Olen Helsingissa! Or something like that. Anyway, I’ve been in Helsinki about a week and so far so good. Lots of form filling, lots of queueing, lots of bureaucracy. I’ve never moved countries before, and apparently it’s complicated.
I was met at the airport by the lovely Ulla, a student at the University of Helsinki who took me to my new apartment slightly to the North of the centre, but jumping on a commuter train was pretty straightforward. In standard student-hall fashion, the apartment itself looks quite a lot like a prison. A very expensive, almost four-hundred euros a month prison, located in a concrete jungle of tower blocks and underpasses. I guess I could have booked a hostel and found somewhere when I got here, but I didn’t really fancy living by myself, and heading off to a new city it was at least nice to know I had somewhere to go when I got there. Plus student halls are a great way to meet people, as everyone here is in basically the same situation as me, finding their way around a new place and a new university system. AND we have a sauna in our building, with a lovely rooftop terracey part to cool down on when you’ve had enough of the heat, which is a bit bloody cool if you ask me. Or hot, haha.
There don’t seem to be many English people here, but lots of Belgians, Germans, Aussies, and especially Italians, which is great for me as I’d originally planned to go to Italy on my year abroad but didn’t get a place. Turns out I’m speaking lots of Italian anyway! Everyone is really sociable and with no courses running until this week or even later theres been lots of partying, which is always a good way to meet people. It is taking its toll on my bank balance though, drinking in Helsinki is very expensive. Along with eating, travelling, and pretty much being alive. A beer in a normal bar is around 5E, and although there are happy hours and cheapy student places it’s a bit of a shock trying to go out at night here!
I still haven’t actually signed up for many courses as most of the ones I’d planned to take don’t seem to be running in English, which is slightly frustrating, and the system here is so open and complicated that its really difficult to work out what I can actually do. It’s all left completely up to the individual to take the right number of courses to make up their credits, from whatever department they feel like, and as well as lecture courses you can do faculty exams, where you just study the set texts and then turn up for the exam. Without a DoS or anyone to figure it all out with it’s pretty hard to sort it all out in terms of workload and credits, and all of the courses start at different points in the year and are worth different numbers of credits. So far so confusing! I’m sure it’ll work out in the end though. They do have a student tutor system though which has been really helpful, where each group (generally divided by faculty so I’m with all the Sociology students) has a Finnish student to help show them around and do practical stuff like getting a travel card, a finnish phone number and all of that kind of thing. Ours is really lovely, and even took us to a party at some Finnish guy’s place, where we met real live Finns, who were pretty friendly once they realised that we weren’t rude, we just didn’t speak Finnish.
Today was the student ‘carnival’ although it wasn’t really much of a carnival, more of a freshers’ fair, with lots of societies stalls and stuff to sign up to. Most of them are in Finnish which makes it a bit tricky, but there is an English-language choir and theatre, and with some of them it doesn’t really make much difference. And they have about five different christian unions! None of which I joined. Oh and a bondage/S&M society. Surely you can pursue such deviance in your own time? I’m afraid I didn’t sign up for that one either.
I’ve also failed to learn more than the fifty or so words of finnish I arrived with, because everyone speaks embarrassingly perfect English. And Swedish. And Finnish obviously. And normally another European language like French or German or whatever. Puts us to shame or what?