Exchange in Oulu – preparing for the adventure!
In September 1st 2011, I arrived in Oulu for what I can consider, with no doubt, the best time of my whole life. After I’d been accepted as an exchange student in Oulu Business School I started wondering how my life would be, living 13 000 km away from my family and friends… Many people asked me why going to such a distant place, where winter is so harsh and in a city so different and so far to the North of the world. My answer was always: you just answered your own question. Finland is an amazing country, with many natural landscapes, the best educational system in the world and always appears on the top of various rankings, such as quality of life and safety. I come from a tropical country, where winter average temperature is around 15ºC, the length of the days doesn’t change a lot during the year and, by going to Finland, I’d have the unique opportunity to live a totally different experience. One year before my decision to go to Finland, I met a very nice Finnish girl who had her exchange semester in my university and we became really good friends. Listening to her telling me all about Oulu and her homeland really motivated me to go there. So, I got in contact with the Oulu University International Office and Oulu Business School and they were extremely helpful with all my questions about the exchange. The exchange application was done over Internet, which makes things easier and faster and in no time I had my acceptance letter. Getting an apartment was also really easy, as well as the visa process. Exactly 15 days after I had sent the documents, my visa was ready to be picked up in the Finnish Consulate in São Paulo city.
Exchange in Oulu – arrival and first impressions!
So the great day came! One of the best things of the exchange programme in Oulu is that the University has a Kummi Programme, in which local students help international students with their arrival in Oulu. That is really helpful ‘cause you’re arriving in a new country, with a different language, without having any idea on where to go, how the prices are, where to go shopping for groceries and the kummi (=student tutor) will help you with that. My kummi was amazing!! She went to downtown to pick me up at the bus station and bring me to my new home, helping me to settle down. Before that she made several contacts by e-mail, giving me hints, answering all my questions but the best thing was having someone waiting for me. So I arrived in my new home at 9:00 pm with nothing to eat and tired after a long trip and with a feeling of loneliness. But that didn’t last long cause I heard some noises on the corridor and met one of my flat mates and his kummi and immediately they invited me to a barbecue where I met some of my first and best friends here in Oulu. During the next days the Orientation Program took place, where we got to know better the University, the student guilds, the academic program and (in my opinion one of the most interesting lectures) the way Finns are. All of those events were really helpful. The International Office did an amazing job!!
Exchange in Oulu – classes and parties!
Classes were really different from my country. At the University of Oulu the courses are taught in two blocks every semester, which makes each course very fast and with lots of things to study in a short time. In Brazil, classes last the whole semester with mandatory attendance and lectures (most of them) twice a week. I really don’t know which way I prefer ‘cause both of them have advantages. In Oulu I could notice that courses were more like on a self-study basis, which I find great as you are forced to organize your time in order to handle the course load. During the first week there was a fair called Vulcanalia at the university presenting some of the student organizations and with a big party on the last day which was really great!! Also, one thing that really amazed me was the invitation from the City Hall for a cocktail event, where the Mayor welcomed new international students to Oulu. Partying in Oulu is very nice when you have a group of friends to hang out with, there are many nightclubs to go to and great music, but be prepared to pay a small fortune for a drink in some of them :). Partying is a very important part of the exchange, as it’s there where you’ll create your best memories and make some really good friends, so don’t miss them!! Another good thing about Oulu is that the city is flat and everybody has a bike, so you can just ride to the parties and to your classes even when it’s really dark and cold. A Finn once told me: “there is never a bad weather, only bad clothes”. One can see the truth in it when it’s -25ºC and one can easily ride a bike or walk anywhere if wearing the right outfit. In Oulu I saw snow for the first time in my life, although nothing could beat the experience of watching the Aurora Borealis (= northern lights) from my bedroom window!!
André L. Lanza, former exchange student
Universidade de São Paulo (USP), Brazil
Last updated: 27.6.2013