment rights for an international students. The draft is already somewhere on my laptop, but there is one important thing – any text of the contract is based on the culture and mentality. So, I decided to start with another thing – why Finland, and how a young student perceives it working culture.

  1. Working is learning

Thesis traineeships is one of the amazing things I have discovered. For the firms who have it, it is a guarantee that their employee will not finalize the studies in a crazy race, but would rather take a break, get the necessary knowledge, strengthen competence and becomes even a better investment and a source of information. Because thesis is not just a thesis, that is the valuable source of information for the company, for the fellow employees. The knowledge that the future employee can implement in organizing educational events for the company, for the clients and the competence that would be visible from the documents.

I have seen that firms actually organise internal training events held by the trainees. And it is purely amazing. That is not the egalitarian gesture. I would say that it the way to show that each learning process is the process of mutual learning, and being able to learn on your own, pack your knowledge in the user-friendly way and deliver it to others.

  1. Working is listening

My first work experience in Finland was in the field of sales. I do not have a degree in sales. But I have some idea of business intuition and inspiration to pitch. We had a daily morning planning meetings, and gathered in small groups to deliver our feedback and ways of improvement to our bosses. Every day. One may say that it was a wasted time and a summer worker with zero background in sales would not make such a good contribution to discussion. The opposite is true – as long as you listen carefully to the youngest with the freshest view of the view, you move forward.

  1. Working close to the nature

That is generally more about urban infrastructure. And also the will of employers to compete for the best locations of the offices. I sometimes wonder – can working next to the sea and taking a morning run around beautiful parks become a routine? Hopefully, note! Not to mention, that 25 minute commuting to work already seems such a long trip to some of my friends.

  1. Mentorship

Not to mix it with the tutorship when you get the technical quidance and work/study-related feedback. Trends in developing individual and group mentorship are becoming stronger, and this is purely amazing. Exchange of information through different cultures, ages, industries is not only about networking – it is about challenging your career plans, rethinking your plans, and again listening carefully.

  1. Changing

Changing is not about constant education or getting additional degree – it is about providing employees of all ages with the change to grow and explore new spheres of competence. And support to travel abroad, open your mind and return back even as stronger employee. There are so many events going on, so many inspiring speeches and workshops that staying in the vacuum of your expectations formed during the very beginning of your university studies is already a challenge.

Start your Finnish

As an International Ambassador of my university, I have encountered many questions about studying Finnish. My biggest blogging attempt so far has been a post about learning Finnish using your mobile device ( However, in that post I never answered the main questions – why and how to learn Finnish?

I would highlight that you can feel yourself 100% comfortable (well, 99% comfortable – as everywhere, there may be exclusions, but I have not encountered them so far) in Finland without speaking Finnish/Swedish. There is a big selection of courses in English, Finland is known for amazingly high command in English, and the student community is open and helpful in those rare chances when you may need some help with Finnish. Also, there are many job positions where Finnish knowledge is not required at all.

However, there are certainly cases where you will need Finnish. You may want to make your thesis research more diverse by gaining access to sources in Finnish, attend sports classes where Finnish is main language of instruction (even though UniSport offers a wide selection of courses taught in English), discover more student events, and just satisfy your curiosity while living in Finland.

In any case, you are lucky as you will be given a great range of study possibilities to choose from:

  1. Traditional language courses

You may start studying Finnish from scratch or take a test to define your level if you have studied Finnish before. Courses are split into different levels, and include weekly classes, homework and examination. However, I am not the best person to comment on this. I have never taken these classes at the University of Helsinki but you can always ask other International Student Ambassadors for more info.

  1. ALICE cultural exchange

The participation scheme is simple: you are native speaker of certain language and you are assigned a person, who is studying your native language and can teach you Finnish/Swedish. You draft a plan of your cultural exchange, discuss your study progress with your mentor and write a learning diary to reflect on your study progress. I was taking part in a course with my friend whom I met during her exchange studies at my home city. Our study programme included cultural visits, small parties where we spoke exclusively Finnish/Russian and inspiring discussions about similarities and differences in Finnish/Russian cultures.

  1. Language café

The idea is even simpler: you come to the bar/student auditorium where desks with signs “English”, “Finnish”, etc, are located. You choose the language you are interested in and start talking. I attended language course organised by the University of Helsinki, Luckan Integration and Café Mascot. As they all are held on different dates, it gave me a lot of flexibility and opportunity to practice language skills regularly. Advanced level of attending language cafes includes switching between tables and practicing multiple languages in two (or more, or less) hours. For me, the shift between German and Swedish was a challenge, but a good brain-teaser.

  1. Duolingo Facebook groups

That was the biggest motivation for me to actually continue with Swedish. Installing the language study app is one thing, but being constantly reminded of your soulmates` study progress definitely gives you other feelings. For example, join Finnish on Duolingo! or Duolingo: Swedish Learners.

  1. Read books

I had amazing Finnish language teachers but they were making one mistake. They were trying to somehow convey the message that written Finnish is difficult. Of course, reading comprehension may be challenging in different languages. However, your general linguistic intuition, awareness of facts that are described in certain texts and motivation to learn will help you to overcome complex grammar. I really advise to search for bilingual books, children`s books and once your language level reaches B1 grab ”normal” books. Pay attention to narrative structure: books with a lot of dialogues will help you to improve your spoken Finnish and learn more about Finnish communication culture.

  1. Read social media

Reading memes is a waste of time… unless you study foreign language. You can learn slang, compare written and spoken grammar constructions, learn to spot language mistakes and overcome your fear of making mistakes in communicating. For metro trips, Twitter suits best. Maybe this advice is for more advanced Finnish language learners – but starting too early is definitely not a mistake. Just critically approach all learning materials – that is general advice for all studying!

I surely should post something more about learning Finnish. Your ideas on posts are warmly welcome!





Studying at the University of Helsinki: study experience of year 2016

The end of the year is about making new year resolutions and summing up what has happened. I am a bit cautious about new year resolutions, but looking back at what happened is definitely inspiring. This calendar year of studying at the University of Helsinki has been full of bright events and aspirations, meeting new people and certainly learning something new. Every course has been unique and has taught a lot of new, and I did my best in trying to combine everything in ”five-main-things-I-am-going-to-tell-you” style.

Helsinki Law Clinic

I have never been close to start-up culture before, but this year I really learned a lot more about diverse and international start-up scene in Helsinki. For the first time in my life, I consulted a real client, and for the first time, I did it in Finnish, trying to get rid of fear of making stupid mistakes. Finally, I discovered that speaking in language you don`t know on a native level helps you to get rid of legalese and actually makes you more understandable to the clients. Since September, I have been acting as a tutor in Helsinki Law Clinic, supervising my dream team and sharing my experiences. It was partly a challenge as at the same time I was working in St. Petersburg, but again HLC has provided me with a vital skill – working on a distant basis. That is definitely something I try to learn more every day now.

Career coaching

In August, I packed my luggage and left to Saint Petersburg to start my internship in a law firm. Somewhere in August as well, I realized that the requirements to getting well-desired ECTS for internship have changed and I faced a list of tasks at Moodle developed by Career Services of the University of Helsinki. What I especially love about professional development there, is a focus on the future. Projecting on your experience and filling in self-evaluaton forms may sound boring, but for me it has given a chance to list down my aspirations on paper. In those three months between me starting a career course and writing this blog, some of my plans and aspirations have already come true! Also, this course has motivated me to apply for a group mentoring programme (I will write about it a bit later).

Language studies

I have my minor in Legal translation and interpreting (English). Should I say that I thought that I can hardly be surprised by different language courses offered there? Well, I was surprised. I took two German language courses to revive my writing and speaking skills, and found myself making videos on actual social problems, preparing radio podcasts with fellow students, playing childish games at the classroom, attending exhibitions and language cafes. The peer-to-peer supervision of homework helped us to build team spirit and get engaged in other university events. Last week, some German criminal law books from the end of the nineteenth century were given away in our library. It is good to realize that I can read them!

Book exams

By this time, I have already done my research exam, which is seemingly last compulsory exam in my master`s degree. Luckily, law & economics has been the main focus. Or, I would say, life & law & economics, because much of the reasoning I have found in the readings, has to do with general psychology matters. It is a pity that during bachelor studies back home I never had a chance to focus on economics more, partly because of loaded schedule, partly because of lack of flexible study schemes. In Finland, you can apply for an ”inner” exchange to take any university course at any other Finnish university for free (JOO – Flexible Study Right). This internal mobility aspect is something not very common for a Russian student and I am looking forward to get most out of this experience before I graduate.

Starting gradu

Gradu is a Finnish word for master thesis. In contrast to some other countries (in my case, I can compare only with Russian system), there is a flexibility in deadlines and scope of research. I was really determined to start researching topic, that could bring some more light on Russian legislation and legal culture. That is how I focused on analysing risks of enforcing foreign arbitral awards in Russia. My decision was well-supported, and as I progress I will definitely write more about conducting legal research in Finland.

That has been too narrow selection, I acknowledge that. And I had to miss out so many interesting courses. However, if you don`t study at the University of Helsinki, you still can access our study guides: Course descriptions can actually provide good hints on researching different spheres of law. Surely, information on other study subjects is also provided.

Happy New Year!




Housing. Part 1

I was thinking about what to write next, and the question of housing jumped into my mind. I live in HOAS apartment myself, and have actually never rented housing from private market in Finland. But as HOAS is the most viable option, I will focus on it.
First, first five things you should necessarily know about housing in Helsinki:

1. Private space. Unless you are an exchange student, you will get your own room in the apartment with 3-4 rooms. In my home country, there are usually 3-4 students living in the same room, and I have no idea how one can manage study and rest in such conditions. In contrast, student housing in Finland gives you a great chance both to socialize and study in silence.

2. You should hurry up. The lack of supply of student housing is one of challenges of living in Helsinki. However, international students are prioritized over those students who already live in Helsinki area and just decide to move to student housing. So, you should not worry about that as long as you carefully fill in application form.

3. Nature is so close. I have lived in three different student apartments, in Joensuu and Helsinki. And I am always lucky to have a view at the forest from my room window. After returning to my Helsinki home from business trips, I always feel so excited to breathe in some fresh air.

4. Flexibility. You have the right to reapply and change your housing after having lived in a student apartment for a certain period of time. You can fill in your wishes, visit customer service and share your concerns, and you definitely will be heard.

5. Living together means learning more. Regardless whether you live in studio, shared apartment, friend apartment or family apartment, you will always have a chance to meet your neighbors at all kinds of parties and sport activities organised by tenants committee of your housing block or other tenant committees. That is how I learned some Finnish board games, tasted some traditional Finnish food and drinks, learned more Finnish and just had fun when taking longer way to party was impossible because of tight schedule!20161218_155914

I will soon describe the process of settling down in a new housing – stay tuned!

UH International Ambassadors

Hey all!

It has been a while since I have written a last blogpost, but I have excuses, including studying and participating in UH International Student Ambassadors project.
November has been really full of events, including International Evening (totally bursting the autumn blues) and welcoming new ambassadors.
What are we doing?

Why I joined?

When I was applying to the University of Helsinki, I was reading through all admissions rules again and again. And then again and again! However, some advice you will never be able to find

Best experiences this year?

1. Great team!
We are active in maintaining our Facebook page. If you have ideas to share or something is still unclear, just drop us a PM in Facebook, we will answer you soon.

2. Study in Finland fairs in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Petrozavodsk.
Meeting hundreds of highly motivated students was a great pleasure! I got a chance to travel a bit, share encouragement and passion with prospective students of UH as well as met current students and employees of educational institutions all over Finland.

3. A food hunt youtube video.
Please don`t miss the part with the speaking goat. This piece of art made by Vladislav Banakov and me is the result of videomaking workshop we attended with fellow ambassadors. Click to watch

4. Dance flashmob
We had a couple of exciting training sessions with professional choreographers and had the chance to make up the dance ourselves, bringing our cultures to create a great fusion.  Over 1200 views by now! Click to watch

What is ahead?
We are soon meeting new ambassadors and I am feeling inspired to share my experiences and learn new. We will keep you updated!

Have a great start of the week!




On your way to studies: admissions

Dear potential University of Helsinki student,
Application period starts 1 December 2016 already. That is in two weeks!
If you are planning to apply not this year but later, this post may still be of some use. I may be such a boring person to advise to plan your admission in advance and probably will resemble a university professor demanding from you to start preparing for exam from the day of first lecture. However, early preparation will give you a chance to discover your new strengths and interests, meet new people (even though still through Internet until you arrive in Helsinki) and just gain inspiration! For me, starting a process in advance made me feel content with my own efforts and saved much resources (all sorts of them). Just and example: IELTS examination is held only a couple of times per year in my home town and I decided to pass it already in May, to calm myself with the thought that if something goes wrong I still have a time to retake it before actual application period starts.

If you are applying this year, probably some of my tips will encourage you!

You should have such a patience to read the whole story of my admissions, and most likely I don`t have patience to write it all down! But here come some main points I want to share with you.

1. Ask, ask, ask!

It is not only about getting clear answers to clear questions: there is always a high chance that you will get some other information, which may inspire you/make you change your mind/calculate risks/remind you about upcoming deadline. And I mean asking not only international ambassadors: ask your professors, your friends and colleagues for their support and advise, they know your strengths better than you when you are stressed and tired. I recall how many mistakes I have made in my motivation letter despite holding a degree in English-Russian legal translation, just because I was worried – luckily my friends were with me to patiently proofread my writing efforts and reassure me that it “would be crazy not to accept you as a student”. This has helped me to calm down and carefully rephrase unsuccessful phrases. And for sure, in any moment of doubt, don`t hesitate to contact admissions office – the more clarified admissions procedure is in your head, the better it is for your wellbeing during these nervous times!

2. Mindmap.

You know yourself, but you are just so used to being yourself that it is not easy to systematize your strengths, competence and experience in a short and concise motivation letter. Just google online mindmaping tools and use it! It is a kind of strange to picture yourself a map or a strange graphic schemes, but in my case it helped me to recall all my activities, projects, volunteer experience and certainly my future goals and plans. Then I just looked again to pick up most important and persuasive experiences to mention briefly in my motivation letter.

By the way, the draft of my own mindmap is attached to this post – not the actual one I used though, the original draft was quite messy:)

3. Don`t be afraid to change your mind.

For a long time I have been planning to enter other specialization in law that one I am studying at right now. I am extremely happy to be majoring in international business law, and I remember how I started writing my motivation letter and suddenly realized that I cannot form my arguments clearly. I took a piece of paper and started to express my motivation for another specialization in international law programme and ended up even with sharing ideas on future master thesis! That is how my intuition helped me to choose a right path – probably if I started preparing documents at a last moment, I would not have enough time to consider such changes of a planned subject.

4. Be specific.

I am not a member of admissions committee (probably, at a later stage I will be – I dream of working in the university, and I will do my best to update this blogpost when I get insider knowledge), but I believe that communicating your clear plans is what shows your motivation best. Precise details may include your planned topic of master thesis, long-term research plans, planned involvement in Uni. Helsinki student associations, courses of special interest. By deciding in advance, you both have a chance to acquaint yourself better with what university offers you (check for the list of courses taught at the University of Helsinki).

5. Calculate the risks.

This will save your money, time and energy to start your studying. Calculating your risks does not mean stressing all over the time over things – just making the list of possible problems likely to arise will help you! University of Helsinki website describes procedure clearly, but still some aspects may make you worry. For instance, when you are a potential international student from far away, mail delivery may last a long time, or be too expensive or mail send even by courier may exceptionally and unexpectedly arrive one day after deadline. In this case, you can consult your fellow friends who often send correspondence abroad or international affairs coordinators of your home university – they will advise you how to do it best! Probably, admissions process also includes interviewing stage – doublecheck the time difference, readiness of your device and comfortableness of place where you will make a Skype call.
There are hundreds of posts on getting admitted to the university of your dream, and my advice surely does not sound original and surprising. It is just my attempt to sum up the main important things you are going to face. I wish you good luck and hope to see you in Helsinki!



5 reasons why I applied to Uni. Helsinki

It seems quite logical to start from explaining how I got there. First of all, reasons!

  1. Years of studies ahead

Two-year master degree programme. Actually, you have a study right for four years, and that flexibility is just amazing. In Russia, you are supposed to graduate with bachelor degree in four years (in most of all study programmes) and basically you have only one graduation date per year.

Two years of studies were definitely better than one year in my situation. I entered the masters at the age of 20, with practically no training in the sphere of European law at all. Of course, I knew (in brief theory) what is the European law about. However, it takes some time to grasp values, approaches, whatever.

  1. No cramming weeks

There are no exam sessions. You may have 3 exams per week or one exam per semester – it all depends on your schedule (and desire to do as many exams as possible as well).

Of course, that is not a paradise as well. You may be preparing for one month for one of exams just to realize that the next exam is approaching in three days. However, you can control it yourself and boost your intuition as well.

  1. Flexibility

You see, I have already mentioned flexibility of studies. But for me, it is never enough! Knowing that you can plan your studies in a way that lets the studies go hand in hand with acquiring working experience, learning new outside the university doors and just relaxing is so precious.

I have spent the most time of the autumn semester working in St. Petersburg, Russia and I had to travel to visit lectures only twice. I guide my amazing start-ups team in Helsinki Law Clinic online and get feedback for my thesis plan by e-mail. This is not only exciting, it is very much self-disciplining as well. Luckily everything is synchronized with google calendar!

  1. Languages

You can apply to a programme in English and then take some courses in Finnish. Or in Swedish. Or learn 4 foreign languages in the same period. Learning process may include zero tests and days full of shooting films and radio podcasts in a foreign language that you would never believe you would speak.

  1. Weather

If you have problems concentrating on your studies, be sure – long dark evenings will keep you motivated to stay inside and studyJ

Don’t treat the last factor too seriously – climate is not so dramatic, global warming makes winter warmer and closeness to nature compensates all dark and cold days.

Application period starts quite soon, so I will keep you updated about some tips and planning tactics which will be of help to you. Stay updated!

You can also follow me in Twitter:

Greetings from St. Petersburg,





My name is Alexandra, I am a second year master degree student of the University of Helsinki (International Business Law). I am from the Republic of Karelia, which is the border region of the Russian Federation. I first came to Finland when I was five years and I fell in love with this country.

 What I am saying is too cliché, but I need to say that ‒ getting admitted there has been my dream since 13 years old. At that time I did not know that I would be a lawyer (neither did I know that I would find my passion in international commercial arbitration and energy law), but I knew that studying in the heart of Helsinki is something cool!

I did not hesitate when I was offered a great chance to lead this blog. First reason is a bit selfish –  I like being read about and being heard (maybe that is why I have chosen law, who knows). But the main reason is really altruistic – I got half of my inspiration from experiences shared by my friends and colleagues, lawyers or not. And, of course, I want to keep my student adventures fresh in my mind!

In my blog I will write about main challenges and adventures of studying and living in Helsinki. I honestly cannot decide what will be more exciting  – experiences of consulting first clients in life or collecting free furniture across Helsinki and suburbs – so I will have to write about everything!

I will keep my blog alive every week, I promise!

I try to be a generator of ideas, but not always succeed. If you have questions or ideas, drop me a message (

You can also follow me through other channels: (only architecture, nature and people. My instagram account is private but I accept subscription requests from accounts that do not look like spam) (I write about local events)

Please, note, that this blog reflects my personal thoughts but not necessarily the official position of the University of Helsinki or any of its institutions, departments or employees.