My exchange in Italy

Since my first year of studying in Finland, I wanted to go study abroad for a semester or two. I looked at the big list of Aalto’s partner universities and could not decide where to go. Aalto had partner universities in Japan, Canada, all over Europe, Australia… I started narrowing down.

They need IELTS/TOEFL?

– I have no time to pass those.

Need knowledge of German/French language?

– Germany and France were out.

Do they have courses similar to those in my study plan?

– Almost everything was out.

Do not repeat my mistakes. Leave the elective studies blank. Then it will be easier to find an exchange place for you to go. I was left with two options: KTH in Stockholm and POLIMI in Milan. Going to Sweden did not feel like enough of a change and Milan sounded cool! I applied, got accepted, got a 1500€ grant and was set to go.

San Marino. January but still T-shirt weather! The best thing about Italy.

I must say I only realized how perfect Finland was when I moved to Italy 🙂

To start with, there was no such thing as student housing. Every student rented rooms/apartments from the private market. Since Milan is a big tourist destination, the rents were high. I ended up sharing a room (!) because cheap rooms were 800€ a month. For someone from Finland, it sounds crazy to share a room with someone but I and my roommate actually ended up as very good friends!

Next, the famous Italian bureaucracy! I needed an Italian visa because I am not an EU citizen. I applied for one, paid 150€ and the next visit to the police was in February. I left the country in January and did not get the visa in the end.

University was really good. In Finland, I forgot what classes with chalkboard were like but in Italy those were frequent. Also, 95% of the exams at POLIMI were oral and I had to readjust myself a little because all the exams I had in Finland were written.

The semesters in Italy start later than in Finland. In Finland, all the exams are before Christmas, whilst in Italy, they are mostly in January-February. However, I asked the professors to pass the exams before Christmas and they all agreed.


But hey, exchange is not about the studies, everybody knows that! 😉


Milan is located perfectly in the middle of everything. Venice, Rome, Switzerland, Florence – are just some of the places I visited.

I have traveled to many places but Venice is by far my most favorite.

Of course, I spent more than 1500€ but living in Italy was cheaper than I expected. Apart from the high rents, everything else was rather cheap. Trains and buses across the country were reasonably priced, the food was cheaper than in Helsinki too.

holding the Pisa tower from falling

In 5 months I visited 14 amazing towns, learned the Italian secret of how to not give a single f*k and take everything slow and met plenty of wonderful people. I feel a little bit Italian now that it is a part of my life to speak with my hands and kiss twice when meeting someone. Italian food I do not even have to mention. I can never come back to eating regular ice cream again after trying Italian gelato.

the squad

Living in Italy is one of the best things that happened in my life. I do definitely recommend everyone to go on exchange.

Ekaterina Sakarinen

MSc in Chemical Engineering (soon to be)

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