After acceptance, what to prepare?

So, you have got an offer from the University of Helsinki? Congratulations!

But… What are you going to do this summer? How to get prepared for the coming new life? There is so much information out there on the web and they come from all aspects. What to listen to? Where’s the starting point?

Maybe you should just forget it – it’s too confusing!

Well… hold up! I used to be a freshman too. I had the same problems. Now, after encountering numerous problems, I know a ton about the entire process and the possible pitfalls. I’m also a trained tutor this year in the Department of Computer Science. Let me tell you some practical tips to guarantee your easy new life.

Arrange your housing

Hoas is the largest student housing organization in Helsinki. An unfurnished apartment only has a wardrobe in the bedroom, with a refrigerator and oven in the kitchen. You can now submit your application on Hoas website four months before you intend to move in. This used to be three months. You can specify your preference on the housing in the comment section of the application, such as “I’d like to live near train station” or “I want to live in Viikki(area)”. Your words will definitely be considered.

The furnished apartments are in certain locations and specially designed for international students. It’s easier to move to a furnished apartment offer comparing to unfurnished one. You can check the details from here. However, the furnished apartment is fixed for one year, which means you have to apply again the next year and get yourself a new apartment offer, while the unfurnished apartment contract does not have a fixed term. The distribution of apartment offers is based on a “first come, first serve” principle, with the consideration of the priority level of the applicant. Fortunately, new students are of the highest priority level, so just catch up with time. After you receive an offer, DO NOTE to pay the deposit as soon as possible, especially for non-EU students, because of the currency exchange and the longer international processing time. In China, it takes at least three bank days for the money to arrive in a foreign bank account.

In addition, there are always many other choices. For example, the studios offered by Unihome are also very good. But do pay attention, if you didn’t receive an apartment offer one month before your arrival, no need to panic, just get yourself a plan B. Firstly, check the other housing options on the housing webpage, for example, there are apartments only open to the forestry students. Secondly, there are a great number of students subleasing their rooms or apartments on Facebook groups and other portals. Normally these rooms are furnished. Lastly, if you want to wait for the offer, I suggest you take a look at the short-term housing, such as Forenom. The price is reasonable and more affordable than ordinary hotels.

Get connected

By the time I was trying to prepare myself for Finland, and the 10-hour flight, I often felt at a loss or stuck with a problem which can’t be solved by myself. Then I managed to get in touch with some other students who were also going to studying in Finland. It’s wonderful to get connected to others, either peers or senior students who are already here. You can use social media to look for the student organization from your country or freshman like you, after which you would never struggle alone. Trust me, there are so many students as confused as you who are eager to get connected. In addition, you can try to contact senior students from your department, most students here are willing to share and help. Moreover, each freshman has a tutor to get help from – tutors are also students from UH who volunteered to guide the new students through the orientation time and provide them with long-term assistance. Getting connected also means get ready for possible culture shock and a totally different lifestyle, I suggest you follow some blogger from Finland as well as the official social media accounts.

The Bank card

I think the financial issues are of vital importance,  especially to us non-EU students, because we have a currency exchange to deal with. To open a local bank account in Finland as an international student, you have to first register at the population office here, register as attendance in UH, and at last, you can go to the bank with all the papers needed. The processing time of the bank takes at least two weeks. Therefore it’s much more convenient if you have a valid card with you in the very beginning. Apply for a VISA or MasterCard of your own, either credit or debit card is good.

Additionally, it is better to apply for the card yourself, instead of using a secondary card of your family. When I arrived here last year, I only had a secondary card from my mother. Then when I was at IKEA and ready to pay for my furniture, I was told that it’s illegal to use other’s credit card, and they reserve the right to expropriate it unless the owner of the card shows up. I was so embarrassed at that time because my mom was not there, obviously, and I didn’t bring anything with me to prove my mom is my mom. Luckily, I got a friend going with me and he lends me some money. Using a card is always safer than bringing a large amount of cash, especially when you can pay for the housing rent with your credit card here.

Most importantly, take the official newsletters seriously! they always deliver the best information at the right time, telling you what to follow up with.

And that’s it! I’m more than confident that your starting time here should be smooth and enjoyable. Always feel free to ask for help or consultation, I strongly advise HYY(student union of UH)  and their website where you can find most of the answers to your problems. If by some unfortunate circumstance you get stuck or have any questions, you can just get in touch with us.

Enjoy the summer!

 

 

Learning Finnish – is it worth it?

Lesson #1: “Puhutko suomea” = “Do you speak Finnish?”

Learning Finnish – is it worth it? Short answer: yes! But don’t beat yourself up about it, because Finnish is haaaard.

One could argue that I’m not the best ambassador for taking up Finnish as an international student, as I dropped out of my Finnish course a week before the exam! But, nevertheless, I feel like I have a pretty good sense of the upsides and downsides of embarking on the Suomi-journey, so I’m gonna share my thoughts with you anyways. If you are an international student coming to study at UH in the fall, keep reading as I have a secret to share with you!

First of all, I want to say that I am not trying to persuade you to take Finnish. I’m also not trying to persuade you not to take Finnish. What I’m going to do is give you an honest and fun insight into one of the hardest languages I have come across in my 24 years of life!

Finnish has 16 verbal cases. Or is it 30? Either way, it’s a lot! Some will tell you that Finnish is similar to the Estonian language. Both Finns and Estonians alike are likely to dispute that. They originate from the same language branch: a branch that also has Hungarian on it! My native language is Danish and if I had a dollar for every time someone had assumed that I must surely already speak Finnish as we’re all Nordic brothers, I would have a lot of dollars. Finnish has absolutely nothing to do with any of the Scandinavian languages (unfortunately!) – it’s a whole different world, and many people opt to learn Swedish instead, as Swedish is another national language in Finland. I am lucky that I can get by with Swedish in Finland, as there’s usually very limited English on the products in the supermarkets and a lot of websites are only in Swedish and Finnish. So, if you’ve ever flirted with the idea of learning a Scandinavian language, here is a wonderful chance to learn the biggest one!

Anyways, back to Finnish – upon my arrival in August last year, I signed up for Finnish 1A at the Language Centre. I was hesitant, as I have to say I wasn’t super enthusiastic about the challenge – but it was fun, I have to admit that. We are lucky enough to get language courses completely free of charge at the university, and you can choose between an intensive course, which has class 3 times a week, and another way less intensive one which is 2 times a week. I opted for the one that runs two times a week, and it wasn’t interfering too much with my other classes. If you are good at managing your time and want to put in the work, taking up a new language, even a not so easy one as Finnish, is very doable.

As mentioned above, I did drop out a week before the exam, as the winter darkness had started to kick in – like I said, do not beat yourself up about it. If it becomes a chore above anything else and you cannot find any good sides to it after you have given it a decent try, then consider if it is worth it. Finnish is not easy, and being at least a little excited about learning it is important. If you aren’t, then at least you can say you tried. And there’s always next year, if you felt like jumping into it during your first week in Finland was too rushed. If not, there’s Swedish!

For all my fellow international students – if you wish to get a head start on your journey into the wonderful land of the suomen kieli (Finnish language in Finnish – head start!), I encourage you to attend the Helsinki Summer School in August. Here, you can take a Finnish course before the academic year really kicks in in September – the course is free for scholarship students and other new students can access the course for a small fee. Signup takes place here: https://apply.helsinkisummerschool.fi/courses/course/217-intensive-finnish-course?search=76170

To sum up: learning a new language is a challenge, but it can also be very fun and it can help you get to know Finland and the Finns better. It’s not as easy as some of the languages you might’ve learnt in high school, but the benefit here is that you’re surrounded by natives and you can practise all the time if you so wish. Don’t beat yourself up about it if you choose to focus on other studies – I have never met a Finn who expects you to speak Finnish, as they are well aware of how hard their language is. And, perhaps the most compelling reason to start a Finnish language course when you start your university journey in Finland – you meet loads of equally new international students with whom you’ll be sure to curse away Finnish in no time. They are sure to become your new best friends, as you have your ‘love’ for Finnish in common!

Our City Centre Campus

Before I came to study in Helsinki, I had absolutely no idea what to expect of the city centre campus. I had been to Helsinki before and had no idea I was walking right on campus when I was touristing the city! I was surprised to find that not only is it in the very heart of the city, it is also quite beautiful –  a mix of old and new in a perfect constellation. Every time I have class at our main building, I can peek out the window and see our divine cathedral – Helsinki’s stunning landmark. I’ve been here for more than 6 months, and I still have to pinch myself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could write several paragraphs about the Senate Square, where the cathedral is located, but it’s not actually part of campus. The yellow building in the picture, however, is! That’s our main building (päärakennus), and the cathedral is literally right next to it. The square is huge, and it is a very popular tourist hotspot. You’ll be listening to lectures with the sound of tourist buses dropping off and picking up! In Nov/Dec, there’s a nice Christmas market, so you can leave class and go straight to the baked Christmas goodies and the warm glögi.

On the other side of the main building, you have Think Corner (Tiedekulma). This building looks like a sauna on the inside (not a coincidence!) and it’s also cozy and warm. Very sauna-like.

 

There’s a super cool gift shop where your uni apparel needs are sure to be met. There’s a lot of events and discussions on every week, and you’ll be sure to walk in on a few during your time in Helsinki. Think Corner also has a nice café, where, as a student, you can get discounted lunches. There’s plenty of spots for studying and chilling out. There’s even bean bags!

On the 2nd floor, you’ll see Helsinki Think Company, the beloved entrepreneurship society of the university. If you have a secret dream of becoming an entrepreneur, this is where you can go and get help, inspiration and meet likeminded people. In the basement of Think Corner, you’ll find multiple floors of our exercise service, UniSport. They also have a location opposite Think Corner, in Porthania.

If you feel the need to leave Think Corner – after your exercise, nutritional and entrepreneurial needs have been met – you can go to our wonderful main library, Kaisa. An architectural masterpiece with all the knowledge you could ever need! Take some time to roam around the floors and explore the hidden gems. On the last floor, you get a nice view of the cathedral. Hard to study with a view that good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you find yourself hungry, fear not! We have a wide array of our wonderful UniCafés around the city centre campus. You could go to the one in the main building, Metsätalo, Soc&Kom, Porthania or Ylioppilasaukio. For just €2.60 (with a student card or the Frank-app), you get a delicious and filling meal with a main dish, free selection from the salad bar, a side (rice, potatoes and the like) and a drink (juice, plantbased or cow milk).  Be sure to download the Unicafé-app, so you can check which café has the tastiest meal on the day you’re looking to eat! There’s always a nice selection of vegan and vegetarian meals, and you’ll be sure to leave UniCafé refreshed and with newfound energy.

There are so many more things that make our city centre campus an awesome place to be, but I’m gonna stop here and hopefully leaving you wanting for more. I hope to see you around exploring and taking advantage of all the nice places our campus has to offer! If you arrive here as an international student, make sure you ask your tutor for a tour around campus so you get to know it during your first days here. It’s the perfect way to start your new life here!

If you have any questions about our city centre campus or about student life in Helsinki, feel free to email me on sofie.gregersen@helsinki.fi!

How to survive Finnish winter and enjoy it?

Life is about enjoying yourself, not just surviving, and this goes for Finland in winter as well. Winter in Finland can be harsh, too cold, grey and dismal with temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius, up to seven months of snow and ice covering the ground, and fewer than four hours of daylight at peak midwinter,  but the arrival of the cold, dark, snowy winter doesn’t mean life stops. Finns always go to work or school in the morning no matter how cold it is or how much snow has fallen. They have plenty of ways to enjoy the winter season.

So , if you are visiting Finland during the winter, these are some top survival tips to help you not only stay alive but also to enjoy the Finnish winter with the snow-covered trees, magical pastel pink colors of the sky, golden sun light, frozen lakes and Northern Lights.

Dress well

The secret of spending time outdoors in the winter is to make sure you are dressed properly. Finns wear thick trousers during the winter with long-johns underneath. On your top half, you will need a thick jumper, preferably one made of wool, and a good snow proof coat. Special attention must be given to protecting the feet, hands and head from the cold. Nothing will ruin the fun of outdoor activities faster than frozen feet. Gloves should be roomy with a warm lining. Headgear should protect the ears properly, and in very cold weather a silk balaclava is excellent for protecting the face. Remember the Finnish saying: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

Go to Sauna

Sauna is one of the most popular activities in Finland where there are more than 3 million saunas in total. In winter, the sauna is a great place for warming up frozen fingers and toes. It is a place for relaxation, tranquility and deep thought. The sauna experience includes escape from the tensions of everyday life to another reality, towards calm and contentment. Some say that having a dip in a hole in the ice of a lake or the sea is one of the joys of a waterside sauna in winter. It will certainly improve your circulation, and at the very least, make you feel refreshingly alive!

Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle

During cold and dark winter days, it is extremely common that you feel lazy all the time. To maintain good brain health, try to include a lot of vegetables and fruits in your meals. It’s also crucial to take vitamin D supplements every day, as the absence of sunlight can even make you feel dizzy at times.

Do sports

Don’t forget to exercise frequently. Bouldering, gym and the swimming pool will help to cheer you up on cold and dark days. As a bonus, you get a healthy body, productive attitude and positive mind-set. Yoga is also a great workout regime for reducing stress and allowing for greater relaxation.  It can be done from your home or in a classroom.

Escape your room

It can be quite boring and even depressing sometimes to stay at home on winter evenings when it gets dark at 3 pm. Get outside every time you see the sun actually shining. This is crucial to your well-being! There are not too many sunny days, and especially during the wintertime all of them should be appreciated and enjoyed outside. Besides – the sunny winter days are spectacular! Go wandering in the forest or to the seaside and admire the sunset colors.

Walking on ice

Nobody likes taking the risk of falling over on the ice and looking like an idiot, but it is unavoidable to get around during the winter. There is a trick to walking on ice, however. Walking at a regular pace doesn’t distribute the body weight in the correct way to stay upright on ice. The trick is to take short, quick steps, much like the way that penguins walk. You may still fall over from time to time, but locals expect this so they won’t laugh at you.

 Watch ice hockey

Finns really love this sport and if you ask them which ice hockey team is the best, they’re going to answer “Finland”, of course. If you live with Finns prepare yourself to watch all the match and shout with them “SUOMI, SUOMI, SUOMI!!!”

Winter health

As strange as it may feel, remember to breathe through your mouth rather than your nose when it is cold outside. This is because breathing in cold air through your nose and breathing out warm air can cause the blood vessels in your nose to rupture, giving you a nosebleed. Short hours of daylight combined with isolation and dreary weather can cause a feeling of physical and mental exhaustion and lack of motivation. These symptoms are normally felt during the early winter and are usually temporary, easing off once the body becomes more accustomed to the winter. It is difficult to get up when it is so dark outside, but doing so and going for a half-hour walk every morning will expose the body to sunlight and provide enough energy to get through the day. Light therapy lamps can also simulate sunlight and are easy to find online.

Enjoy the Snow

What a fantastic feeling to wake up one morning in the late autumn and look out of the window to see that the first snow has fallen! Children waste no time rushing outside to make their first snowmen and find the nearest sledging hill, while adults dig out their winter sports equipment. Other key sports are the various branches of alpine skiing, snowboarding and freestyle skiing. The latter are relatively new sports but they have rapidly become big favourites among the young and daring. Ice skating is another national pastime, like cross-country skiing. 

Gather with friends

This might sound like a cliché, but hanging out with friends is one of the best ways to overcome the winter depression. Friends can have a great impact on your emotions, especially during winter. Just make spontaneous plans, meet at someone’s place, cook together, have some drinks and watch some movies.

Text: Basma Ragab (International Student Ambassador)

To Finland, with love.

Hello everybody!

My name is Laura and I am the tutor for the students who will join the Master’s in Neuroscience at the University of Helsinki.

First of all, congratulations on being accepted at the University of Helsinki!! I remember when I received the news I got in. Oh the excitement… and the panic! There’s nothing quite like the moment when you realise that what you were wishing for has become true. The joy and the fear become one and it’s almost difficult to tell them apart.

Every new experience can be scary, and for many of you this might be your first time in Finland. Not to worry, though. There are tutors here ready to welcome you and help you figure it all out 😊. You might have already received an email from your faculty tutor. If not, no worries, you will soon.

This is a message for you all, to remind you that you are not alone. Many new students join the University of Helsinki every year, and even us tutors have been in your place before. We understand there is a variety of things you might need help with, and that’s why we will be guiding you to make sure you can start your studies without any trouble.

We will help you finding offices and getting all the papers you need. You’ll need to register and get a residence permit, you’ll need an HSL card to use public transport and you’ll need help to discover all the benefits that students get (yes, you’ll see that you can get discounts in so many places, shops included 😉 ). We are here to guide you and tell you which offices to go to, we can answer your questions about everyday life in Finland, we can give you some hints on how to survive sauna and Finnish winter.

No need to fear, this is (hopefully :P) going to be one of those experiences you’ll cherish for the rest of your lives. I’m sure you are going to have a lot of fun discovering all the beauties of this wonderful country 😊 .

Warm hugs from Helsinki to you all and see you soon!

Cheers,

Laura Failla

Finding work in Finland!

My name is Alexandra, I graduated from the University of Helsinki Faculty of Law (International Business Law master degree) in May 2017. In this blog post, I want to take you through one of the most exciting journeys I encountered during my master studies, that is, making the first steps in the career!

During almost two years of my master studies (I started in August 2015), I managed to find my first summer job in Finland, working as a legal trainee across two countries and doing pro bono work as a student-lawyer and then as a tutor of Helsinki Law Clinic. As any (international) student, I was drowning in a flow information about job, internship and trainee possibilities from very first days of my studies at the Faculty of Law, during orientation week. Of course, writing about exciting intellectual property protection cases or tax analysis would be too specific, so I decided to come up with some universal advice that sheds some light on employment possibilities for international students that the University of Helsinki helps to achieve. Continue reading “Finding work in Finland!”

February Fun and Frolicks!

Text and photos: International Student Ambassador Coordinator Sara Haapanen

You may have noticed that the shops are bursting with cakes right now, and unless you’re on a diet it’s a time to indulge a little. And of course, there is a reason behind it all.

You have probably seen some little golden brown almond towers topped with a blob of raspberry jam and a circle of icing, these are called Runeberg cakes. Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804–1877) is the national poet of Finland, the author of a poem which is now proudly the lyrics of the Finnish national anthem. Legend had it that his wife made him these cakes and they are produced every year as a little celebration. He has his own flag day too, 5th February, so eat cake and give a little toast to Finnish history. Continue reading “February Fun and Frolicks!”

New Student – Make sure you come to the Welcome Fair!

January is almost here, which means we are getting impatient to meet all our new international students here at the University of Helsinki!

Your student experience at the University of Helsinki will begin with a visit to the Welcome Fair on January 10, 2018, as well as your Faculty orientation. Please note that you will need to take part in both! Remember to bring your official ID (passport, ID card or residence permit) with you to the Welcome Fair!

The Welcome Fair is the perfect place to get to know the University and the Campuses as well as to get all the official matters out of the way. The venue for the Welcome Fair is the Language Centre of the University of Helsinki (address: Fabianinkatu 26). Please see our Welcome Fair and orientation week map for locations. Continue reading “New Student – Make sure you come to the Welcome Fair!”

Libraries at the University of Helsinki

Text and Photo: International Student Ambassador Esther Veas

Libraries are the cornerstone of any university student’s degree, especially when writing essays or studying independently. The University of Helsinki has four libraries, one in each campus:

Continue reading “Libraries at the University of Helsinki”

Autumn

Text: International Student Ambassador Min Wang

Hi everybody! This is the best time to experience the autumn of Helsinki. Trees are getting colorful and appealing now. A little bit raining day may let you down but anyway you deserve to hang out for a while and explore some interesting things to do. Here are some suggestions and hope you like them.

Continue reading “Autumn”