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University life in the UK is Unbelievable

Life is pretty crazy, isn’t it? All of a sudden you wake up in a new country, still half asleep staring at the roof, and try figure out how you made it there. The sun is shining between the curtains, someone yells at the corridor, and the alarm clock is not-so-quietly reminding the lecture starts in fifteen so snoozing is not longer an option. Even now after two months, waking up here in the UK feels weird.

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  So happy the lecture finished in time to see this.

University of Hertfordshire. When uni started in Finland two years ago, I made sure everyone knew that this is where I would end up in for my double degree year. And here I am, and it is not what I had expected.

The first two months have been amazing. Crazy. Full of adventures. Filled with countless spontaneous trips and social gatherings, and lectures and group meetings and LRC evenings. Have luckily not needed to pull an allnighter there, been close though with the deadlines approaching…

I’ve met people from so many countries I’ve lost count, made friends with truly spectacular individuals and laughed until I had tears in my eyes. Have even managed to return the first assignments in time, join sports clubs, and sort out a part-time job for the rest of the year. It’s been exhausting of course, this life of mine, yet I wouldn’t change a minute of it.

Going abroad teaches you not only about the world and other countries and cultures, but of yourself.

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St Albans – this is where I will graduate next year

You are actually much stronger, much wiser, much more equipped to deal with changes and conflict than you knew. There is this strange energy you have the first weeks of being abroad. You make friends without realizing, get to know the weird habits of your new flatmates, get all settled in to the tiny room you now call home. You learn to read the situation and know what topics are okay to talk about with whom, start to know your way around the campus and the city, and maybe learn the art of small talk the locals seem so fond of. Yet there is not really something as me-time, because let’s face it there is no time to waste staying home alone, what if you miss out! The weeks pass by and then one day it’s Friday night, you’ve been home all day doing nothing, and for the first time you actually can just take a deep breath and stop to think.

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A day trip to Cambridge

I smile when I think of the things that have happened, the kindness of strangers that have now become dear friends. The time  I was really ill – freshers flu is a real deal – and came home and my amazing flatmate had bought medicine and left it outside my door. Or the night it was freezing outside as we waited for the bus home and someone gave me their jacket even though they probably needed it more. The spontaneous travels, the laughter-filled wine Fridays, the “I’m coming over right now, let’s talk” phone calls from a dear friend. Teaching people to cook, and running around the campus trying to figure out where the pizzas are being delivered to . We study on campus, we live on campus. It’s all here – and it takes less than two minutes to walk both to the shop and to the lectures from home! It is overwhelming and stressful and tiring at times, yet I feel I would have missed out on so much had I stayed somewhere else. 

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An epic road trip to Glasgow – the street art there was just stunning!

Overall, I cannot say I miss Finland. I miss certain aspects of it, like family and my close friends that are now scattered around the world doing their exchange. And the academic world here is quite different from what I’m used to so there is real pressure to do well for the final year… But with the support Herts has to offer, and thanks to my lovely local and international friends, I think the next few months will be just as great as the last two.

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A weekend trip to Edinburgh. This trip proved that spontaneous decisions made over a game of pool and table tennis can lead to truly amazing holidays & new friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ten Reasons to go on an Exchange – you’ve already applied, haven’t you?

A student exchange. When I was fourteen the travel fever rose to the extremes and my Oxford-dream of intensive studies changed to sunbathing in Malta for a month. Don’t know if I learned much English, but it was fun anyway. A few years later it was time to step up the game and fly a bit further away from the nest – off to New Zealand and to an all-girls school for a year. School uniform, a new culture, an experience of a lifetime. That’s where it all started, a chain reaction, and soon I found myself looking for jobs abroad. Me, back then a 18-year-old naive little girl, all alone headed to the big world during the best age for some serious studying.

Not even once have I regretted.

You should definitely go on an exchange.

You grow as a person, you experience new things, you get to network. When meeting new people you absorb some of their life experience, start to see the bigger picture, maybe understand something new. You get inspired, might even get a gentle push to start following your dreams and become the entrepreneur you’ve always dreamed of. Or find the courage to follow a completely different career path, something you never thought was an option, to jump into the unknown with a smile.

Going on an exchange and working abroad encouraged me to change my career. Even ended up getting my favourite quote, my guideline in life, tattooed into my arm “vaikka juuret ovat maassa, siiville voit silti nousta” (Something along the lines of: even though the roots are in the ground, you can still rise onto your wings). Time for a new school, new stories. It’s still a year and a half before my next exchange, this time to Great Britain I hope. I smile when I think about that, Soon I’ll get to go.

Why don’t you go as well?

Where to go, and how?

University students have a lot more places to choose from than the shy sixteen year olds. The world has become a playground, jumping from an island to the next after employment opportunities or let’s say a 6 month exchange into Singapore is no longer rare. When you are wanting to go abroad, the easiest thing is to consult your school – take advantage of their partnership networks. They might even be able to help you out financially.

And if there’s a place you really want to go to but the school cannot help you with, check out Kilroy or other travel agencies who can help you out. Or be different like me (read annoying enough), plan and organize your own trip to the last detail and just ask for the principal’s approval… Getting that “Hmm okay, I guess you can do it” felt insanely good. Academically, you might fall a little behind if you go off by yourself – but experience-wise it’ll so be worth it.

When choosing the place, I’d think a little further than where to get the tastiest cocktails while chilling on a hammock. A couple of months checking out the best beaches and paradise islands sounds amazing, but challenging yourself in a prestige university or a traineeship in the fast-paced corporate world might prove more rewarding. Of course everyone has their own personality and goals, but I reckon for a fellow business student seeing the boom of Asia or the solid business hubs in Europe & the USA might offer some amazing career opportunities after graduation. Think on what will benefit you the most – there’ll be plenty of time for a beach holiday later on. Or even better, compromise, and head off to NZ – you can go surfing after work!

If you don’t go, you’ll miss out on so much.

Not everyone is adventurous, not everyone is interested in being international, so what – do what’s best for yourself. But if you have even a little flame burning inside you, a voice whispering stories of the wonders of the world and butterflies flapping their wings in your stomach every time you hear about someone else’s experiences then stop and think. What do you have to lose?

Opportunity cost, one of the first things I learned when Business School started last autumn. What do you need to let go of to get what you want, the price of your choice. If you don’t go, you won’t miss out on your life in Finland or wherever you are from. Your circle of friends will remain unchanged, the days rolling forward as always. A cup of coffee every morning, summer, autumn, winter, spring + maybe a deserved holiday? And again. The student parties and social relationships enlivening your weekdays, soon you will graduate and join the work force. Yay. You can execute your high school + university + work + retirement plan to the last detail. Travel when you are retired, having created a marvellous career, once the kids have moved out, when you have the time and money. When. If. Then. Just not yet.

But if you go now then.. Well I promise you’ll have fun. You are still young, isn’t now the best time to go, nothing is holding you down. When on an exchange you’ll meet new people, see new places. Oh and experience some setbacks and misfortunes and at times life in new culture sucks – that I promise as well. But you will grow as a person thanks to that.

The reason I encourage everyone to live in a new culture rather than just to travel there, is experiencing the normal everyday life. When you travel you’ll be enjoying a honeymoon; everything is new and beautiful like Instagram-photos, or dirty and dilapidated and shockingly exotic – depends on where you go. But you see everything from an outsider’s point of view, you taste the local cuisine, hear the music. You scratch the surface of the iceberg. But during the exchange you dive into the culture, dig a little deeper. Of course six months or even a year won’t let you experience, or understand, everything but nevertheless it’s a good start.

School will continue when you come back. The friends will not have vanished, and hey I doubt Finland has changed a lot. You’ll change, even a little. Might get a new perspective, maybe learn to appreciate your own culture in a new way, to genuinely cherish the free education. At least you’ll make friends. You’ll return happy and ready to get back to studies – overall, everything is pretty darn good over here. Or you come back, get a culture shock, want to improve everything and then filled with vigour find a way to lift Finland into a new economic boom while planning your new trip. Not bad.

And if nothing else, at least you don’t have to slouch in the snow slush for once.

I can’t wait for the snow to melt properly…