Is it easy to study abroad?
Well, I think studying abroad is difficult in some ways, but I have the biggest support from my parents and my older brother, so I think it’s easier for me. They are very supportive, and always listen, encourage and respect my decisions. I have deep gratitude for them as they have sacrificed many things in order for me to study and live in Finland. Family is truly my superpower!
When I decided to study abroad, I started doing research about foreign universities, their programs, tuition fees, availability of scholarships and so on. Moreover, I had taken the IELTS test to improve my English proficiency, so I could feel more confident when speaking with foreigners. I also read student stories and articles about Finnish cultures. I wanted to have a basic view about living abroad and be able to avoid some awkward things when I eventually moved to Finland.
Living overseas can make you feel lonely sometimes but I try to stay positive, live in the moment and find things to do whenever I have free time. For example, cleaning my apartment, reading books, watching comedies, going for a jog and so on. In addition, I’m surrounded by happy, energetic and ambitious friends, so my life is quite fun, happy and most of the time full of adventures.
How would you describe the people, culture and food in Finland?
Finns are very polite, generous and amiable. Especially, when I meet elderly Finnish people, I personally feel that they are more friendly and talkative than younger people. I remember when I met an older Finnish woman at an airport, she was the same age as my grandmother. Before the flight, we started talking a lot about everything in life. When she was young she was an English teacher, so she taught me some Finnish words as well. The way she talked to me was like two old friends who have not seen each other for a long time! That was an interesting, beautiful and memorable conversation.
I think each country’s culture has its own charm. With Finland, I think it is the sauna. Finns are very passionate and delighted when talking about sauna. During Midsummer, Finns go to their own “mökki” (cottage) and celebrate this lovely time with their friends and family.
In addition, punctuality is another thing that I like about Finnish culture. It became a part of my habit, my work routine, so now I’m always on time.
I think Finnish food is simple, but still healthy, with many vegetables and fruits. I really love eating Finnish Christmas jam tarts, so I make it for myself and friends even when it’s not Christmas. “
How long does it take to adjust to life in a foreign country?
Well, I think it depends on the person, but normally after a year and a half, a foreign student has adapted to the new foreign environment. More specifically, they have at least widened their circle of friends and are comfortable with their new living place. Also, they might have gotten a part-time job.
What is the cost of living in Finland? Any budgeting tips for international students?
Well, I think the living cost is pretty high in Finland, in general. However, when you are a student, you get many discounts on tickets, meals and so on.
My simple tip for international students on a tight budget is that you should be a smart consumer! I mean, buy your clothes from secondhand stores, or hunt for a seasonal sale. Download money app to track your monthly expenses. Also, cooking at home will save you money, improve your cooking skills and it is healthier than eating out, definitely.
What was your first impression of the Finnish language?
Well, when I was in Vietnam, I thought that the Finnish language is really hard, and I wanted to learn Swedish instead. But after landing and living here, I feel that I want to learn Finnish, and my university also offers Finnish courses. I am enjoying learning Finnish now, because Finnish pronunciation is straightforward, and I have listened to so many great Finnish songs. They are very catchy, melodic and meaningful!
Speaking of music, my personal tip for people who are keen to learn Finnish: first and foremost, don’t focus too much on grammar. Instead, try to immerse yourself in Finnish music as music is a universal language. Well, I absolutely love listening to music, I even have a music notebook, which is full of my favourite Finnish lyrics. Have simple daily conversations with everybody about greetings, weather and so on. Learning vocabulary is necessary, too. When you have collected all missing pieces of a puzzle, now you can connect it by studying deeper into the more complex grammar.
How is it like working at a Finnish company? What were your first challenges?
Working with Finnish people is so comfortable because if I don’t know something, they are willing to help me. When having a meeting each week, my supervisor always asks me which tasks I would like to do. I think that’s nice because I can have the freedom to do the tasks I want. But of course, I don’t want to play it safe, I want to get out of my comfort zone, and do various tasks, and I know my colleagues are always ready to help and support me.
My first challenge was how to communicate well with my colleagues, to convey the right message, so the work could be done easily and effectively. But, I could say, I’m improving my speaking skills day by day and I always try to focus on my other strengths.
Your top 3 favourite things to do in Finland?
Going jogging outside, in the green nature!
Having a BBQ party with my friends.
Hunting for Northern Lights.
Best study abroad tips for students who wish to study in Finland?
Improve your language skills, search for the right information about Finland and be well-prepared for the residence permit process.
In addition, you should have some basic health knowledge beforehand, so you can protect your health while studying overseas and don’t make your parents worry about you. The most important thing is to have an open mind, to be flexible and adaptable in any environment or circumstance. Never give up and stand up after you fall!
More internship stories and Vietnamese student experiences can be found on our blog.