Journey to Helsinki, Finland

Our 3SCSR international student from Bangladesh, MOHAMMAD-AL FATTAH, is currently doing a semester abroad in Helsinki under the Erasmus grant. We hope that his story below will inspire other students to break out of their comfort zone and explore new opportunities. Meanwhile, good luck Fattah and see you next semester!


Alhamdulillah, finally I have something special to write about. I would like to start my story by thanking Allah to give me such an opportunity to see a glimpse of his creation beyond my imagination. The study was never being so appealing to me before I got the chance to Study at Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Science for one semester in Finland where you may experience the world-class education also the most honest and livable city in the world. Finnish mobile games are the most successful. If you ever played angry birds or their recent games clash of clans, you may already understand what I am talking about. In addition, Finland is the birth place of Nokia phone and till today I am using it. It is also a great opportunity to see the tech giant with your own eyes.  In addition, you may experience the Northern light the amazing Aurora in winter and visit the most famous Santa clause’s office at Lapland and so on. Furthermore, most exciting advantages of this exchange program is you can travel all around the European countries and others nearby countries. For example, I got a chance to visit to Saint Petersburg, Russia for 8 days study trip ^_^. However, there are so many things to write about and you may experience all of these endless excitement once you decide to come here so what are you waiting for 😊

I am writing this for those who really want to break all the cultural barrier and experience the same world in a whole new different way. I will try to give not all but some crucial information that will help you to apply precisely for your next study destination as an exchange student. In addition, I would like to write it in a chronological manner thus it will be a little bit easy for you to follow when you will middle of the application procedure. Let’s dig into it.

First thing first:

Be confident and determined and most importantly get rid of all the negative probability that you would never be chosen by your own university or the university you are going to apply for. Just keep faith in you and proceed to the next important step of your life.

Explore all the opportunities:

Be curious and always try to explore all the exchange opportunities posted on UTM international page which is given below:

http://www.utm.my/international/study-abroad/

And try to look which one fits you best according to your preference. Write down all the important deadlines. Make an appointment with UTM international office to discuss your exchange options related any further queries. The staff of UTM international student is helpful and I must say that is the place you have to go a lot of times for sure. Thus, always try to make a good relationship with them and try to keep in touch to get all the possible up to date important information as every university has their own deadlines and they knows better.

Financial Support:

This is one of the most crucial matters before you choose your exchange study destination. Although most of the university will provide you at least a little portion of your study expenses, for example, you may not need to pay for your accommodation for the first month or not to pay at all, but it is always recommended to watch out carefully before choosing your destination as it might end up with unpredictable expenses. Read all the details about financial aids and discuss it with UTM international staffs for further clarifications. In my case, I got the grant from Erasmus+ which will cover all of my accommodation, Food, and daily expenses including two-way air trip from Malaysia to Finland. However, still you have to pay the normal tuition fees to UTM but you do not need to pay anything in your host university but bear in mind not just for tuition fees country like Finland is very expensive among others European countries when it comes to daily life expenditure cost, for example, a 500 ml Pepsi could cost you RM 10 or one average meal RM 45. Thus, my suggestion would gather adequate knowledge about financial supports before you choose your university.

Preparing Documents:

After finalizing and narrowing down your chosen university list it is time for some real work. There are some documents you will need which I have given below:

  1. Study exchange program form: You can download it from the given website above. In this application, you must write about your co-curriculum, achievement, and special activity. I literally wrote everything I got thus I will suggest write down everything you have. Every point you will add in these sections has its own significance which may differentiate your application from others and keep you ahead a little bit every time. Another important part of this form is your study plan. Write your genuine interest why want to go abroad and give some solid reason to choose you and research a little bit about that university which area they are good at and write down about it consequently they will understand that you are prepared and know what you are doing. For instance, Finland is famous for Nokia and how wrote about it ha-ha ^_^ although I am really looking forward to seeing it someday. Then most important section is choosing the subject that you are going to study and which subject match with which subject of UTM that you are going to transfer after completing your exchange period. You will also need a recommendation letter from your respective academic advisor and approval from Faculty dean once you select your desired subjects. Finally, you may leave section blank E, F, G, H as it is.
  2. Academic results slips
  3. CV (give some quality time on this as it has lot of significance on your approval, should be one page and you may find some good formats on online)

Subject selection:

I passed some serious bad situation at this moment. It was hard to choose subjects that really match with my current study as the subject name is not similar and there is a little information about it. As time was ticking I had to act fast and I contacted with my academic advisor respected JOHAN BIN MOHAMAD SHARIF sir. We have discussed for hours to find out which subject will be proper for me. It was not that easy though but for our hard work, we able to select some of my subject and thanks lot to our respected faculty Dean ABDUL SAMAD BIN HAJI ISMAIL sir who inspired me a lot and gave some suggestions about choosing subjects. Then one more person I would like to mention in this moment that our favorite SCSR course coordinator ma’am MARINA MD ARSHAD. She was a life savior with who I finally able to select all my subjects. And then one more Person I would like thanks is my Deputy Registrar, Mr Taha bin Othman sir. He is a really kind person and I suggest you visit him if you need any kind study related difficulties. They are always waiting for us to help.

Thanks to all who gave their precious time. My advice will be contact with your academic advisor and course coordinator as soon as possible and discuss subject matters to avoid any further difficulties that arise letter in my case. However, there is some good news for you which I did not know before came here. You can change your subject once you came here and change your learning agreement letter on in the middle of your exchange period. Although it could be different in others university. I am lucky as I am allowed to change my subjects after coming here. Even I can take any subjects which are not on the list as long as there are seats available. Remember one thing host university will only post subjects on their university website where seats are guaranteed for exchange students, but you can always choose subjects beyond that if that subjects still have some room for you. Finally, one more thing doesn’t get too much worried about subjects be calm and take it easy as I believe exchange is not just for study you can learn from every piece of the things here so don’t go so hard to matched 100% instead of that keep some of your time for visiting or sightseeing.

Getting Selected by UTM and host University:

After submitting all documents, you may need to wait for a couple of weeks to get notified about the final decision through email. I was really surprised when I got my email from Metropolia University that I am selected for the exchange program with a full scholarship. That moment was magical and joyful. It was always my dream to experience to explore the world and I know it is just a beginning and long way to go.

Applying for Accommodation:

For Metropolia university they have their own accommodation system which is called HOAS. Once they sent you the approval letter and learning agreement with scholarship HOAS will contact you. There are several room variations and costing according to your preference. You have to pay a deposit money around 500 euro for booking your room.

Besides this, I will suggest choosing the lowest one which is shared an apartment. This will not just save your money but also give you an amazing opportunity to experience other nationalities culture. For me, I got a big apartment which is a shared room. There are four rooms and kitchen and fully furnished. As a roommate, I got a Korean student and in others room, there are two students from Thailand and one from Hungary, one from the Netherlands, and another one from Algeria. As you see each of them comes from a different country which gives our apartment truly multicultural flavor. Which you may not get in an expensive single room. But again, it depends up to your preference. For me, its great opportunity to makes the friend from the different country and see their way life and trust me you will never regret this opportunity.  You will never feel alone here once you blend with them and hang out with them. I just want to share one thing, for example, every week we cook our own traditional food and share with us which is marvelous. You cannot compare the joy I have gotten from that with anything ^_^

Applying for Visa:

Right after getting approved the first obstacle just passed but one more thing you must do as fast as possible that is applying for the visa if you need it. Some important link I have given below, and you may search for further information on study in Finland website anytime.

https://enterfinland.fi/eServices/

http://www.finland.org.my/public/default.aspx?nodeid=38528&contentlan=2&culture=en-US

Applying online is cheaper than applying by papers. Besides this, there are several documents you are going to need but it’s not that hard to manage. Once submitted you may get the decision in three weeks or sooner.

 

Getting ready for the Ice-cold weather:

First of all, I would like to say Finnish weather is magical and cold as ice at the same time. Plane your shopping list precisely. In Malaysia it is hard to find good winter clothes for -10 or -20-degree temperature and expensive too. However, it is always good to buy everything from your home country as you may find everything here but more expensive than you think. Buy at least one pair of good winter ski gloves (waterproof), wooly socks, thermal inner, Neck warmer (Very important), wooly hat, High-quality waterproof shoes, Good waterproof heavy jacket at least two. I provide some important link below where you may have a look.

http://www.universaltraveller.com/

Tips: if you found those too expensive for example the jackets are expensive. In that case, you can search for the second-hand shop which cheap as MacDonald’s 😉 you may found good jackets in only RM 20-25. Which is pretty good deal and worth a try. You may find one shop near Macdonald’s opposite of the road there is big second-hand shop trust me it is worth a try. And one last tip is in Finland it may be little bit expensive but very good quality. And, you will get a lot more variations which are more fashionable. Also, here in Finland, you will some second-hand shop too among them UFF shop are very popular where you may find a jacket for only 5-20 euro which is also a good deal. But again, it’s up to your preference.

Booking Ticket:

If you are lucky enough your scholarship may cover the air trip too. In my case, Erasmus provided 1100 euro which is enough for me to book a round trip in economy class in Qatar airlines. But something amazing happens when I reached hammed international airport Doha, Qatar I just came to know that as a complimentary they are providing me business class. That was surprising, and the journey was just amazing. I couldn’t ask for more ^_^ Thanks to Allah. Then the journey begins from Doha to Helsinki international airport, Finland. It was total 21 hours journey in total including transit time.

Finally, dreams come true:

We arrived at Helsinki at 7 a.m. and A student guide was waiting for us to greet us warmly and take us to our Dormitory. And the rest of my journey I will post the letter on. However, there so many things to mention and if something is still unclear let me know I will more than happy to help you as much as possible. Keep me in your prayers and thanks a lot for reading this until the end and wish you all the best for you next exchange period.

 

MOHAMMAD-AL FATTAH

Metric No: A15CS4007

3SCSR

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johor Bahru