The Final Countdown

So my never ending to-do list is almost done; housing is organised; paper work is done (for now) and the flights booked! Now its the waiting game – 19 days and counting! Time is going slowly now; yet I am having trouble trying to find time to say goodbye to everyone and get everything done! It’s the final countdown (doo de doo doo…)

As much as I could go on and on about how excited I am and all I want to do, I suppose it would be more useful for you if I stick to the facts and give you some proper information about the Erasmus+ programme and the application process.

So; why did I apply for Helsinki?

Well I immediately knew I wanted to go to northern Europe. I generally spend holidays in southern Europe and, while I love many cities there, I thought this was a chance to visit somewhere different. Everyone’s first reaction to the news I’m going to Helsinki is to discuss how cold it will be (proof that us Brits really do talk about the weather too much!). For this reason I would be unlikely to holiday there. Yet I would still love to see the country. Why Helsinki rather than other Scandanavian countries? Well to be perfectly honest I would have been happy to be given any of my choices! However, Helsinki was my first choice as it is known as having the best education system in the world so I thought I’d try it out! (and also, LAPLAND!).

What about costs?

Its true, Helsinki is an expensive place to live, and I am very fortunate to be able to live there for 9 months. However, I don’t think anybody should write it off the Erasmus experience based on costs without looking into it further. You are funded by an Erasmus grant (this year set at the equivalent of €375/month for the more expensive countries – more info here: http://www.britishcouncil.org/erasmus-funding.htm) You may read things that say you may need to pay up to €700/month for rent in Helsinki. While this is undoubtedly true, if you apply for a student flat at the earliest possible time, you will most likely be placed in one of the blocks where most international students are placed where rent is around €390 a month for a room in a shared apartment. Shared rooms are cheaper again. So make sure to bear this in mind (plus the availability of the usual SAAS loan) when considering costs. Also bear in mind that this is a significantly more expensive choice than some so certainly don’t write off the whole Erasmus experience all together!

So you’re accepted – What then?

So what about after you are accepted on Erasmus, what do you do now? Well if you only remember one thing from this it should be ‘BE PREPARED’. Everyone in the process is very helpful but you need to stay on top of things. My experience of the University of Helsinki so far has been that the staff are very friendly and helpful, as are, of course, the Glasgow staff. However I have heard mixed reports from other universities and, at the end of the day, it is your responsibility! So keep on top of all the Erasmus documents – remember they are the key to your money!

Housing

The minute you get your placement you should start looking at housing. The situation is different for different Universities. For Helsinki there is lots of suggestions you won’t get a place but don’t panic too much! If you apply on the first possible day you should get your first choice, or certainly something reasonable. Though housing is limited, international students are looked out for! I will be staying in Junailijankuja 5 B where a lot of international students seem to stay. The photos look nice and it is fairly well connected – right next to train station which is a 10 minute ride to the University, or a 45 minute walk. Once I get there I can give you some more details!

Flights

Flights are a tricky one. For me it was initially unclear exactly when I needed to be there for my first day. While the first day of term is clear, often international students are invited to welcome fairs and orientations, so make sure you know when you have to be there before you book. Specifically if you are going to Helsinki, you probably won’t know if you have housing when you book your flights but don’t hold off booking flights. Yes some accommodation isn’t available until September but you will have to be there before anyway so book your flights and then you can book a hostel or sleep on someone’s floor for a few nights if need be. My best advice would be work out the cheapest price and keep an eye on it (http://www.skyscanner.net/ is useful for this). I did this and when my flights went up by £20 I knew to jump at them then!

Courses

The University of Helsinki uses an online system called ‘WebOodi’ (like Moodle but more straightforward!). While you can’t register for courses until you get there you need to know what you want to do in order to fill out your Learning Agreement (Erasmus paperwork). The courses for the following year come out in August but I would recommend having a look at the previous year’s earlier to get an idea of what you want to do to as the courses don’t seem to change too much and it will lessen the work you need to do in August! Have a look at this – http://www.helsinki.fi/studying/courses-in-english.shtml

So I think I’ve covered the basics. If anyone has any questions please get in touch. You may be able to find more information here – http://www.helsinki.fi/exchange/ . I’m currently using this to keep me right – http://www.helsinki.fi/newstudents/checklist-exchange-students.html .

Well for now – hei hei ! (The extent of my Finnish so far!)

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