Wednesday 31 August 2016, 07:30 am, I descended from the bus coming from Helsinki to Joensuu. A young man about my age was standing outside the bus holding a paper with my name written on it. I immediately recognized him as my tutor, the Finnish student appointed by the university to help me get familiar with the place. A cool breeze swept away the remains of sleep from the last night on the bus as we crossed the bridge on the river Pielisjoki that crosses the town towards the nearby lake. Autumn is already here, creating beautiful landscapes from the colorful leaves of the trees distributed here and there in the calm city center.
After finishing all the formalities of registration in the university and showing me the important places that I need to know in the campus (the restaurants, the library, my faculty…), my tutor lead me home and showed me the place, the nearby supermarket and the bus stop where I can take the bus to the university.
The official start of the season in the UEF is the first day of September. the first week of the term is devoted to introducing the international students to life inside and outside the campus, and to the different aspects of the daily life in Finland and Joensuu in the first place.
The “get to know each other party” organized by the students’ union of the UEF was an opportunity for foreign students here, like me, to have new friends from different countries and continents, all coming to study in Joensuu, either as exchange students, like me, or as degree students… A new country, new friends, a new life, and a new experience in the farthest point I could ever reach northward…
The city of Joensuu is a small, beautiful city in the eastern part of Finland. It may seem quiet and boring for a foreigner, but, on the contrary of what it seems like from the first glance, it’s an active place, full of all kinds of activities that make of it a place where one can never feel bored, there is space for everybody here! Joensuu is surrounded with trees from all directions, the forest is sacred here! There are roads wherever one turns, one can safely wander as far as he wants, nothing to fear here. The river and the lake present amazing landscapes to the visitor in all seasons. The public library of Joensuu is the place where one finds all facilities for doing research, reading, or holding other social and cultural activities. However, the university library provides students with hundreds of thousands of books and other facilities that make one wonder if the place were a dream-land!
Student exchange is not all about studying, these thousands of students who move each semester from one place to another could have stayed home and studied there otherwise; the humane aspect of Erasmus, getting to know new people, having new experiences, coexisting with different people, exchanging cultures, traditions, experiences, and information with the others are important aspects of going on exchange to a foreign country. In fact, the program itself was not randomly named after Erasmus, with some attention to this man’s contribution to the humanist movement and the European Renaissance. Out of the academic life and homework, the students union, Erasmus Students Network (ESN), and other organizations inside and outside the university create another life full of activities; trips, sports, and parties that bring together all kinds of people and get one to discover and experience new aspects of life in this beautiful spot on the planet.
Not very far from the city of Joensuu is Koli national park with fascinating landscapes from above hills overlooking vast lakes full of small islands spread above the calm waters of the lakes as far as the eye can see and surrounded by colorful forests in during the Fall time, and amazing vast white areas in winter, creating breath-taking tableaus created by nature.
With a university that thinks about the all aspects of the life and well-being of its students, student organizations, friends from all over the world, civil society associations, and the loving and helpful local people of Joensuu, homesickness, boredom, or despair seem to be the last feelings that one might experience in such a place that the less to be said about it is AMAZING. That’s why going on exchange was the best decision I have ever made!
To be followed,