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.
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.
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.
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.
Living in Italy is one of the best things that happened in my life. I do definitely recommend everyone to go on exchange.
MSc in Chemical Engineering (soon to be)