First of all, Congratulations! Welcome to Aalto!
I’ve been participating in webinars and chats to answer questions from new students for several times. I’d like to share my experience and some useful information for new students about how to settle down.
1. Student services
Please go to the student service office as soon as possible. There you will get a certificate of student status (useful for getting other documents), a kela card for student meals discount, a document for getting student discount of a HSL travel card. For last year, I also got a free A reflector, which keeps you safe at night, and a DNA prepaid package to have a local phone number to start with.
Aalto Student Services
2. Residence Permit
I had many questions about the residence permit when I applied for it for the first time, but it was much clear once I started the online application. There are instructions step by step, you can save the change and come back to edit it. There you get a overview of all the required documents to send a legible application.
Please remember to make an appointment in the Finland Embassy in your country. For those who doesn’t have Finland Embassy in their countries, such as Taiwan. If you don’t want to travel to another country to get the residence permit before moving to Finland.
Here is my own experience from last year. Before entering Finland, I made an appointment on migri website to get an interview for validating my documents and giving finger prints. Then I entered Finland with a tourist visa, which gave me 3 month stay in Schengen area. When passing the customs control at Helsinki Vantaa airport, I provided my letter of acceptance from Aalto University and explained that I’ve submitted my application of a residence permit and had an appointment in the immigration office. It went fine. Please pay attention that every country might have different situations. Please contact an immigration office about your situation and getting an approval that it is ok to come to Finland first and get a residence permit in the first month.
If you make sure that you can enter Finland without a residence permit, please make an appointment in the immigration office in Helsinki as soon as possible, you can do it before you finish online application. Without an appointment, you might need to wait in line for more than 4 hours like I did. Please bring all the original documents required for the application of your residence permit to the immigration office. The decision will be made in about 2-3 weeks. It varies and the immigration officer will inform you how long the decision will be made. The downside for not having the residence permit before entering Finland, you will not have student discounts on public transportation in the very beginning. (around 50% off).
Finnish Immigration Service
3. Get a HSL Travel Card
It’s 5 euros to get a HSL travel card, then you can load value on your travel card. Also the discount entitlement is stored on a personal Travel Card at an HSL service point. There is no student discounts if you’re over 30.
Please check HSL website for the ticket fare.
You can download HSL app to buy tickets, but there is no student discounts on app. It’s cheaper than buying a single ticket from a driver or a machine. Good for your visitors.
4. Maistraatti (Local register office)
Please take your residence permit or the approval email you get from immigration office, you don’t need to wait for the official letter (another 2 weeks to wait), go to maistraatti to register your address and ask for a paper that states you live in Helsinki or Espoo area. You don’t need to wait for the original document send by maistraatti, it takes another two weeks.
5. HSL Travel Card
Take the letter from Maistraatti to the HSL office in the central station. No matter how many days your weekly or monthly ticket remain, HSL will refund the fee and start your student discount.
6. About living expense
For student housing, the rent varies according to the size, location and how old the building is. Generally, a single room in a shared apartment, or an independent single room with a shared kitchen in the common area, costs about 250 to 350 euros.
Whether you’re a degree or exchange student, you are entitled to apply for student housing from AYY (Aalto Student Union) or HOAS. Be aware that the rent is usually cheaper in AYY housing than HOAS ones.
7. Furniture – second hand stuff
Student housing usually is quite empty, might has a closet, not even a light bulb. Only exchange students can apply for housing with furnitures and pay the rent for furnitures as well. Please consider what housing you get and plan to come to Finland a bit earlier before orientation, so you will have time to buy furnitures and necessities to start a new life here.
There are several facebook groups you can find second-hand stuff. (all kinds, bed, desk, lamp, furnitures….) Also you can check facebook marketplace.
Teekkarikylän Markkinat | Teknologbyns marknad | Teekkari Village’s Market “The group is aimed at the people of Aalto and Teekkarikylä/Otaniemi.”
Helsinki Rent, Sell, Lend, Give away
As for food, embrace the great news that a student meal costs only 2.6 euros. It contains a warm main dish, salad buffet, bread, a glass of water and a glass of drink (juice, soy milk, milk, yoghourt and etc.). There is always an option for vegetarian or gluten-free of main dishes. You can also opt for a soup instead for a main dish. Please download this mobile app – Kanttiinit, which shows the menus of student meals in different restaurants, locations and opening hours. Some of them opens till 7 pm and also on Saturdays. UniCafe has several restaurants operating in good locations in the cities. As a student, you can have student meals all over Finland as long as the restaurants provide them. As for monthly contract of a local number and unlimited cellular data service, it’s around 20 euros (depends on what package you choose).
Needless to say, the bigger the supermarket is, the cheaper you can get. Therefore, for example Prisma usually has the most competitive prices.
10. Home insurance
It is good to have a home insurance which covers the damages of your personal properties and the house you stay. For example, my classmate’s mobile phone was stolen in the library, she could claim for c
ompensation from the home insurance. Ask local classmates, they will provide you some options. Usually, some banks offer home insurance as well.
International students often choose Nordea, Danske or OP for English service. If you’re over 26 years old, there might be a monthly fee for having an bank account. In Finland, online banking is very convenient and it is used as a online ID to login to others services, such as mobile phone online services, tax service and etc. If you are not a European citizen, you will need to get a Finnish ID or get your ID checked in the police station to validate your use of online banking for third parties. Both of them costs about 50 euros, you need only one of them. The Finnish ID will expire at the same date as your residence permit.
Finally, I wish you good luck moving into Finland and have a great start here in Aalto.