From Germany to the North of Finland – Alina and Judith experienced during their exchange studies at the University of Lapland challenges but even more unique and enjoyable moments with fellow students, Finnish sauna and ice-swimming tradition and even their studies at ULapland!
Alina (24, Goethe University Frankfurt) and Judith (24, Justus Liebig University Giessen) are two of 149 international students who have decided to study abroad at the University of Lapland in the autumn semester of 2021. But why exactly did they choose Rovaniemi or Finland in general?
Actually, it wasn't Judith's first choice to go to Rovaniemi, but she is super glad she did and doesn't regret it at all. Alina definitely wanted to go to Finland, and the decision between Turku and Rovaniemi was an easy one for her after some Google research - snow, northern lights and the northern Finnish tradition of taking a sauna and then jumping into ice-cold water. She can especially recommend the Kesärafla Summer Sauna in Ounasvaara!
However, Finland as a destination country for her stay did not only have cultural aspects for Alina. The outstanding higher education system was another decisive aspect. The Arctic Studies Programme (ASP) stands out with its competent lecturers, wide range of teaching content, interactive courses and excursions. She was particularly interested in courses about the indigenous people of the Sami. There are no comparable courses in Germany, which makes the teaching at University of Lapland unique. Intercultural courses such as "Understanding Finland" were a valuable help for both of them to better understand the mentality of the Finnish people and to reduce intercultural barriers during their stay. One thing that struck them as particularly positive about Finnish mentality was the idea of trust and safety - leaving your laptop unattended in one of the cosy libraries or cafeterias is absolutely no problem, and even being out at night was never associated with fear.
If you are interested in Rovaniemi, one thing must be clear beforehand - you don't come for the city life, but for the nature! Judith and Alina lived in DAS Eero, a student dormitory close to the university. This means, however, that they lived a 30-minute walk away from the city centre of Rovaniemi and that a bike is definitely recommended. But it also means that they were surrounded by water and nature! No more than a 5-minute walk and you are at the water, no matter which direction you go.
Living under one roof with almost exclusively other international students makes it super easy to socialise - whether in the laundry room, during orientation week or through the many events organised by Erasmus Student Network Lapland (ESN). The Faculty of Art and Design also hosts art exhibitions by, among others, Erasmus students, and offers networking opportunities at receptions prepared for exhibition openings.
What made it difficult for the two of them, however, was the preparation of timetables, since courses at ULapland do not start at the same time and can overlap sometimes. The darkness also occasionally made it difficult for them to get out of bed in the morning. Despite this, both of them can definitely say that they would choose to spend a semester abroad at ULapland again anytime. A whole week of orientation in the beginning, the university itself and the countless leisure activities that Rovaniemi and Lapland offer made their semester abroad a unique experience and one they would never want to miss.