How to survive the winter in Finland?

The water is frozen in the winter.

All my family and my friends in Taiwan are concerned that I will be freezing into an icicle when the snow season starts in Finland. Well, their concerns are not nonsense, considering that the lowest temperature during the winter time in Taiwan is only about +6°.

I thought I would be wearing much more here than what I used to in Taiwan. Actually, not that case. It’s still three layers, but certainly all the clothes are selected to fit the cold climate in Finland. For me, the first layer is the most important one, a fitted long-sleeve T-shirt with quick drying function. The second layer is usually a sweater. The last layer is a proper waterproof winter jacket. In the cold climate, waterproof wear is crucial from head to toe. Helsinki is quite a windy city. The wind can make one feel much colder than the real temperature. These three layers can get me through even -15°.

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Does everyone really speak English here?

“Oh I would love to move to Finland but I can’t. I do not know Finnish.”

 

That is a bad excuse! English is more than enough.

If you go to the countryside, things might be a little different, but in the cities, you basically do not need Finnish at all. Nearly 20% of the students at Aalto are not Finnish. Considering only Masters students, the number is much higher. In practice, this means international events and parties almost daily!

-20 degrees outside but so pretty!                         21 Jan 2019, Aalto campus

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Happy New Year

New Year fireworks in Senate Square.

Last night I went to see the New Year Eve’s show in the Senate Square. When I arrived around 11pm, it’s easy to walk around the crowd and reach a nice position in front of the stage. Comparing to my past experience in Sydney and Taipei, to be able to get a great view, one needed to be there hours before the fireworks started. Only until the fireworks was done, everyone was leaving the square, I experienced the most crowded moment in Helsinki. For the first time, I was pushed around by the crowd in Finland.

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Make Friends for Life. Change the Game.

“I was warned that Finland is cold and people hard to make friends with. First one was true, but the second one – not at all. Finns just have their own way to open up. In the end, they will build an authentic relationship with you.”

– Manuel Barrantes, Friend of Finns & Creative Sustainability student

Get more than a degree at Aalto University. Application for Master’s programmes 3 Dec 2018–11 Jan 2019 and for English Bachelor’s programmes 9–23 Jan 2019. Find your own programme and apply.

 

How to deal with Finnish professors?

Professor-student relationships in Finland are not constrained by formal conventions. THERE IS NO HIERARCHY. Well, formally there is. There are titles as usual: MSc (Master of Science), PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), Professor, Head of the Department, etc. But in reality, people are not respected for having any of these titles. They are respected by students for being intelligent, approachable, friendly or even funny.

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Why Finland?

The beautiful bay in Lammassaari. The nature in Helsinki is stunning.

During my presentation about Aalto University and my student life in Finland, one participant asked, “Who do you choose Finland instead of the United States?”

Why Finland among other countries? First of all, Finland is the happiest and the most stable country in 2018. Before that, she has been on the top 10 list constantly. Secondly, Finland has the world-known first-class education. Thirdly, I am curious that how a small country can achieve so much.  

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How to settle down for new Aalto students

Share my experience in Aalto and Finland with new students in Taiwan and others who are
interested in applying for future study. © YANG,LI-FANG

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.

Please see all up to date information on admissions and the beginning of your studies on Aalto’s website (aalto.fi) or by contacting Aalto’s Admissions Services (admissions (at) aalto.fi) or your programme’s student services.

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Vappu -Experience Authentic Finnish Culture

Annual bubble shower for the mermaid statue, Havis Amanda.

Everyone was talking about Vappu even weeks before May Day. There were big numbers in Otaniemi campus, counting down to Vappu. In the beginning, I was really confused about why people were so excited about May 1st, International Labour Day. In my home country Taiwan, it’s the day that labor rights are under examination, sometimes there is a labour protest against the government, not a day for cheerful celebration. Also, university students in Taiwan have nothing to do with Labour Day, simply enjoy a day off without special activities.

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Journey to a teekkari cap

The teekkari cap is an auspicious symbol of the teekkari (technical student) lifestyle. It has a very rich history dating back to 1893. It is a summer cap which can be worn from 1st May (wappu) to 30th September. Special permission is required to wear the cap outside of these dates. But what if you were not born and raised in Finland? Does it mean you can never get this cap? Well, not really.

But in order to get the cap you should first integrate with Finnish culture, most importantly teekkari culture. So as a student at Aalto, you can get the teekkari point card from your respective guild and start filling in the points by attending a variety of events and doing a whole bunch of different things that are part of the teekkari lifestyle. The points on the card are divided into different sections, and I’ll go over all the sections and major events required to get a teekkari cap.

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A glimpse of last autumn’s orientation week

My study semester at Aalto University started with orientation week. During my bachelor’s studies, I had the experience of orientation ‘day’ back in my home university in Pakistan. A typical orientation day included enrolment tasks, talks about university value and code of conduct and a brief tour of the campus. So orientation ‘week’ made me wonder what to expect and it included all the right things to start the semester, starting from enrollment to a lot of parties.

Orientation week at Aalto has two kinds of activities.

Photo by Roee Cohen

Photo by Roee Cohen

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