Why I chose Finland as my exchange destination

I never imagined I would get to live in Finland for a while. But life gave me the opportunity and I feel very lucky. “Why Finland?”, many people asked me when they knew I was coming to study here and I always answered with ”it’s very different from what I’m used to” (and also because I love Christmas and we all know it’s Santa’s country). And yes, it was different from what I imagined!

My arrival was a bit catastrophic (we can sum it up in delayed flights and missed trains), but I didn’t know all the good things that were waiting for me to experience. I started meeting people from all over the world, learning about Finnish culture, exploring the corners of Pori, visiting other cities… And the more things I did, the more I became attached to this country.

I have to admit that when I arrived, the language seemed very different and fun (spoiler: it still does), but that curiosity is what motivated me to learn what little I know, although I hope to learn a lot more. In this semester, I have learned so many new things.

Leaving my comfort zone and moving to a place where everything is different is very enriching, even being away from my loved ones, although there are days when I am more nostalgic and perhaps sad for not sharing moments with them, I realise what a treasure I have because I know that they are always there despite the distance. Besides, I have created another family with the people I have met here.

The university and the study method used was another of the things that surprised me the most. The companionship, the support and trust between students and teachers, the way the syllabus is explained, among many other things, I think is brilliant. SAMK University is very good and it is an honour for me to be studying here.

One of the things that stands out from this semester is that I was able to fulfil one of my dreams: to meet Santa and visit Lapland. The excitement and joy I had during the whole trip is inexplicable. I was a little girl again. When I met Santa I brought him the first Christmas letter that my 2 year old niece had ever made, so it was a very emotional moment for me.

I had never seen it snow the way it snowed in Lapland, it was magical. Also, I saw the reindeer for the first time and tried the Finnish experience of going to the sauna, jumping in the snow and coming back to the sauna, and it is a painful but amazing feeling at the same time. I had hoped to see the Northern Lights, but it was not to be. I hope to see them one day and cross it off my wish list.

I still have another semester left (the coldest, by the way), so the anecdotes and new experiences do not end here, but it is true that the first half of my stay here is coming to an end. I hope that this country will continue to give me other experiences and memories. And if you ask me now ”Why Finland?”, I will answer: ”Because it is a very different country to what I am used to, and because it is a country that gives you very good moments and a great learning experience, and because I also love Christmas and Santa”. That’s why I chose Finland.

Kiitos, Finland!


Text: Ines-Marina Pinero-Landaeta, exchange student from Universidad de la Laguna
Pictures: Pixabay


Vaihdossa Costa Ricassa

Paras matkamuistoni on ehdottomasti vaihtoreissu Costa Ricalle. Lähdin sinne syyskuussa 2022 syyslukukauden ajaksi. Pääsin kokemaan muun muassa surffailun huumaa, tutustumaan paikallisiin riippusiltakansanpuistoihin ja näkemään upeita maisemia, kuten auringonlaskuja ja -nousuja sekä vesiputouksia, uusien kavereiden saamista unohtamatta. Espanjankielen taitoni kehittyivät myös huimasti näiden muutaman kuukauden aikana.

Olen itse adoptoitu Kolumbiasta ja kohteeseen saapuessani kävi ilmi, että myös isäntäperheeni jäsenet olivat kolumbialaisia! Alkuun tuli yllätyksenä, että he eivät osanneetkaan englantia lähes ollenkaan, mutta alkukankeuden jälkeen päivittäinen espanjaksi puhuminen alkoi sujumaan.

Perheeni tuli myös Suomesta vierailulle siellä ollessani, ja lähdimme yhdessä elämäni kolmatta kertaa Kolumbiaan viikonloppuvisiitille. Kolumbiaan paluu tuntuu aina jollain tapaa kuin olisi palannut kotiin.

Suosittelen lämpimästi vaihtoon lähtöä ihan jokaiselle jos vähänkään tuntuu siltä! Itse lähdin yksin, sillä en halunnut lähteä ulkomaille vaihtoon puhumaan suomea suomalaisten kaverien kanssa. Olen iloinen tästä päätöksestä, sillä koen, että sain koko reissusta enemmän irti, kun ei ollut tuttuja kavereita, joihin tukeutua. Kv-vaihto oli heittämällä elämäni yksi parhaimpia kokemuksia!

Teksti: Elsa Helasmo, Matkailuliiketoiminnan opiskelija
Kuvat: Pixabay


My Erasmus experience in Pori

Hello everyone, my name is Luis, I am 21 years old and I am from the Canary Islands. There I study Tourism, and in my last year I decided to do an Erasmus semester to complete my career and have a better training. Among the possible options, I decided to go to Finland.

At first everyone told me that I would die of cold there but I was brave and I went to discover a new culture and to live new experiences. The trip from the Canary Islands to Helsinki was a bit tiring and exhausting, but as soon as I arrived, I met my first friend Clara, and together we shared the hassle of catching the right trains to Pori.

Once in our destination city, we arrived at our residence and saw the rooms that would be our homes for the next 4 months. The next day was the first day of University and we met the rest of our classmates and tutors who would be the main protagonists in making this stage so beautiful and unforgettable.

After the orientation week, the group gained confidence and we started to become a team. Here the fun began because from that day until the end we have not stopped making plans, among which were hiking in search of aurora borealis, and berry picking, barbecues, playing soccer (usually French against Spanish), going to see ice hockey games and of course partying. It is true that alcohol here is more expensive than in our home countries, but we always managed to get drunk.

As for classes, SAMK is awesome, honestly the best I have ever been to. I like the educational system better than in Spain, since here they focus more on learning day by day and doing work to understand the contents than on filling our agenda with exams. Also, we have had very empathetic and understanding teachers and classmates.

Personally I have visited Tampere, Helsinki, Rauma, Lapland (where I had the opportunity to meet Santa Claus) and even made a trip to Norway. All of them beautiful and charming places, although, yes, they are all very cold when winter comes, so you have to have your jacket ready.

 I think my Erasmus experience is the best decision I have made so far. From day one I have met amazing people that I feel will be friends for life. Now that I am only days away from returning to Spain, and although I want to see my family and friends, I am a little sad to leave behind everything I have built in Pori. However, I know that I will come back in the future and relive moments and experiences, as well as see again the great family I leave here.

It’s not goodbye Pori, it’s see you soon!

Text and pictures: Luis Orejas Delgado, an Erasmus exchange student from Universidad de la Laguna


My Erasmus+ experience 6106,8 km away from home

I’m not sure how to start this blog post, not for lack of knowledge, but to try to summarize my experience over the last few months in a few paragraphs.

I had always been attracted by that university life in which students were given the opportunity to choose one country among many to live there for a period. And as the saying goes, ’Time flies by and my time has come’. I wasn’t sure which country I was going to choose, but when I read it, it was one hundred percent clear: Finland.

But why Finland? ”You won’t stand the cold”. ”It’s too far away”. ”It’s in the North Pole”. Really? After a lot of brainstorming and questioning my decision, it was clear to me that I wanted to go to the furthest place from my current country to be able to live and learn from a culture extremely different from mine and see what I can learn from it! And obviously to reinforce my English, of course…

But as anyone my age would do nowadays, during the months before, I had to do an FBI inspection of ’Everything I must know about Finland before traveling’ so I swear I knew more about Finland in all those afternoons than in my whole stay.

My first contact with the experience was undoubtedly the outbound flight and its tiring layovers. However, once in the country, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the incredible green landscapes. Pori, which is the city I was going to stay in, looked like a typical city out of a family movie. The organization and structures were more of the same, and although I didn’t understand anything of what the people around me were saying, they seemed to be very friendly and respectful.  

Once the weeks had passed, I had settled into the flat, scouted out the area, and knew the classes I was going to be taught as well as my experience partners, my three stages of what I call ’FIN-Enamoramiento’ began.

Fin = Finland
Enamoramiento (Spanish word) = falling in love

Phase 1 of ‘FIN- Enamoramiento’

This first phase, as in any beginning, is the phase in which you hallucinate everything: people, streets, nature, landscapes, shops, food (although very expensive), weather (in summer and with more daylight hours than normal), education, economy, etc. I couldn’t believe that I was 6106,8 km away from home and living this great opportunity that not everyone can experience. 

The campfire evenings by the river or in the park were magical; the sunsets with those incredible colors were dreamy; the parties with music (some we didn’t understand) and with a group of unforgettable friends where people focus on having a good time; those first contacts with young Finns where, as usual when learning a language, they teach you the most ’beautiful’ words (you know what I mean); the incredible beach of Yyteri or the farm of Merikarvia together with cities like Tampere, Turku, Rauma or Helsinki made my stay a place to live forever.

We were surprised how many Finns had learned Spanish through the series ’La casa de Papel’ or even shocked to have to eat lunch at 11 AM in the morning when for us the usual time was breakfast, or the emphasis and enthusiasm, they put into cheering on their hockey team; among many other cultural shocks.

Phase 2 of ‘FIN-Enamoramiento’

Once the weeks have passed and as usual, the homesickness stage begins, when you start to miss your usual place and all that goes with it: family and friends. Everything reminds you of your home country and the comparisons begin with the food, the climate, the people, etc. Added to this is the fact that we were in the middle of the change of season and although we knew that we were going to have fewer hours of daylight, we were not really used to it.

However, we can only highlight funny anecdotes such as having dinner at 5 PM in the evening, something that would be unthinkable in Spain; confusing the times and thinking that it was 11 PM and it was still 7 PM; those first slips in the snow and comparisons with the calmness with which the Finns walk when they are used to it or even that we were wearing 5 layers of clothes and the rest had only 1 or 2.

Phase 3 of ‘FIN-Enamoramiento’

This is the most beautiful stage of all. At this stage you are already used to living there, you understand the reasons for many things and situations, what to do (good manners) and what not to do (bad manners), the typical foods or the funniest phrases of the language, the exchange of cultures that occurs in many situations and what you learn from it, the desire to discover and make more and more different plans to get to know Finland and its people.

But the most beautiful thing about this phase is undoubtedly the great maturity that you manage to acquire and above all to prove to yourself that you are capable of adapting and learning on your own or with friends in every situation. 

Yes, I know what you are thinking now: ’here comes the most sentimental part to close this blog post’. And the truth is that it is. Finland has undoubtedly been the country where I have stayed the longest after my home country (Spain), and therefore where I have learned the most. Not only culturally speaking, but also because many of the best memories of my life and undoubtedly people have left their mark on me.

It is sad to think that once my experience is over, I will no longer live here, no longer see the people I always see, no longer do what I did here and what is really beginning to form part of my day-to-day life, but what is clear is that my memories will never leave.

I still have the second half of the year to live, and I can’t be more anxious to know what it will bring. Could it be even more surmountable than this one?


Text and photos: Aissatou Díaz-Goudiaby, an Erasmus exchange student from Universidad de la Laguna


Chronicles of a cold allergic

I’m Francisco, I’m 20 years old, and I come from Spain. I study tourism in Tenerife, and this is my third year in the Tourism career. To end the routine, I decided to go on Erasmus to learn languages and study abroad to open my mind.

My trip to Finland began on August 11 2022 – and not very well, my flight company lost one of my suitcases. Later, while I was claiming my loss, I missed the trains that were taking me to Pori, the city where I was going to stay during my Erasmus. And finally, that night I couldn’t stay in my room, and I had to ask for help at midnight so I wouldn’t stay the night on the street.

A total chaos that made me think that I would not like Finland, but everything changed the next days: I managed to get into my place, I received my lost luggage, and from this point, the adventure was about to begin.

Me with Santa Claus

I started going to class, visited many interesting places from Finland like Yyteri, Tampere, Helsinki and Lapland. Destinations that I loved by the way! Doing tourism is always good, but studying in SAMK and being part of the Finnish education system was amazing.

Here I discovered much more about working and studying independently, a new way to learn and to organize myself, a system without fixed or monotonous schedules. In a few days I will return to Spain, but I will never forget the friends I made and the experiences I lived.

This is not a goodbye, but a see you soon. I am sure that I will return to Finland, a place that after these four months I consider my home!


Text and photo: Francisco Diaz-Gonzalez, an Erasmus exchange student from Universidad de la Laguna


How to feel well on exchange and choose the right courses

Hey everyone, I am Timo Beke. Although I have a Finnish name, I am actually from Belgium. I am an exchange student here in Finland for one semester. I am here to study international tourism. In this blog post I will talk to you briefly about my choice for Finland and my time here, but most of all I will talk about how I chose which courses to study. Choosing the right (interesting) courses can make or break your exchange. I had some difficulties with it so that is why I am writing this post.

My experience – well being on Erasmus

When I arrived in Finland on the I forgot why I wanted to be here. It didn’t look like what I thought it would, and Pori was a lot smaller then I had imagined. After a week of being very unhappy and missing everyone at home I wanted to make a change. I thought of what I usually do when I leave home for long periods of time and how I make sure I feel good then.

I realized that I hadn’t been doing any of the things I usually do, probably because of the freezing cold weather and the fact that I hadn’t met anyone yet. Usually I go exploring a lot, I like to be around water, and look at the animals that come and go to drink or to swim. I also do a lot of photography and that has a calming effect on me as well.

Picture: @travel_photography_timo

I decided to start doing more of the things that I usually do, and I immediately started feeling better. I met some people who also like to go out in nature and I found out how to get to the beach. I was so happy to be back near the sea and hear the familiar sounds of the waves and the birds.

It is important to keep doing the things you do at home to feel well on exchange. It doesn’t matter what you like to do, if you like to do yoga, work out, play football or go birdwatching go swimming try to get in touch with like minded people (the local tourism office can help you!).

Selecting your courses – how to choose?

Usually when you go on an exchange that isn’t a full year you get to choose your own courses. This can be quite overwhelming, because, well you don’t know what the courses are about.

To help you make your choice most of the courses have a short description to tell you what they are about. It is important to read those, because there are some things you should look out for

  1. Look at the number of ECTS credits! And ask if there are mandatory courses.
  2. Try to pick courses that are on campus rather then online. As an exchange student school is the easiest way to meet like minded people from the same age. Online courses or self study courses don’t give you the chance to meet people.
  3. Don’t chose the same courses you studied at your home university. It looks like an easy way to pass, but in my experience you either get really bored or confused (or a combination).
  4. Choose courses in your study field, don’t enroll in a wood working class if you are a physiotherapy student (obviously).
  5. Pick something weird or unusual (more on that later)!

With these 5 tips you should be able to pick the perfect courses to make your Erasmus as interesting as possible. The selection can be stressful, but remember that all exchange students go through this and maybe one of your friends can help you. And finally, if you did make a choice you regret, most schools are okay with changes. As an Erasmus student you represent their institution when you go back home, you can get away with way more then regular students if you just ask 😉

Picking something weird – courses you have never heard about

I believe everyone who is going on an exchange should try to pick one weird course. What do you mean with a weird course, you might ask?

I mean, pick a course that you have never seen or heard of before. When you go on exchange the chances are high that you will see courses that you would never see at your home university. All cultures are different and the culture of the place you are going to might influence some of their courses.

My weird choice was the course I am writing this blog post for, “”Well-being from Blue Spaces”. When I saw this I thought what the **** is this! I wondered what it could be and it got me interested enough to read the course description. After I read the course description I still wasn’t sure what it would be.

Picture: @travel_photography_timo

At first I thought is was going to be all about the ocean and the sea and the positive effects they have on people, and about how we can use them in tourism. This was mostly what the course was about, but a lot of it was also about the wellness culture in Finland. Saunas and ice baths really have a big influence here and I really noticed that in this course.

I am not a wellness type of person and I had taken one sauna before I came to Finland, and I said I would never do it again. This course convinced me to try it again and it was a pleasant surprise. I am still not a wellness person and I was purely going to do this course to learn about typical Finnish traditions and how they impact the Finnish view on tourism.

However, at the end of the course we had to make an assignment about food tourism, another topic I had never heard about. It was another pleasant surprise and I really enjoyed working on that topic. It was something I wouldn’t have discovered without doing this “weird” course, but I am really happy I did.

This example just shows it is good to pick something you normally wouldn’t, you might discover something you like! I hope you got something from this for your own Erasmus, and if you want to see more of my travel adventures you can check it out on https://www.instagram.com/travel_photography_timo/ .

Text and pictures: Timo Beke, Erasmus exchange student from Thomas More University of Applied Sciences in Belgium

My Erasmus exchange in Finland

I chose Finland as my Erasmus exchange study destination because Finland is a country known for its educational system, which is very different from Belgium. I heard so much about it that I thought I would try it by myself and make up my own mind. Moreover, the Finnish population is known to be one of the happiest in the world – so I went to buy some warm clothes and packed my bag!

The Finns

Once I arrived in Finland, I discovered that the cold was not just about the weather: the Finns are very aloof and like to have their own space. But once I got to know them, I realized that it was only a facade and that in the end they are kind, benevolent and you can even have a lot of fun with them.

Life in Finland

Life in Finland is gentle, everything here is very natural. I realized that Finns spend a lot of time outside, even in winter! There are a lot of infrastructures like barbecues, benches and shelters, which are available to everyone. It is common to meet around a fire to drink hot chocolate, grill a sausage, or cook pancakes, even under the snow.

I had the opportunity to go for long walks in the forest or on the beach. Here I also discovered the sauna culture: almost all Finns have a sauna at home and if not, they just have to go to the city pool. And contrary to their usual shyness, in the saunas there is no more shyness, they drop the swimsuits!

Studying at SAMK

A very important part of my Erasmus is the university, after all, that’s why I’m here! The first time I visited the university, I was impressed by the modernity and the possibilities. There are places to relax, to work alone or in groups and even to have fun with a pool table.

The teaching is indeed very different from Belgium. Here, the students call the teachers by their first name, the timetables are light and group work is encouraged. What I find most interesting is that students can really choose their study program according to their interests, they don’t have to take the same courses as everyone else and there are many alternatives such as concrete projects that can be included in the credits. The school also places much importance on well-being, there are a gym and group classes that are open to everyone.

The Erasmus experience

Being on Erasmus means leaving your comfort zone, going to a country you don’t know and living with people you don’t know. But thanks to this challenge, you grow, you discover a new culture and you meet great people of all origins. You learn to be independent, to live in a community and to accept each other with our differences.

Traveling

Being a tourism student and therefore a travel enthusiast, I have taken advantage of being here to visit Finland and also the neighboring countries. We organized trips to Tallinn, Stockholm and Copenhagen. Of course, there were a lot of us so I was able to practice my travel planning skills. I think it’s good to take advantage of these four months to see as much as possible because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.   

Text and photos: Camille De Borman, exchange student from Haute École Galilée University of Applied Sciences in Belgium