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.
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!