As an Architecture exchange student at Aalto University during the Spring term in 2023, here are some information and tips that I hope would be useful to those embarking on their exchange journey to Aalto!
#1 Accommodation 🏠
There are two organisations that provide student housing in Helsinki: HOAS and AYY.
Among my friends that live in HOAS apartments, the rates range from €400-€420 a month.
There are different kinds of HOAS accommodation for exchange students:
- Studio Apartment (2 people)
- Private Room in a shared apartment
These HOAS apartments are all furnished apartments. For AYY apartments, they are unfurnished.
I rented a studio apartment with my friend (we applied together). You have two single beds, 2 large study tables, and your personal fridge. It was clean and in good condition, since the building is relatively new. There is a shared kitchen on every floor of the apartment block, with communal pots and pans. There are also saunas, a gym, laundry rooms, and entertainment rooms. The committee holds games night every now and then, where you can enjoy a night of board games and get to know other students living there!
Tip: look up the location of the apartments! we felt that staying near the city centre was good and convenient (nearer to the asian marts). It only took around 20 minutes for us to get to Aalto! (p.s. you can request for your preferred apartment when applying)
#2 Getting a Mobile Plan 📱
There are three major telcos in Finland: Elisa, Telia and DNA. You can get a prepaid or postpaid SIM card (only with a residence permit).
Here are the rates for prepaid subscriptions as of May 2023:
|€5.90 (includes €6 value)
|Unlimited 5G internet (max. 300 Mbit/s) in Finland, the Nordic countries and the Baltics and 16 GB in EU/EEA countries. Also includes standard calls/messages (max. 165 minutes/messages/day and 5000 minutes/messages/month) in Finland and EU/EEA countries for one month.
|Unlimited 4G internet (max. 100 Mbit/s) in Finland, the Nordic countries and the Baltics and 14 GB in EU/EEA countries. Also includes standard calls/messages (max. 165 minutes/messages/day and 5000 minutes/messages/month) in Finland and EU/EEA countries for one month.
|€29.99/month (€26.99 introductory offer)
|Unlimited 5G internet, max. 300 Mbit/s in Finland and 14 GB in EU/EEA countries for a month.
|Unlimited 4G internet, max. 200 Mbit/s in Finland and 12 GB in EU/EEA countries for a month.
|€4.90 (includes €7 value)
|4G 5000 min, 5000 messages, Unlimited internet in Finland, speed up to 100 Mbit/s, 27 GB abroad
|4G Unlimited internet in Finland, speed up to 100 Mbit/s, 18 GB abroad
|Unlimited 4G (up to 100Mbps), EU data 0.45GB/day
|€0.89/day x30 ≈ €26.70/month
I opted for a prepaid SIM card with Elisa, with unlimited 4G in Finland, Nordics and Baltics + 14GB in EU countries + standard calls and messages. (€29.99/month)
I found that the 4G was good and fast, so upgrading to 5G may not be necessary! Additionally, the inclusion of standard calls was pretty useful as you may need to dial EU numbers in Finland or when travelling!
#3 Transport and Navigation 🧭
As a student, you can get a discounted season ticket for public transport at around €42/month, which is usually worth the price as a single ticket costs €3.10 for Zone AB. Inspectors do go around checking if passengers have a valid ticket, get a ticket or risk getting a hefty fine!
Finding where your classes are in Aalto may be quite confusing! Buildings can be easily found on Google maps, but specific locations of rooms within buildings are tough to find. The Aalto Space app is very useful for that purpose, so do download it! You can also book rooms for your own use through the app.
#4 Food 🍴
Where to find the most affordable meals? In school!
A typical meal in Aalto costs you €2.95, with a salad bar, a main, bread and drinks (milk/fruit punch/water). There are always vegan and non-vegan options. To check the menu for the day for all the locations in Aalto, go to this website: https://kanttiinit.fi Although the food may not be the best, sometimes they are pretty good! It depends on the location and menu of the day.
My personal favourites are from Dipoli, Täffä, and A Bloc!
Here are some of the meals I’ve had on campus:
As for food outside of campus, there are a few good options:
For buying groceries and my cooking diaries, check out my other blog post!
#5 Shopping 🛒
A. Otaniemi Buy/Sell Telegram Group
For more affordable items and second-hand items, check out the otaniemi buy/sell telegram group! There are many students selling items for affordable prices (including furniture, clothes, pans, etc.). You can use it to sell any of your unwanted items at the end of exchange as well!
In many malls in Helsinki you’d find a store called “Normal”, which sells a wide variety of items for affordable prices, ranging from snacks to skincare/cosmetics to electronics and basic household items!
C. Clas Ohlson
Here you can buy electronics and household items, we bought our rice cooker there! You will find many different types of items at reasonable prices, it’s like a DIY store!
D. Student discounts!
If you sign up for the AYY membership (around 30 euro), you will get a digital student card and can enjoy many benefits and discounts in stores.
At some retail stores there may be student discounts, so do ask before purchasing!
#6 (BONUS) Surviving Helsinki in Winter ❄⛄
If you are in Helsinki in the months of November – March, this is for you!
Layering is great, as it is much warmer indoors and you may want to remove some layers.
When ice forms on the ground, it is very slippery, so some waterproof/water-resistant winter boots with good traction would be a good idea.
Get a hooded jacket! Often times the wind does get pretty strong, and it snows very often as well! A hood will serve you well, protecting your head and face from the strong winds and snow.
You might feel that the city is rather gloomy in winter, but fret not! When spring comes and the weather gets warmer, the city becomes much livelier – you see more people out and about, and people also seem happier. Wishing you a great exchange in Finland!