Three things I wish I knew when I first got to Oulu

I came to Oulu last year as an exchange student, and it was my first visit to a Nordic country. The food, the weather, and the culture in Finland are very different from my home country China. After living here for a year, I want to share some tips that I find important and worth mentioning.

Apply for a Finnish bank account ASAP

A Finnish bank account might not be an absolute necessity for an exchange student. First, working or having an internship in Finland requires a Finnish bank account, making it a must-have for degree students as almost every degree programme includes an internship (Advanced Practical Training).

As a degree student, I find having a Finnish bank account is very necessary.

Secondly, you can verify yourself using Finnish bank credentials after applying for a Finnish ID card from the police station. This makes life much easier in Finland. You can log in to almost all Finnish services using the e-identification, for example, the student healthcare services provided by YTHS.

How to survive your first Finnish winter

I am writing this blog at the end of October, and it's already cold and dark in Oulu. If you are worried about surviving your first winter in Oulu, please keep reading!

You may have heard people say there's no bad weather, only bad clothes. Completely true! So, if you are not used to cold weather, it's time to equip yourself with warm clothes, winter shoes (In Finnish: talvikengät) and woollen socks.

Warm clothes for a cosy winter.

Also, the sauna is definitely a good idea in the winter. I love the Finnish sauna! I have the sauna just once a week only because I can reserve the sauna from PSOAS apartments at a maximum of once a week. I love going from the sauna to the snowy outside, just sitting on a bench outside for a while feels so refreshing and peaceful.

It's also good to start taking Vitamin-D supplements since we don't get enough sunshine during the Finnish winter. Another thing I would recommend in winter is coffee as I find it gives me power. Although I didn't drink much coffee back in China, I now start my day with a cup of coffee every morning. If you haven't drunk much coffee before, why not try it in the country with the highest coffee consumption? You can find many options in the supermarket, and my favourite is blueberry coffee.

I love starting my morning with a cup of coffee!

I know it can be discouraging to get out when the weather outside is gloomy, which is often the case during the Finnish winter. But going out can always be refreshing and rewarding.

Staying active and participating in activities is important during the winter. Also, good friends and good food will always make a gloomy winter day cosy and happy.

English, English, English

When I first arrived was the first time in my life that I needed to use a lot of English in everyday life. If you'd be having the same situation as I had last year and feel a bit overwhelmed by the English environment, I recommend practising as much as possible.

Most people you meet in Oulu are not native English speakers, so don't feel pressure using English even if your English isn't perfect. It's normal to make mistakes and have misunderstandings using foreign languages. Please don't be shy; use it more!

The university is international, so go ahead and enjoy the cultures and languages Oulu offers. Your English will improve a lot!

In this blog, I included three things I wish I had known when I first got to Oulu. I hope this can help you settle in Oulu. Have a cosy winter and a good school year, everyone! :)

About the author

Peng Zuojia is from China and is currently pursuing her master's degree in Computer Science and Engineering. She was an exchange student last year and decided to stay because she enjoys the student life at the University of Oulu. As a language and sports lover, she finds Oulu has a lot to offer!