Picture of Finnair wing above the clouds

Tervetuloa Suomea! (Welcome to Finland!)

So, you’re thinking of embarking on the Global Exchange Programme to Aalto University? Congratulations! Although my time in Aalto has came and went, I must say that it has been an amazing opportunity to immerse myself in a new culture, meet great people, and forge unforgettable memories. Here are some things to take note, before you start packing your bags and booking your flights.

Residence Permit

Because you will be staying in Finland for more than 90 days, you’ll need to apply for a residence permit. The process can take a while, so make sure to start your application as soon as possible. You can find more information about the residence permit application process on the Finnish Immigration Service’s website. (link)

Create a Study Plan

Aalto University has a wide range of courses and programs available, so it’s important to create a study plan that works for you. Start by thinking about your academic goals and what you want to get out of your exchange semester. Then, research the courses that are available and plan out your schedule. Make sure to also factor in any language requirements and make sure you have the necessary language skills for your chosen courses.

Some of the factors that you might want to consider, aside from your academic goals or administrative requirements, are the mode of assessment and the teaching period for each course, as these would influence how you spend your time outside of school. For reference, here are the courses that I enrolled for during my time in Aalto.

CS-E4850 Computer Vision D

Mapped to: 50.035 Computer Vision

The lectures were engaging and the instructor, Prof. Juho. Kannala, was helpful in addressing questions relating to the coursework during tutorial sessions. Because the focus of the course was on the theoretical aspects of computer vision, focusing on experimentation and implementation with MATLAB, be prepared for a cross of calculus and linear algebra. 

Fortunately, derivations were not a main focus in the final exam and sufficient resources were provided for revision. Overall, the course was useful in providing a firm grasp of foundational concepts relating to computer vision, as well as a brief exploration into recent advancements in the field.

CS-C3120 Human-Computer Interaction

Mapped to: 50.006 User Interface Design

As a whole, I would not say that this course was the greatest. The assignments were in the form of weekly essays with a minimum expectation of at least 1000 words but without sufficient time allocated between assignments for one to satisfactorily attempt them. That being said, the content covered in the course have similarities to that in 03.007 Design Thinking and Innovation, so a veritable SUTDent like yourself should find the coursework manageable.

CS-C4100 Digital Health and Human Behavior

Mapped to: 02.2XX HASS Mapping Subject (Social Science)

One of the shorter courses I enrolled for, this course began only in the second period of the Autumn term (Weeks 8 – 12). It was a nice recap of methods in data science, with a focus on digital health concepts like self-tracking and societal interactions. The reading assignments were insightful and made me more adept at reading research papers. 

CS-E4340 Cryptography D

Mapped to: 50.XXX ISTD Mapping Elective

This was one of my favorite courses. The instructors Prof. Chris Brzuska and Russell Lai, as well as the teaching assistants for the course, were engaging and helpful guides around the foundational to more advanced topics in cryptography. The assignments were also very manageable, with several opportunities to seek help during the many interactive tutorial sessions throughout the week.

CS-E5795 Computational Methods in Stochastics D

Mapped to: 50.XXX ISTD Mapping Elective

While a good introduction to the field of stochastics, the learning curve was slightly steep as content became slightly more abstract and the lack of standard notation made it hard to interpret at times. Despite this, the lecturer Prof. Riku Linna made the subject easier to digest with sufficient motivations for each section of the course.

CS-E4595 Competitive Programming D

Mapped to: 50.XXX ISTD Mapping Elective

The course was conducted as a series of weekly coding competitions, usually centered around an assigned topic for the week. While my initial motivation to enroll in this course was to gain experience in C++ programming, my participation in it was a humbling one, as what theoretical knowledge I had in algorithms and data structures proved to be shaky as my abilities to solve the assigned problems in even languages I was more experienced in were put into question. However, I must say that the format of the course has indeed been useful in exposing me to the diversity of coding problems, which would definitely be useful in coding interviews in the future.

White windows on a red wood facade. A man is reaching up to grab one of the window shutters.
When one door closes, open the window yourself.


Finland is known for its high cost of living, so it’s important to budget for your expenses before you arrive. Some of the expenses you’ll need to consider include rent, food, transportation, and entertainment. It’s also a good idea to get a local SIM card and mobile plan to stay connected while you’re in Finland.

Packing Essentials

When it comes to packing for your exchange semester, it’s important to strike a balance between bringing everything you need and not overloading your suitcase. Some essential items to bring include warm clothes, comfortable shoes, and any necessary documents. Finland can get quite cold in the winter, with temperatures in Helsinki ranging from 15°C in August down to -10°C by the end of the year.


Finland is a unique and fascinating country with its own rich culture and traditions. To fully immerse yourself in your exchange semester, it’s a good idea to learn a bit about Finnish culture before you arrive. Some things you might want to research include Finnish food, music, art, and customs. Personally, I learnt a few Finnish phrases from Duolingo before embarking on my exchange, but nothing beats picking up the language on the ground, from native speakers.

Overall, preparing for an exchange semester at Aalto University requires a bit of planning and organization. But with a little bit of preparation, you’ll be ready to make the most of your time in Finland and have an amazing exchange experience. So, start getting excited and start preparing for your exchange semester at Aalto University! You’re in for an unforgettable adventure in a unique and beautiful country that is sure to leave a lasting impression on you.


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