Today we had a chat with Sophie Nguyen, an alumni of Tampere University, Finland. Let’s hear about her amazing journey in Finland and the adventure ahead of her after graduation.
Hi Sophie, please tell us a bit about yourself and your studies in Finland!
Hey guys, my name is Sophie. I am originally from Vietnam. I came to Finland in 2017 and I graduated from Tampere University with a Master’s degree in Digital Media Literacy in late 2019.
Congratulations on your graduation! So how did you decide to come to Finland to study? Can you walk us through your application to your studies in Finland?
Before Finland, I did my A-level and Bachelor’s degree in the UK, so I spent almost 7 years there. I then came back to Vietnam for a year to work as a marketing communications specialist at a global corporation. However, I had always known that I wanted to pursue a higher education degree, so at the same time while I was working, I looked for a suitable Master’s degree.
At that time, my friend who was then studying at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences told me that I should apply to Finnish universities as she had been enjoying the education here so much. I did some quick search and the Master’s program at Tampere University attracted me right away. I did my application on my own and fortunately got accepted with a full tuition-fee scholarship. So, that was an easy decision to make!
That’s very impressive! Could you perhaps share some tips of getting a scholarship at a Finnish university?
I actually don’t have that many tips (laughed). To be honest, my Bachelor’s grades were not that incredible. But I guess Finnish universities value what you actually learnt rather than your grades. I spent time writing a good motivation letter which included what kind of academic knowledge and research skills I gained during my undergraduate, together with my goals and purposes for my Master’s. Don’t forget to mention your work experiences (if you have any), they can give you some advantage points too when it comes to getting a scholarship.
Some ‘challenges’ you have encountered during your stay abroad, and how did you overcome the said challenges?
I would say the hardest challenge for me during my time in Finland has been learning the language. Although Finnish people has really good English skills and I have no problem communicating with them, still, I think learning Finnish while I am here in the country is important, especially because I want to stay in the country to work for at least the next few years.
Another challenge would be the weather. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore the Finnish summer. However, the winter here can be harsh for foreigners who are not used to the cold, especially ones from tropical countries where it’s warm most of the time like me. In Finland during winter, the temperature can get to about -25 degree Celsius. There is lots of snow and also a lot of dark days. But don’t worry too much, you will get used to it eventually and my own tip for you is to have vitamin D and do exercises to keep your bodies active.
Was there anything surprising to you when you arrived in Finland?
Maybe the number of people (laughed). I saw not so many people on the streets, in shops, etc. As Finland has a low population, I then learned that it is normal.
Your fondest experiences while studying in Finland?
I would say that Finnish education system is very unique and it has amazed me right from the start.
From my very last week at Tampere University, I felt the major difference between the Finnish education compared to the Vietnamese and British education – which I have experienced.
Studying at a Finnish university, students are given the freedom and autonomy over a lot of aspects: besides the mandatory modules, you are free to choose extra courses that you want. The lecturers and supervisors are friendly and easy to contact, I could just email them whenever I need support.
I know that you worked during your study here. So how was your work life while studying in Finland?
Yes, during my Master’s degree I worked part-time as a social media content creator and blog writer for Tampere University. I also worked as a growth owner at Y-kampus, an in-campus academic organisation. I gained valuable experiences and both of my jobs were from the university, so you should check out regularly your university’s website and news channels if you wish to look for something similar.
What is your upcoming plan now that you have graduated and still going to stay in Finland?
Together with a friend of mine, I am planning to open our own business. I am also applying to take my PhD. Finland has taught me a lot about life-long learning, so I thought it’s not impossible to run a business and do your PhD at the same time.
Finland changed my mindset a lot and thanks to my experience living here, I became much more adventurous. Finland has transformed me into a new person.
That sounds awesome! Can you share a little sneak peek about your business?
It is an Asian food and drink store called ChikPik and it will be in Tampere, where I am based right now. You should come check it out when we’re open!
Thank you for the invitation, I’d love to visit your store! Final question: What would be your advice to international students planning to live and study in Finland?
Have no fear. Be adventurous. Make the best out of your time. Make new friends from different nationalities. Learn about Finland and its rich culture. Travel. Meet Santa. Try Glögi. Go to sauna. Explore the forest. Take Vitamin D. And of course, study hard and enjoy yourself as you are experiencing one of the best education systems in the world.
Thank you so much for sharing so much with us Sophie. Good luck with your future business and your adventures ahead!
Photos by: Sophie Nguyen