Finland is a country that is rich in culture and natural beauty, and my exchange experience there has been one that I will never forget. From the welcoming student communities to the bustling capital of Helsinki to the snowy landscapes of Lapland, I was able to experience a wide variety of activities and sights that left a lasting impression on me.
Orientation and Student Life
Orientation week was a great way for me to get to know my fellow exchange students and learn more about Finnish culture. During the week, we were assigned to fuksi (freshman) groups and participated in a variety of activities such as campus and city tours, in the form of checkpoint runs (think Amazing Race, but more chill— literally and figuratively), as well as a whole host of afterparties. These activities helped me to quickly adjust to my new surroundings and make friends with other exchange students.
One of my favourite experiences during my exchange was visiting Linnanmäki amusement park in Helsinki. The park is known for its thrilling roller coasters and other exciting rides, and it was a great way to spend a day with friends. I visited the park twice over the course of the exchange period: once in early September to experience the rides they have to offer, and another time in late November to witness the Festival of Lights, an event marking the end of the park’s operation period for the season. If you are also considering visiting the amusement park, I would recommend going there earlier before the onset of winter, so that you can continue feeling your fingers after the wind of the rides.
Another highlight of my exchange was my trip to Rovaniemi, which is located in the far north of Finland. I had the opportunity to visit the Santa Claus village and see the northern lights, which was an unforgettable experience. The Santa Claus village is a festive and magical place where visitors can meet Santa Claus himself and take part in various Christmas-themed activities. The northern lights, or aurora borealis, were an incredible sight to behold and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget.
Another important aspect of Finnish culture is saunas, and I had the opportunity to experience this first-hand on multiple occasions. Saunas are a traditional way for Finns to relax and unwind, and I found it to be a great way to unwind after a cold winter day. I also enjoyed the free museum entry days, which allowed me to learn more about Finland’s history and culture without spending any extra money. Generally, museums offer free entries to the public on some day during the first or last weeks of each month. Given the limited number of months you would be residing in Helsinki, it would be best to schedule your visits beforehand in order to visit as many museums as possible during your exchange.
Finally, I had the chance to experience the Christmas market in Helsinki, which was an amazing experience. The market was filled with beautiful handmade crafts, delicious food and drinks, and festive music and lights. It was the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit and enjoy the holiday season in Finland.
Overall, my exchange experience in Finland was one that I will never forget. From the thrilling rides at Linnanmaki to the awe-inspiring northern lights in Rovaniemi, I was able to experience a wide variety of activities and sights that left a lasting impression on me. The Finnish culture and traditions, such as saunas and Christmas markets, were also an important part of my experience and I am grateful for the opportunity to have lived abroad in Finland.