If you ever wonder what it is like to study in Europe, and especially in Finland, where you can experience the best education in the world, you have come to the right place. You will soon be guided to experience a typical day at university in Finland.
Are you ready? Put on your imagination hat and here we go!
Start your school day
Summer just ended and schools have started. You turn off your alarm and wish to linger for a while in your cozy bed. Still, you get up. You draw the curtains and notice that the world has greeted you with another autumn morning: the wondrous colors of autumn foliage. Then you let the scene set in as you prepare your morning coffee, just like so many other Finns do (Did you know that Finns drink more coffee than any other countries by consuming 12kg per person per year?).
You leave your room that is now still filled with the bittersweet aroma of fresh coffee and bump into some of your neighbors in the hallway. Maybe a couple, a Finn, or another international student just like you. You make your way to the university, crossing the streets where drivers will always slow down and let you pass.
You look around and find no hustle and bustle. No traffic! You see the trees have turned auburn, and the ground carpeted with russet leaves which you cannot help but step into them and kick a few of the crispy leaves up. You feel like a child again. And very soon you arrive at the campus.
Depending on the university, campus buildings might be in different locations and sometimes you have to cross the road to get to your next class. Make sure you are in the right lecture room on time; Finns appreciate punctuality. For example, take a look at the bus schedules. They tell you the exact minute when the bus will arrive. Classes always start at quarter past. (Further reading: Finnish customs)
Participate in classroom activities
Now, you are in the classroom. Pick a seat that you like. The teacher comes in and after a few greetings, the class starts. You will expect some lectures, some discussions, some group work, and some individual presentations. You can raise questions, discuss various topics with the teacher from subject related issues to how you wish the class should run.
The low hierarchy between teachers and students teaches you to treat yourself as one of the novice researchers in the university. You can choose almost any courses you are interested in, and there is always room for you to discuss with the teachers how you will participate in class. There is a great amount of freedom and thus you are also responsible for your own learning. Students are expected to make your own study plan, but don’t worry! You can always find a staff member to assist you should you have any questions.
Your stomach starts to make a few embarrassing growling noises, reminding you of lunch time. With a couple of friends, you head to the school cafeteria to get a nice warm meal. Students in Finland can enjoy meals from the schools around the whole country with the price of 2.60 euros. A meal includes drinks, salad, a main dish, and two slices of bread. There are also vegetarian choices to meet everyone’s needs.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with some of the most common Finnish foods. Another sign of low hierarchy in the school culture that might surprise you is that students and staff often sit in the same space for lunch. Don’t be surprised to see one of your teachers coming to get the same food as you.
After a hearty meal, you and your friends have decided to look for a space for studying. The library is a good and safe choice, but besides that you can find a variety of spaces for both self-study and group discussions. There is indeed an option that meets your needs. Finland has been an active player in innovations and entrepreneurship. One of the biggest startup events, Slush, is originated in Helsinki, Finland. On Finnish campus, you will easily find creative and fun areas for brainstorming and projects. Who knows? Maybe you are the next Angry Birds creator (Yes, Angry Birds is from Finland)! Schools are meant to be fun and to inspire creativity, and you can see clearly from schools in Finland at all stages.
Relaxing after school
You have had a very fruitful academic day. To keep yourself healthy and happy, take some time for a nice sweaty workout regularly. Join the campus gym with a very decent fee. Another option to relax and release stress is to enjoy sauna. Saunas are accessible almost everywhere. For a country with 5 million people, it is estimated that there are two million saunas in Finland, in city apartments, gyms, and cottages. Studies have shown health benefits of saunas.
Student life is colorful. Now you have gotten a very brief idea of what it is like being a student in Finland. In addition to all the student benefits you will get in meals, accommodation, and transportation, what you will gain in your courses and daily life is even more rewarding. In a new environment and new country, leave your stereotypes and prejudice behind.
There might be cultural shocks. Face your fears and uncertainties. You will tumble and break, but you will heal and learn to stand up again. You will grow and thrive into a better version of yourself. And this is exactly what Finnish education aims for: a lifelong learner. An individual that maximizes his/her best potential.
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