Naureen, tell us a little bit about your background.
I was born and raised in Tanzania, East Africa and lived there for the first 19 years of my life before coming to Germany. After completing my A levels I decided I wanted to go to university somewhere in Europe. I applied to universities in countries including The Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK. My mum lives in Dortmund and one day came across an ISM advert on a billboard. She knew I was unhappy with my first study choice in Dresden and encouraged me to apply. I have not looked back ever since.
Finland is quite a contrast to Tanzania. Why did you choose to go to the North?
Contrast is exactly why I chose to go and study there. Finland seemed like an ‘exotic` choice for me and I felt it would add an extra interesting aspect to my studying background.
I have also heard so much about the Finnish education system and wanted to experience and build my own opinions about it. Together with the Erasmus grant, living in Scandinavia for a few months seemed like an opportunity I would be stupid to miss.
What did you like about your semester in Finland? Which similarities or differences in contrast to the ISM did you notice?
While in Finland I studied at the Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences at the Porvoo campus – about 50 minutes and €2 bus ride away from the capital, Helsinki. The size of the school is pretty much similar to ISM.
There was a VERY low power distance between the lecturers and the students which meant we even called the teachers by their first names. This was weird and took some time to get used to.
The classrooms were also very different to ISM. They had a few of the traditional classrooms but they also had many classrooms which felt very ‘chilled`. Each classroom also had a different layout and some had even just beanbags on the floor and no desks at all.
There was a lot of contact with the local Finnish degree students, as we exchange students were not separated from them but rather integrated. We had all our classes with them.
Everyday during lunch hour there was music playing in the lobby of the university with the latest hit songs and students promoting events and other projects of theirs. This was pretty cool.
The student cafeteria in Finland was AMAZING. €2.40 for a meal. There was a salad and bread section (how I already miss the rye bread!) that was all you can eat and then we had a choice of 2-3 hot meals, including a vegetarian option.
How was the quality of the courses? What courses did you like most?
I can sum up the courses into two words ‘’GROUP WORK.’’ We had a lot of group assignments in Finland – for me it was a little bit too much. The courses are also not as structured as they are at ISM. During my whole semester we only had two exams. Our grades came mostly from assignments, coursework and peer assessments.
Classes for me usually started at 9:00 and ended at 14:00. My favorite course was Events Management where we got to plan and organize the Annual Alumni event for 200 attendees. They said this year was the best and most successful so far!
What did you do in your leisure time?
In my free time I explored the natural surroundings. Finland is such a beautiful country! The forests were great to walk in, peaceful and quiet. I actually did not realize how quiet Finland is until I came back to Germany.
I met so many amazing people, in the evenings many of us exchange students would cook together or just hand out with some music in the background.
The nightlife in Porvoo to be honest was almost non existent. There was one club (La Fiesta) which on a packed night would have maybe 25 people on the dancefloor. (Mehh, I don’t really recommend this club).
Porvoo also has many restaurants to explore. My personal favorite was ‘Rafael’s Steakhouse & Bistro’. I was pleasantly surprised with the prices in relation to the service we got and the whole atmosphere.
Germany is colder than Finland in the winter! When I told people I was going to Finland they said I was crazy and that I was going to freeze. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how ´not cold` it was.
Finnish people are so friendly! Everyone is also mindful of the people around them. Everyone that I came across in Finland spoke English, so there were no communication problems.
The rye bread for me has to be on my highlight list! (I will pay good money for anyone to come back with some for me! lol)
How do you think your time abroad has helped your studies and/or your career?
It has taught me to have an open mind when going into new tasks or new places. I can now work better in teams and am more ready to adjust to different cultures, working styles…etc. It has also made me more confident to take risks. Lastly, after my hands on experience with events management, it might just have just reassured me that this is the management field I want to specialize in.
Author: Naureen Gamdust