Finland, I’ll be back!
Students of HSE St. Petersburg campus have a great opportunity to spend a semester or year abroad. Sofya Glazunova, a student of the Master's Program "Politics and Governance", describes her exchange experience at the University of Helsinki.
From Desire to Action
It was my sixth year of study at HSE and I didn’t have the chance yet to explore international student life. In order to find possibilities for a semester abroad, I decided to visit the International Office. Gradually, I became involved in the international life of the university. In August 2015 we met a group of foreign students who studied at HSE St. Petersburg Summer School. Then the HSE Buddy Network allowed me to become a tutor for two German students at the university. The final step was the submission of documents to the program of academic mobility.
The decision of HSE St. Petersburg to nominate me to the University of Helsinki came quickly and I was incredibly happy! Like any person I had doubts: friends argued that it could be boring there, besides Finland is considered to be one of the most expensive European countries. The best decision at that moment was to listen to myself and after all preparations I decided to go.
OMG, I’m in Finland!
Finland met me like Siberia, the temperature was minus 26! However we did not have chance to freeze. On the first day our tutor organized an informal meeting. Probably, it was a turning point of my exchange semester, because then we all became good friends till the end of my study period.
Before arriving to Finland I knew exactly where I should live in Helsinki. But only there I realized how lucky I was. We shared a 30 square meters studio with a girl from Hong Kong right in the city center. Near was Kamppi bus station, the main railway station of Helsinki, while it was only 20 minutes by foot to Uni. The main advantage was a Finnish sauna, which we could book up to 5 times per month.
The so-called "Orientation Week" lasted for 2 days. During this time we communicated with other students and professors, made a small tour around campuses and visited the student canteen. By the way, a "Scandinavian lunch" there costs only 2.60 euro, where you can find meat, fish and even vegetarian options.
The most unforgettable impression was the Helsinki University Library. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece. In this 7-storey building you can find comfortable sofas, designer chairs and even a balcony with the view of the main Cathedral. Finns are used to study in absolute silence, so some extra sounds show that you are a newcomer.
Due to a huge number of students at the University, professors cannot devote much attention to everyone. In this respect HSE St. Petersburg campus seems to be one big family. The exception for me was a professor from Edinburgh, who had an incredible charisma and gentleman style of teaching. He invited us for a party in honor of the completion of the course. The University took care of the cocktail party, and we did not miss a chance to chat informally with a colleague from the Albion.
Surprisingly, Helsinki is not at all a tourist city: there are not so many attractions. But Finns themselves call their country «Funland», despite not having the best weather conditions, they can find entertainment for every day. You also don’t need a lot of money for it. A common European practice of a free-entry day at a museum allowed me to visit most of them, including museums of contemporary arts and the National Museum of Finland, Ateneum. In addition there were so many opportunities to travel, a ferry tour to Estonia cost me 9 Euros, while a three-day tour to Sweden - 6.
Finns are big fans of holidays. In order to maintain their national identity they celebrate many of them: the Day of Runeberg, a national poet of Finland, the Day of Self-Consciousness and many others unknown to me before. The biggest of them is Vappu. Thousands of people from Finland come out to streets in the beginning of May to celebrate the forthcoming of summer. In fact not all Finns can explain what this holiday is about: an international labor day, a religious holiday or even an unofficial student day. Finns wear special headgears, something like Russian sailor caps, which they received on the graduation of school. The incredible atmosphere of joy and happiness is everywhere, and you are certainly the part of this national celebration.
After all, people play the most important role in this exciting period of exchange studies. Among the international students there are no international conflicts, quarrels or misunderstandings. All students are in the same conditions and everyone is open to communication. Now I have friends all over the world, from Australia to Peru. We are planning trips to Europe with some of them and one year later we all agreed to meet in Helsinki. So Finland, I’ll be back!