Learning in the land of a thousand lakes

AS THE TINY twin-prop plane descended over a landscape of forests and lakes into a remote Finnish airfield, I was able to catch my first glimpse of the country that I was going to call home for the next four months.  Travelling as part of the Erasmus exchange programme organised through my department, my destination was the city of Tampere in Finland’s Lakeland region.  This location meant plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities on my doorstep; my halls were only five minutes’ walk from the lakeshore, where there were chances for swimming, canoeing, hiking and a typically Finnish sauna.  For those who aren’t so keen on nature the area also offers good alternatives, with one of the largest malls in the Nordic countries just a few miles out of town.  As an exchange student in Tampere you are likely to enjoy many crazy parties – the city has more than its fair share of bars and nightclubs and the student parties offer some of the cheapest drinks in Finland!

For a quick getaway from Tampere, Finland’s beautiful capital city of Helsinki is easily reached by fast train and even better, rail travel is half price for students.  Here you can soak up a big city vibe, with interesting museums and cathedrals to visit and cosy restaurants offering traditional Finnish cooking.  For travel further afield, the university’s exchange student organisation has some exciting options.  During my stay I was lucky enough to travel to the Arctic Circle, St. Petersburg, Tallinn and Stockholm.  Highlights from these trips included a medieval banquet in Estonia, swimming in the Arctic Ocean in Norway, a sighting of the amazing Northern Lights in Lapland and seeing someone’s Nan controlling pole dancers in a Russian nightclub!

Tampere

My time abroad allowed me to make some great friends from countries as diverse as Canada, Brazil, Germany and Spain.  Through this I have been able to learn a lot about different cultures and still keep in regular contact with many of the people I met.  Being overseas also helped me to develop skills to live independently in another culture – I was even able to learn some Finnish through a course held at the university, which surprisingly counted towards my study credits.

For those who are keen to go on exchange but who are worried that their (lack of) language skills will let them down the University of Tampere is an ideal destination.  Many of the courses are taught through English and you could probably survive without knowing a word of Finnish, although a few basic phrases are certainly useful!  The choice of modules is more flexible in Finland than many of us are used to here in Aber and I was able to participate in courses on politics, history, culture, marketing and language despite studying in Interpol back here.  Lunches at the university canteen are popular among the exchange students, with a full meal costing around £2, which is great for those who aren’t good cooks or who just want to avoid the grotty kitchens in the residences!

Rovaniemi, Finland

If you’re considering going on exchange to Tampere then my advice is to go for it.  You’ll live in a beautiful country, make new friends, party and travel lots and of course do some study on the side.  Studying abroad can seem a daunting prospect, but I found that it was an experience of a lifetime and highly recommend it to you.  Kippis – tervetuloa Suomeen!


The lake in Tampere