Questions that always come to new international students’ mind are: How will I be graded? What assignments do I have to do to pass the course? Are there any exams? Coming from a different continent, you might find how Finns do in Finland very different from your previous learning experience. While some students can adapt to new situations very well, some need more guidance during the process. No matter what type of students you are, there is surely some information you can take away.
Depending on what program you are in, your courses might be structured in various ways. The following are four common assignments/ evaluations you might encounter when you study in Finland:
Fewer and fewer courses in Finnish universities are using exams as an assessment. Exams are usually at the end of the course, if there is one. The content includes what have been covered in the course. Some teachers might tell you in advance what type of test questions there would be. In Finland, however, some courses are taken as “Book exam.” Taking a book exam allows students to personalize their own learning schedule. There are usually a list of reading materials that you need to familiarized yourself with. The exams are usually essay questions.
Essays are common assignments in many countries. Essay is an academic piece of writing that shows your ability to gather information, critique, and organize your thoughts.You are expected to read further about your topic and use references. Usually the topic is your own chosen one regarding to the content of the course. You have a lot of freedom to choose the topic, and you are mostly encouraged to discuss the topic with the teacher. Your instructor will give you certain guidelines for the number of words/ pages. However, from my experience, teachers seldom tell you rules for font, margins, and spacing. Don’t panic! You can always ask for more information or just use the most conventional style for academic writing in your field (eg. APA).
Your university might have some study tools about how to write an essay. For example, Kajaani University of Applied Sciences helps you to understand more about different essays.
This is perhaps the most special type of assignment for me. A learning diary is usually a long process of recording your learning journal in the course. There might be varieties. Some teachers would ask you to submit weekly or all together at the end of the course. But usually you are suggested to write one page of learning diary after each course. I don’t trust my memory that much, so I would take notes in class and write the learning diary as soon as possible.
So what exactly should I write in the learning diary? Many of my friends get stressful because of this new concept and the instructions are usually not so clear. I like to think of learning diary as a creative process. For different courses I have taken, I’ve written the learning diary differently. It is your personal reflection on the class content. However, it is more academic than your typical reflection in, for example, elementary school. You can include some readings from the class, theories mentioned, and connect them to yourself. It is not just a summary of what happened in the classroom. You can raise questions, contemplate, or even confess that you are not really sure what something means. So no worries, write as you wish and enjoy the process.
This is no stranger to students in this era. In Finnish universities, some courses are even constructed mostly on students’ presentations with a discussion afterwards. It might be a group presentation or an individual one. If using English for presentation makes you insecure, you can have notes with you, but practice beforehand so you won’t be just reading the script. If you are using Powerpoint, make sure your content is clear and concise. TED talk speakers usually have great presentation skills. Here is an article on tips for better slides. For more creative presentations, you might even use videos or one of my personal favorites, Prezi.
Interested in studying in Finland?