I received a unique opportunity to do master studies at Burapha University in Thailand for six months, under the Erasmus Mundus Swap and Transfer project (SAT), which became a life-changing experience for me. During my student exchange, I concluded minor studies from a new academic discipline, which gave me a chance to learn new methodologies and therefore significantly expand my own academic understanding. I also received new wonderful friends and gained many educating experiences, just by openly observing all the new things that were suddenly around me.
We tend to focus on the measurable hard skills that one gains during international mobility, but I would say that the invisible soft skills that one learns are equally – or even more important, than the amount of completed credit points. These soft skills can include achieving a better cultural awareness and tolerance towards new things, understanding various kinds of cross-cultural communication styles and for example endurance in achieving what you wish. Beforehand I could not imagine how difficult it could be to for example buy a fresh, delicious mango or pineapple from a fruit seller, when you do not have a common language. However, people are people everywhere and by taking a bit of time, we can interact with each other, wherever we are. Continue reading Personal growth through new experiences and diverse ways of learning
My March highlight was a very long trip to the land of dancing auroras, snowy horizons and Sami culture: Lapland! And here is why you should definitely, definitelyyyy visit that magical region. 🙂
Lapland is a region that spreads through three countries, namely Norway, Finland and Sweden. I only visited the Finnish part and took a glimpse on the Norwegian one. However, visiting just a part of it was enough to leave me in an “awe”. Lapland is a real heaven. Beauty can be found wherever and whenever the eyes wonder. Sceneries of endless forests coated in unpolluted white snow, coupled with beautiful reflections of the dim sunlight or curtains of Northern Lights are enough to make anyone forget about the miseries of the world.
I mean look at this view #nofilter (and not a great camera either)!
If you’re not convinced yet, let me take you on a tour of my trip…then maybe you will consider it very seriously 🙂 Continue reading Lapland: Land of Miracles
One of the worst things during my childhood was the disappointment over mild and wet winters. Living and growing up in Serbia, I had the opportunity to sometimes experience days with heavy snow, but they were not as good as the ones from the early-December Coca Cola commercials. Learning that my application was accepted and that I will spend my next semester as a student of University of Eastern Finland, I was really happy to prove to myself that true winters do exist. And Finland did not disappoint me. The very first seconds I spent here were an argument good enough: exiting the airport door, every person I saw that night, including me, exhaled the shivering “WHUUH!” . . . and those were our first words here. I had the honor my first day in Finland to be a shiny -27o C one. Arriving in Joensuu from Helsinki, I wanted to take pictures of everything, but the low temperature drained my phone battery. It bothered me for a while, but it showed me that the walks to the University can be much more interesting if you just enjoy a nice sunny day, not with your head buried in your phone.
And the thing is, snow and ice look amazing on Joensuu. A simple walk through the forest and over the frozen lake can leave you speechless. One of my most beautiful experiences was actually getting lost in the forest at night…in the middle of the town, and I’m not even joking. Continue reading A proper winter
I am Katja Kivivainio and I spent a semester in Morocco in The University of Al Akhawayn in Ifrane, which is an American style university in Morocco. I was originally planning to go to Germany or South-Korea…However, life works in mysterious ways and I ended up to Morocco, and this turned out to be one of my best decisions ever. So here are 9 reasons why spending a semester in Morocco was an amazing experience and why I would recommend it.
- New culture
Living in different continent has been an amazing opportunity to see how life in a totally different country. As you might know Morocco is a developing country which main religion is Islam. People are similar and different. There are great night clubs (although selling alcohol to Muslims is banned), but also getting married is one of the most important goals of young people.
Moroccans are very friendly and hospitable. You are more than likely to be invited to a Moroccan family for dinner and of course you will also get a lot of new friends, both local and international. Continue reading 9 reasons Why You Should Do Your Exchange in Morocco
Let me start this off with a short story of my first ever minutes in Finland. Flying through Riga in late August, and after waiting at the airport for a connection flight, at roughly 30°C, of course in full winter clothing, as carrying the jacket and heavy boots was only possible in this way do to the luggage capacity, I got to my flight to Helsinki. Right next to my seat on the not-so-crowded plane was a Finnish pilot, presumably just tagging along this Latvian plain to Helsinki. Slowly we moved from a beautiful sunny day to a dark and cloudy land, and while landing, the flight attendant told the Finnish pilot: ‘Oh, nice summer you have here’, with a big smile on his face. And so went my first shock in Finland, naturally being a temperature shock. But luckily everything kept getting better and better every day since that. Continue reading A Finnish adventure
On a rather ordinary appearing day in September, I exit the terminal of Nikola Tesla airport, near Belgrade, Serbia. It is + 31 C, and I am wearing my hiking boots with woolen socks. A local friend has come to pick me up with his dad’s car. I scramble for a seatbelt that doesn’t exist, and mumble something about making a law about having seatbelts in cars, to which my friend cheerfully replies: ”Oh, it is a law”. As we drive to Novi Sad, in a car that is in Finnish standards un-drivable, through small villages with dirty unclothed children petting scruffy stray dogs, only one thought frantically blinks in my head: I will not survive here. The culture shock is evident.
Thankfully, when we arrive to Novi Sad, the environment is drastically different. Wide streets lined with colourful and unique buildings and people that look well of and seem friendly and warm, countless of restaurants and coffee places tucked away in small idyllic pedestrian streets, with huge terraces that have brightly coloured chairs. One would never believe, that two places so fundamentally different exist merely tens of kilometres away from each other. Continue reading A story of a Finn learning to let go
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. Continue reading Going on Exchange, the Best Decision I have ever made!