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)

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!”

Travelling from the Airport

New students or people coming to Helsinki for the first time often find it tricky to understand the public transport available from the airport. The Helsinki-Vantaa international airport is located in Vantaa, which is a different municipality than Helsinki. But thanks to the amazing public transport system, the distance can be covered easily. However, some people prefer to take a taxi from the airport which is a bit of a more costly affair. But for students, who are usually on a regulated budget, taking the train from the underground station is an easy and affordable option. The available trains from the airport are the P and I trains travelling to Helsinki. They both go to the city centre but travel in opposite directions as the tracks form a loop. The travel time is almost the same on both trains, so you can choose whichever train. The last stop is called “Helsinki” and it is in the city centre next to the Railway Station Square (Rautatientori), where you can find connecting busses, metros or trains for further destinations.

Ticket vending machine

Tickets are no longer sold on the trains, so you should buy your ticket before stepping on-board. On the platform, there is a ticket vending machine. Contrary to people’s belief, this machine can be used in different languages including English. Continue reading “Travelling from the Airport”

Adventures Ahoy!

They say being born in Finland is like winning a lottery. I say studying in Finland is better. No amount of money can beat the amount of new friends, adventures, and experiences studying here will give you. During the summer you will get a letter from your tutor, but I wanted to greet you with a few welcoming words first.

The University of Helsinki is one of the best universities in the world. This is not only my opinion. The university has been several times ranked among the top 100 universities in the world. We are known particularly for the quality and amount of research. At the University of Helsinki, all teachers participate in research. Believe it or not, our best professors can also be our best teachers!

To keep business and pleasure in balance, the University of Helsinki has an active student life. With over 35 000 students, there is always something happening. Running in the forest with a map and a compass, wine tasting with surgeons, bar touring dressed up in overalls, taking a cruise to Sweden with your fellow students… All of this and a lot more is organised by the students of our university. If you get tired of student life, the city of Helsinki has also a variety of sights and attractions to offer. There are plenty of parks, museums, shopping malls, and cafes where you can take a break and have a moment to yourself. And then return to student life.

It is normal to feel nervous before starting studies in a new country. There is a lot to do and to remember in a new city with new people. This is why we have tutors, students at the University of Helsinki who are trained to take care of you and help you with your journey into the academic and student life. All the questions about certificates, documents, course registrations, and campus area are answered by the tutors. They also take you to the best parties and organise hangouts. A tutor is someone whose goal is to make you feel welcome and like home here.

We are all looking forward to meeting you at the end of August. Let the adventure begin!

Supertutor Eeva Leino, Faculty of Medicine

Art for us! – free art exhibition at Ateneum!

Has November got you down? Don’t worry, we have the solution: free art!

For the 13th time Ateneum is opening its doors to students to give them an experience full of culture, lectures and workshops at the Art for Us! event on November 23. Come indulge yourself in the masterpieces of italian painter-sculptor Amedeo Modigliani.

Art for Us! event at Ateneum on Nov 23

Continue reading “Art for us! – free art exhibition at Ateneum!”

Welcome to the Student Union!

You’ve arrived, all the paperwork is done, and you’ve registered for courses. Now you’re all set for your student life, the only thing to do is to wait for the lectures to start? Think again!

The key to an unforgettable time at the University of Helsinki is being active, joining student organisations, and meeting new people! The student union, HYY, offers you a student card with countless student discounts, affordable health care, and discounts on transport. Most importantly, though, the student union is home to a huge network of student organisations, new hobbies and awesome people from different faculties and countries – everything a student will need in Helsinki!


Continue reading “Welcome to the Student Union!”

Summer in Helsinki

Classes have already ended or will end soon, and summer is nearly here! Wondering what to do in the sun? These tips will help you make the most of your summer in the city,  whether you are staying in Helsinki for an internship, studies, or just a holiday.

A summer evening in Helsinki – the light offers a pleasent contrast to the long winter nights
  1.  Short on money? Don’t worry! This facebook page advertises free events in Helsinki.
  2. Up for a swim or just wanna bask in the sun? You can check out all beaches and public swimming pools in Helsinki on the Helsinki City website. All beaches are free-of-charge, but the swimming pools have a small entrance fee. Water quality is monitored at the beaches by the Helsinki City Environment Centre during the period of 15.6.-31.8.. If you’re in an exploring mood, pick an island to visit from this list (unfortunately only in Finnish). Uunisaari and Pihjalasaari are most easily accessible by public transport.
  3. Into sports? Anyone can play on the city’s tennis or basketball courts. Just go wait by the court for your turn, no reservations needed! There’re also lots of jogging tracks and sports parks where you can enjoy all sorts of games, all listed on this website.
  4. Summer is the high season for fleamarkets! Whether you need to get rid of your stuff before leaving Helsinki, or you feel like checking what’s on offer, Hietalahti and Hakaniemi fleamarkets are sure to satisfy your needs! Hietalahti fleamarket is open every day and the Hakaniemi fleamarket on Sundays. Read more on opening hours and how to book a table to sell your own stuff here.
  5. It’s fun to barbecue! You can do it for free at the Teurastamo barbecue spot (unfortunately the website is currently only available in Finnish). There’s lots of space to hang out and cook. Coals and lighter fluid are usually found at the spot since people leave behind whatever they don’t need. There are also shops around the area where you can purchase anything you might need for cooking.
  6. Nuuksio is lovely no matter the time of year, but camping is easier when it isn’t freezing. See hiking routes, sights and services here.

Remember also to check out Helsinki summer classics! Run your own restaurant on Restaurant Day on May 21, celebrate Midsummer’s Eve in Seurasaari with the traditional midsummer bonfires, attend a Helsinki Pride event between June 27 and  July 2, enjoy Kallio Block Party on August 6 (the Facebook event will be updated closer to the event), and marvel at the Night of the Arts on August 25 when the whole city will be taken over by art.

The Night of the Arts is celebrated as part of the Helsinki Festival between August 19 and September 4, when a host of events will overtake Helsinki and celebrate the city. Festivals in general are popular throughout the summer, and cater to most every taste in music.

We hope your summer will be unforgettable, sunny, and filled with friends and new discoveries in this lovely city of ours!

Art for us! – Free Entrance to Ateneum!

Come enjoy art free of charge on April 20, 2016 at Art for us! at Ateneum.

Art for us! means free entrance for students to the Ateneum art museum, Finland’s national gallery. Grab your student card and join us on a vibrant journey that will take you from the history of Finnish art to Japanomania in Nordic art, as well as including Auguste Rodin’s dramatic sculptures.

Ateneum_Workshop (2)
Students at an art workshop at one of the past Art for us! events.

On top of the exhibition, the museum offers lectures on the exhibitions and collections, introductions to the artists and movements, and a workshop. You can also slow down and participate in the mindfullness-inspired guided tour taking place at 16:30 and 18:00, or One Picture at a Time tours at 17:00 and 18:30 if you want to just focus on a few pieces of art at a time. The full programme of the day can be found on the museum website.

So come and look at something inspiring! Follow the event on Facebook and with the hastag #taidettameille or #artforus.

Art for us! is organised twice a year, this time for the 12th time. The event is in co-operation with Frank, HYY, KPMG Finland, HOK-Elanto, and Helsingin Sanomat.

The Guide to the Complete Finnish Student Experience – Student Associations, 1/3

No Finnish student life experience is complete without joining a student association or two (or ten…)! Student life at UH and within the student union (HYY) is very active, and the New Student House hosts a variety of events and parties every single day!

The student associations within HYY are open to all students, and you too are invited to join! There are so many different student associations, though, so we’ve made joining one a bit easier for you: representatives of different student associations have written about what they do, and why and how to join them. These stories will be shared in a series of blog posts in February.

So, without further ado, here’s Emilia and Östra Finlands Nation, one of the 15 student nations of UH:

Hi there!

Have you been wondering where you could meet new people, make a lot friends and get to know the REAL Finnish student life? Joining a student nation is the answer for you! There are many student nations in Helsinki that you can join. What makes the nations different from another is that people from a certain area in Finland gather in a certain nation, but as an international student you are welcome to join any nation. I am here to tell you about our lovely nation – Östra Finlands Nation (ÖFN)!

Members of Östra Finlands Nation enjoying the students’ First of May picnic ©ÖFN

Continue reading “The Guide to the Complete Finnish Student Experience – Student Associations, 1/3”