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16 Tips to Help You Prepare for Studying Abroad in Finland

By Stephanie L

Updated February 25, 2021 Updated February 25, 2021

Sponsored by the University of Eastern Finland

If the longest you’ve been away from home was for a two-week vacation, the thought of packing your life into a couple of suitcases and moving abroad to study can seem overwhelming. Especially when the place you’re moving to is nothing like home. So, what can you do to make sure you’re ready?

From packing the right clothes, to making sure you’ve got the correct visa, sorting out accommodation to getting to know the local lingo (or at least the basics!), there’s plenty you can do to prepare. We spoke to a few international students at the University of Eastern Finland to find out how they made sure they were ready to study abroad in Finland.

Before you go…

Research your funding options

Knowing your funding options is vital before you even send off your application form. In Finland, non-EU/EEA/Swiss students studying undergraduate and postgraduate degrees will have to pay tuition fees which can range anywhere between €1,500 per year (~US$1,800) and €20,000 (~US$24,500) depending on the degree.

Tuition fees at the University of Eastern Finland differ from program to program, with the average tuition fees being €10,000 in 2020. When thinking about your funding options, be sure to check if the university offers tuition waivers or scholarships. This year, the University of Eastern Finland’s typical tuition waivers cover 50–70 percent of tuition fees.

… and once you’ve done that, figure out your budget and look into opening a local bank account

Living in Finland doesn’t come cheap, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be living off the bare essentials when you get there. Figuring out your budget before you go will definitely help make life a little bit easier when you get there.

Having a local bank account is also a good way to avoid overseas transactions and costs, which you would get when using your normal bank card.

Consider finding a part-time job (if you want to work that is!)

Part-time jobs are a great way to earn a bit of extra money alongside your studies. They’re also a good way to develop certain skills that your degree might not be able to teach you. Oh, and depending on the job – you might even get an employee discount. Ker-ching!

The University of Eastern Finland is developing its very own internal internship program which will offer fixed term job opportunities in and around campus to top international students who are studying a master’s degree at the university.

“We are working to get the internship program ready and hope that the first internships will take place during 2021,” says Kristiina Väänänen, Head of International Planning and Development at the University of Eastern Finland.

What’s more, students who are selected for the internship positions will gain that all-important experience for their field of study.

Sort out your visa and residence permit

This is perhaps one of the least-exciting aspects of preparing for the study abroad experience of a lifetime, but it’s also one of the most important.

You’ll want to make sure the process is as easy as possible, so we recommend applying for your visa and residence permit as soon as your application has been accepted. This only applies if you’re coming to study in Finland from outside the EU/EEA or a Nordic country.

What to pack?!

The all-important question. Scarves, hats, gloves, thermals and all the warm clothes you own will never go amiss here. It’s easy to over-pack though, so before you start, write down a list of everything you think you’ll need. Remember, you’ll be able to buy most things when you’re in Finland, but not everything will be as student-budget friendly as you’d think.

Second-hand stores are as common as cafés, bars and restaurants in Finland so it’s quite easy to find the essentials that come with student-friendly price-tags.

Be sure to pack some home comforts with you, such as snacks, photographs and your favorite books. While we know you’ll be feeling at home before you know it, it’s always nice to have a couple of reminders of home around.

Consider your accommodation choices  

The type of person you are will decide the type of student accommodation that suits you best. 

Jie is a first-year Master's Degree Program in Wood Materials Science student from China, and he chose to live further away from campus. “I prefer to be somewhere peaceful and the place I live right now is surrounded by forests and near a lake,” he told us.

“Supermarkets are also nearby, so it’s a pretty nice place for me. Although it’s a little bit far from the campus, the bus station is just outside my apartment which is really convenient.”

On the other hands, Esteban, a first year Master's Degree Program in European Forestry student, chose the cheapest option possible. He shares a flat with three other international students from Russia and Spain, and one Finnish student.

“It may seem like too many [people], but since the apartment is quite spacious, we have a very good dynamic!” said Esteban.

Student accommodation in Finland usually means you have your own room as well!

Organize travel and health care insurance

Usually a last-minute consideration, it’s vital you organize your travel and healthcare insurance as soon as possible. Not just because it’s one less thing to worry about, but should anything happen which means you can’t go, you’ll then be covered by your insurance. Making sure your vaccinations are also up-to-date is important.

Once you get to Finland, make sure to pay the Student Union membership fee. This entitles you to access to the Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS), where you can receive preventative healthcare and medical care, as well as dental treatment. Consultation fees for students at FSHS are very reasonable, while consultation services with a nurse or general practitioner are free of charge.

Check whether you need to take an English language proficiency test

English language exams are common practice for entry to many universities around the world where the main language of instruction is English – such as the University of Eastern Finland. If English isn’t your first language, you may need to take an English language proficiency test as part of the application process.

If you’re planning on studying abroad in Finland next year, now is an excellent time to start prepping for the test. Every university has their own English language requirements, so make sure to check out their websites for further information

Speaking of languages… try and learn some local lingo basics

While Finland is one of the top ten countries in the world for its English language skills, it’s still a good idea to get to grips with the local lingo. It’s polite to do so, and the locals will appreciate the effort.

Here are a few words and phrases to help get you started:

Hello: Hei

Goodbye: Hei hei

Thank you: Kiitos

My name is ...: Nimeni on ...

Nice to meet you: Hauska tavata

Where is the bathroom?:  Missä on vessa?

Research your home away from home

There’s no harm in really getting to know your way around the Finnish higher education system, the country’s general customs and laws, the weather(!), as well as a fair bit about the culture.

It’s good to get to know what your home away from home is going to be like, and the more you find out about it, the better prepared you’ll be for when you get there.

And when you get there…

Find out what student clubs you can join

University isn’t just about the studying. Student clubs are a great way to meet new people, take time away from your studies and learn something new. Whether it’s sport, choir or theater, you’re bound to find something you’ll enjoy.

“There are lots of activities [at the University of Eastern Finland] you could join, and these will help you meet more locals,” said Jie.

Go where the locals go and don’t be afraid to say hello!

Immersing yourself in the local culture and really getting to know your new home is half the fun of studying abroad, as Esteban told us: “I find it amazing that I’m discovering things you can’t ‘Google’, such as having coffee with a Finnish family, with berry pie and Karelian pie. Going to the sauna is awesome too.”

“Finnish people, especially the locals here in Kuopio are very helpful and nice. They look out for you if you ask for help. Getting to know the local culture is great and although Finns claim that they don’t have great food, I love Mämmi, Karelian pies, Lohikeitto, Pinattikeitto, Joulutorttu, Glögi and more,” said Pracheta De, a first-year Master’s Degree Program in Biomedicine student from Bangalore.

And finally… have a travel plan in mind

You’re not going to move to one of the most stunning countries in the world and not take time out for adventure.

“I’m planning to go to Lapland in the north of Finland. I think it’s a place you definitely need to go,” said Jie.

Brazilian student Williane who’s in her second year of the Master's Degree Program in Medical Physics told us she had all her travelling for the year planned already: “Lapland in the winter, Koli in the spring, Hiidenvuori in the autumn and metal festivals during the summer.”  

And remember…

Appreciate and embrace the opportunity! It’s ok to feel nervous, but the feelings of excitement will kick in in no time!

This article was originally published in March 2020 . It was last updated in February 2021

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Written by

As the Head of Sponsored Content for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, Stephanie creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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