Finland - #BIMdannmalinFinnland
Podcast #BIM dann mal weg
You've always wanted to cruise through the glittering snow with the Huskies and see the beautiful and unique Northern Lights? Then how about a semester abroad in Lappeenranta? In this episode, Ella tells us how she perceived her two semesters (Double-Degree) abroad at LAB University of Applied Sciences in the north of Finland. Besides the well-known vitamin D deficiency and the high level of education, she also tells us about unforgettable Laundry parties, cheap trips to neighboring countries and spectacular natural scenery. Let's start the journey!
Moderated by Lara Yargiman
Produced by Lara Yargiman and Sonja Zügner in cooperation with the economics student body of FHWS
Sound and editing by Sonja Zügner
Lara: Hello and welcome to our FHWS podcast #BIMdannmalweg. Well, in this podcast we talk about experiences of students who have been abroad for a semester, and today we have our 2nd episode with our lovely Ella. Hello Ella!
Ella: Hey Lara thanks for having me here!
Lara: Yeah, Ella welcome in my room. Well, I have to say that Ella and I are roommates, and we use this Sunday to record our episode. Ella welcome here in my studio (laughing). Maybe you can introduce yourself briefly, so that we know who is sitting behind the microphone.
Ella: Okay, hi I'm Ella, I'm 22 years old, I'm studying international management at the FHWS, I'm in my sixth semester now, and we're just starting with our main focus. I just moved back to Würzburg a few weeks ago and moved in together with my lovely Lara and yeah.
Lara: Nice right? (laughing) Well, Ella, where were you during your semester abroad, tell us!
Ella: I actually went to the north. I was in Finland, in Lappeenranta and spent 2 semesters of my studies over there.
Lara: Oh, 2 semesters - why?
Ella: Exactly, it was part of the Double-Degree Program. The FHWS offers this with a few partner universities and yes, when I heard about it and that you can get a second bachelor's degree from a foreign university, I thought I have to do that. And yeah, there weren't that many universities and then I decided for Finland.
Lara: That sounds cool! Was that always your dream or did you have something else in mind?
Ella: No, Finland was definitely not my dream (laughing) sounds a bit hard now. No, I wanted to go to the south to a sunny country but as I said in this double degree program there are only a few partner universities and they are in Russia, in the Czech Republic, 2 universities in Finland and I think one in Thailand.
Lara: Yes, I think Bangkok was one of them.
Ella: Exactly Thailand was a bit too far away for me and then I did some research and because Finland has one of the best education systems, according to the Pisa study, I decided to go to Finland.
Lara: Was it a good decision or do you regret it, how do you feel about it?
Ella: In retrospect, I wouldn't do it different, I'm really happy with my decision. Of course, there were phases where I thought 'Oh, I'd rather be in Spain by the sea', but the Double Degree program was not only good for my education, but also for me as a person, and I wouldn't regret it in any case.
Lara: Well, it definitely sounds great. On a scale of 1 - 10 how would you rate your semester abroad?
Ella: Well, okay that’s a tricky question. Uh, I would give a good 7, I guess, because there were a few things that made it really exhausting.
Lara: Okay, I assume that it was the darkness?
Ella: Yes exactly, we were in the southeast of Finland, that is actually not so far up, but in the months of November and December you already really felt the darkness, because it didn’t get really bright during the day. And yes, we had just very much university and there you had to go to at 8 o'clock, in the darkness. And then somehow you had university until 4 p.m. and in between there were maybe 2 hours where it was a bit brighter and then you sat in class and yeah that's hard. That's okay for a week, but in the long run it's hard and exhausts your nerves because of the vitamin D deficiency.
Lara: But I think you also took vitamin D tablets, didn't you?
Ella: Yes, that's exactly how it is. That's what you do in Finland or in other countries in the north. You shouldn’t underestimate vitamin D, because it is responsible for your energy level.
Lara: So, to all listeners who want to go to Finland, take a lot of vitamin D tablets with you!
Ella: Very important! (laughing)
Lara: And was it difficult to apply for a double degree? So, were there any difference to a normal application process for a semester abroad, or was it actually relatively easy?
Ella: Well, the application process was really difficult. That was really not easy, to make this learning agreement, because you had to pick out courses and these websites were partly in Finnish and from the FHWS we didn't know exactly how we should approach it and yes that was a bit difficult. But we finally made it with the help of a few people from the FHWS and then also a few people from the university in Finland helped us as well. But actually, the learning agreement was not that easy.
Lara: Okay, but you definitely made it and you got all the courses credited? I think that's also the purpose of double degrees, isn't it? That you don't lose any ECTS during the semester abroad.
Ella: Exactly, because that was the case with many other students. I've heard that they did courses and then they weren't credited in Germany because somehow some things didn't fit. And I would say that's really a nice thing about the double degree because it's already a prefabricated contract, so from the FHWS and the LAB University and then both parties are, obligated to really credit it 1 to 1 and you really don't have any stress with something like that. That's really cool!
Lara: Yes, it sounds excellent and I think you lived there in a student dormitory, if I'm not wrong?
Ella: Exactly, we also registered for this student housing when we took care of this learning agreement and that worked out really well. It was really easy to apply for it and there were a lot of different student dorms. And then we finally got one student house, which was also quite inexpensive in terms of costs.
Lara: How much did you pay there, approximately?
Ella: For the apartment, which was a three-person shared apartment, we have paid I think 300 € or 320 per person.
Lara: Okay sounds like Würzburg prices J
Ella: Actually yes.
Lara: Well, you said you lived in a shared flat with three people. Were you living with other international students or was it mixed with Finnish students? So, to what extent did you really get to know Finns or was it more just among the internationals. Can you maybe tell us a bit more about that?
Ella: Yes, that was actually a bit of a culture shock, because the Finns are very introverted and like to stay among Finns. They are very nice and friendly when you talk to them and can speak very good English, but they tend to prefer to keep to their friends. Exactly, regarding our shared flat, that was a purely German shared flat, that was with another student – with Alina- and another German girl, who has made her master’s degree over there. So, if you go to Finland or just to Lappeenranta, then you have usually more contact with other Erasmus students. There are so many students from many different countries. So, with us there were many from Italy, many from Spain, France and also many Germans.
Lara: And then you also organized really wild laundry parties, right? (laughing).
Ella: Yes, that was a really cool thing though. So, you have to say that Lappeenranta is for Finnish standards a huge city but for German standards really comparable to a village. That means in the city there were already a few clubs but not so many and necessity is the mother of invention (laughing). So, we always went into the laundry rooms and made the legendary laundry parties, which was always hilarious - so that was such a small tradition over there. We just played beer pong with laundry racks and had a great time.
Lara: Maybe you can provide some pictures for the Instagram channel! Okay now we have talked a lot about the life around the university. I think the listeners are also interested in what else you can do besides studying abroad. Well, maybe you can tell me what trips you have made and what secret tips you can give to the students.
Ella: Yes, as I said, Lappeenranta is a very small town, but it is a great place to travel, so from there you can really get to so many different countries, which was really cool. So, we really travelled a lot. I think within the first month we went to Tallinn in Estonia by ferry. That is also such a small insider tip because the alcohol in Finland is very expensive and in Tallinn the alcohol is really nice and cheap, so in any case if you go to Lappeenranta or generally to Finland get the alcohol contained - that is really worth it. On the ferry there is a kind of duty-free store and there we have first stocked up with some alcohol. Well, but otherwise Tallinn in Estonia is a really super beautiful city. So, it’s actually not such a big city, so within 2 days you have actually seen the most important things.
Lara: How long is the way from Lappeenranta?
Ella: I think it was about 2 hours by ferry. I'm not sure anymore, but it was really cheap.
Lara: So, you can plan a trip like that for a weekend?
Ella: Yes, definitely! Where else were we? Well, this is also such a small insider tip and that is the ISN! This is kind of a student network, but unfortunately, I do not know how it is exactly
called. In any case, they offer a lot of trips, what is really cool because they are also very cheap. Here we booked a weekend trip by ferry to Stockholm. That was such a party ship, and it was really cool. Even if it is relatively hard to drink on a ship, because if it spins you already and then the ship also rotates – it’s quite difficult haha.
Lara: Ella’s head is spinning 24/7 (laughing)
Ella: Exactly, but apart from the parties on the ship, Stockholm is also really nice, we didn't have that much time, but it's definitely worth seeing it, because Stockholm is really beautiful. Well, where else were we? Ah, in Russia, because Lappeenranta is on the southeastern border of Finland and that is actually directly on the Russian border and there we went with a bus to Russia, to St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg is also a very beautiful city, but you have to be careful, so it is not completely safe there. Some other students were in Iceland and Norway, which is also very worth to see it. We also flew to Budapest, so Lappeenranta is such a place where you can really travel super well, because there is also an airport that was bought up by Ryanair and then only Ryanair flies and there you really get for 20 € or 30 € a plane for example to Budapest.
Lara: Wow, that sounds really cool in any case! Oh, I want to travel now, Ella! Hopefully dear listeners you can also travel around that much, but we think positive haha! Okay, Ella now you have told us so much about where you were besides Lappeenranta but can still give us a few tips on what to do in Finland. I imagine Finland right now with Husky races through the deep snow. Did you do something like that, or what did you do? Tell me!
Ella: Yes, that's right, I totally forgot to tell you about that. Exactly one of the must-dos in Finland is definitely to go up to Lapland, where you can actually find this winter wonderland like you know from pictures when you google Finland. There we have made a lot of activities, so we drove a snowmobile and have made a husky-race. We went cross-country skiing and also made some snow hikes. On another day we went to Norway and relaxed in a sauna. Yeah, this is also such a typical thing: the sauna. Afterwards we jumped into the ice-cold sea, so that was really cool! That has to be on the bucket list for everyone who wants to go to the north!
Lara: You have to provide us in any case some pictures, sounds really nice. Did you also see the beautiful northern lights?
Ella: Yes, exactly, the northern lights - so actually you can see them better in Iceland, but we saw them quite easily from Finland.
Lara: Is there anything you would do differently if you would do a semester abroad again?
Ella: I would maybe prepare a little bit more for the culture, so I didn't know that much about Finland. And I think I would approach that a bit different, but otherwise I wouldn't really do anything different. I think we made the best out of the situations especially with a lot of stress (in university) and we still always tried to have leisure time. We always tried to go to parties and we also traveled a lot. So, I think I would in retrospect maybe prepare a little bit more for the darkness.
Lara: Are there actually such vitamin D lamps? I saw that once in a documentary.
Ella: Yes, actually there are sunlight lamps. I don't know if they are very helpful or yes, I doubt somehow sunlight lamps, but we had one in the university and then the students read in front of it or played some puzzle, while sitting under this lamp. But that was just such blatant bright light, so that was rather unpleasant for me.
Lara: Okay, but maybe it's something for someone who's listening here right now. Is there anything else you should think about taking with you? When you play, I pack my suitcase, what would you pack?
Ella: We already had vitamin D tablets and ski underwear for sure. Because it is very, very cold in Finland and then partly also -20 degrees, which are actually very well bearable, because it is a very dry cold. Well, in any case warm clothes, many Vitamin-D tablets and a good camera for the beautiful northern lights.
Lara: Ok, if you could describe your semester abroad in 3 words what would they be?
Ella: Okay that's really a difficult question, but okay 3 words. So definitely diverse would be one word because there are so many different internationals there and you really get to know a lot of cultures. Of course, the Finnish culture, but also the Italian culture and all kinds of cultures, even at cooking evenings or something like that. And I would say it was drinkable (süffig).
Lara: Well, now we have talked a lot about all the nice things in Finland and what you can do. You can travel a lot, party a lot, have a lot of fun, but the whole thing costs a lot and I think that probably interests everyone who goes there. So, I wanted to ask you more about the financial aspect? I assume you also got an Erasmus scholarship, don’t you?
Ell: Exactly, I think that is also one of the highest Erasmus grants, because the cost of living in Finland is extremely expensive compared to Germany.
Lara: Okay can you estimate approximately what you needed for a month including rent, approximately?
Ella: Yes, a bit difficult to say actually, because we booked every month flights or something else. #travelfever. So definitely around 300-400€ for the rent. What is otherwise really expensive is the food and alcohol. Therefore, of course, it always depends on how you live. But there is a very good offer from the LAB University, because they have a very good canteen. So, the university area is very nice, there we have actually always eaten for lunch and that is really cheap - costs somehow about 3€. And that came ultimately always cheaper than to cook for yourself. I would say you should count for food, bus costs and so on around 700€, but it always depends on how you live.
Lara: Okay all right and you could cook in the student apartment or were kitchens available, or did you always have to go out to eat?
Ella: No, there were definitely kitchens available. Exactly, so the student house is also really nice and well-maintained - so everything was inside.
Lara: Maybe we could do a short visual tour through the area or through the university area? And where was the student apartment, was that a bit further away?
Ella: There are a lot of student apartments, but mine was a bit far away from university. The street was called Karankokatu and it took about 15 minutes to go there by bus.
Lara: All right, well then you can definitely provide us with some pictures of the student house and the university, because you said that it is quite beautiful. I assume that it is a very modern building.
Ella: Yeah, totally - really it is. So, everything is the newest stuff, for example the computers and so on. They really have the newest technologies and so fully noble furnished, that is so hardly comparable to any other university.
Lara: That sounds cool in any case. Yes, then I would say thank you very much for your time. Nice to have you here in my room.
Ella: No problem always happy to do it again!
Lara: Yeah, if you have any questions to Ella - I assume I can leave your contact details in the show notes - you can contact her on Instagram or just write us on our email address at bimdannmalweg.fwiwi[at]fhws.de or contact us via Instagram as well (@fwiwi.fhws). Thank you, Ella, for being here and thank you to all listeners for joining us. I hope you had a good time with this podcast episode about a semester abroad in Finland in Lappeenranta. I hope I pronounced that right.
Ella: Yes, absolutely perfect!
Lara: Okay, so if you have any questions just get in touch with us. We are always open for questions and suggestions. So take care and see you soon bye.