Experience report

Experience report
ANR: 837737
Name: Lucas Offermans
E-mail: [email protected]
Exchange semester: Autumn
Academic year: 2013-2014
Host University: Hanken School of Economics
Country: Finland
TOPIC: Admission, arrival, housing
How was your arrival organized? Did someone pick you up from the airport/station? Was an
orientation or introduction activity organized? How was accommodation organized? Does the
university provide you with accommodation? What kind of accommodation does the university
provide? Did you have to book your accommodation in advance or did you have to search for a place
to live after you arrived?
The arrival was very well organized by my host university. We could make use of a pickup service
which meant that there was somebody at the airport at the moment of arrival who would bring you to
your accommodation. In Helsinki, there is a special organization, HOAS, which arrange the
accommodation for exchange students. Because they have a limited amount of rooms available you
have to be on time with the registration. Unfortunately I was too late with my registration so I did not
get a room from HOAS and had to find accommodation on my own on the private market. It took a
while but eventually I found a nice apartment. HOAS has several locations throughout Helsinki where
they offer apartments. They try to put students from the same university at the same location which is
nice but the apartments I have seen were quit basic. There is a common area with a small kitchen, a
table and 4 chairs and there is a toilet and a shower and 3 bedrooms. These bedrooms had
A bed, wardrobe, closet a desk and two chairs but I think the number of people in an apartment can
differ per location. I have to say that my apartment had more luxury but I did not have much contact
with my roommates, so I think it is an advantage to live together with exchange students from the
same university. You can go to Helsinki before you have an accommodation but because the prices
for hostels are quite expensive it is recommended to book your accommodation in advance.
TOPIC: Location of university/city
Please describe the city you lived in. Where is the university located in the city? What is the best
place to go to eat/drink/dance/do sports/etc.? What are interesting things to see and do in your host
city? What was different than in Tilburg?
The university is located close to the center of the city. There is a metro line in Helsinki and to reach
the university you need to get out in one of the metro stops in the center. From there you have to walk
5 minutes, although it is also possible to take a bus or tram
The sport facilities are arranged by Unisport. They have several locations throughout Helsinki and you
are free to choose which you want to use. There was a small one very close to the university and a
bigger one close to the University of Helsinki, which is located really in the center of Helsinki.
I did not go out for dinner so often so I cannot give any recommendations for good restaurants, but
the tutors, a group of Finnish students from hanken who arranged a lot for the exchange students,
provided us with a nice guide with the best restaurants, pubs and clubs in Helsinki. If you want to go
just for a few drinks in a relaxed pub without loud music, I can recommend Kallio. This is a district in
Helsinki with a lot a bars with relative low prices for the drinks. For the real night life in the clubs, there
is a lot of choice in Helsinki. Especially the clubs with special drink offers were popular because the
prices are quit high. On Wednesday night, Amarillo had cheap drinks and on Sunday night Tiger was
a nice place to go. Tiger is located on top of a mall so you had an overview over a part of Helsinki.
Furthermore, Aussie club and Aussie bar were nice places to go but I think the place we spend the
most nights was Casa. This was located in a small building of the University and there were a lot of
parties over here.
A big difference with the nightlife in Tilburg is the fact that in Helsinki most places are or real clubs or
real bars, instead of the combination of both we are used to in Tilburg like Bolle and Brandpunt.
Furthermore, where the Netherlands almost everybody use bike, in Helsinki most people use the
public transport. It can be useful when you live in the city center to have a bike but there are trams,
metro’s and busses so it will not be necessary.
Helsinki has some nice things to offer like the white church at the senate square, the red church and
the island Suomenlinna (a former fortress). Especially in December the center looks very nice with a
lot of Christmas decorations.
TOPIC: Academics
Which courses did you take and why? Which courses would you recommend? What did the courses
add to your program at Tilburg University? How does the university compare to Tilburg University
concerning the level of the courses, use of extra material, level of English, workload, etc.? Overall,
were you happy with your academic achievements during your exchange? Please describe the
campus of your host university.
The courses I took where all 8 ECTS so I only had to take 4 courses which were: Managing
Negotiations, Entrepreneurial Business Planning, Organization Behavior & Leadership and Corporate
Sustainability. Especially the way Entrepreneurial Business Planning was given, was a way I will
never expect at Tilburg University. Every lecture we needed to a kind of exercise or task and at the
end of the lectures we discussed the outcomes. There were no real theories they learned us but we
needed to take the useful information from the exercises. It was a fun course to follow but the level of
the stuff we learned was not very high. This was the most interactive course I have ever followed but
also the other courses at hanken were also more interactive than the courses I took at Tilburg
University. I think that one of the reasons for this is the fact that Hanken is a small university so there
is more space for personal attention and interaction. Furthermore, I had to make a lot more reports
and assignments instead of exams, compared to Tilburg. But in general, I think the level of the
courses and the workload are quit equal to Tilburg. The level of English of all the teachers and Finnish
students was good and they expect the same from the exchange students. In grading the
assignments and exams I do not think they were very strict on grammatical errors.
I passed all my courses at once with quit good grades so I am happy with my academic
achievements. The last weeks of the period were quite busy but if you planned well there was enough
time for other things besides studying.
Hanken does not really have a campus because it is just one building were the lectures are given and
another side building were, as far as I know, you only have to go to hand in assignments. The
basement of the main building is the best place to go if you want to study. There is an area where you
can come with your laptop to study, a silence area just for reading and a library were you can rent
your books. Because you do not need your books all the time it is better to just rent it when you need
it. At the ground floor is a cafeteria, a main hall with a lot of tables to have lunch or do group work and
there is another study area with computers. The first and second floors are most used for lectures and
at the third floor you can find a lot of computer rooms to study.
TOPIC: Social life
Which social activities organized by the university or students? Did you have contact with local
students? Did you have contact with other exchange students? How did you get along with the local
students and other exchange students? Did you travel to other places/countries during your
Hanken has a special group of local students, the tutors, who organize a lot of activities, trips and
parties for the exchange students. They were the first local students I got in contact with and during all
these activities you start learning to know all the other exchange students. Because it was a small
university, so also a small group of exchange students, you will know most people in no time. I think
almost all the exchange students had good contact with each other, especially because we had a
special facebook page for the exchange group. The tutors could easily communicate with us by this
group and post announcements and for us it was easy to communicate about courses or make plans
for going out or hanging out together.
Besides the tutors I had some contacts with Finnish students I needed to work with in group
assignments. Most people I worked with were very nice and interested in what I thought about Finland
and about my home university or they had some nice stories of their own exchange.
During the semester, the tutors organized several trips. In the beginning they organized a daytrip to
Tallinn by ferry which was nice. There were also trips to Stockholm, which I could not join, and Sint
Petersburg for a couple of days and both by ferry. The last trip they organized was a trip to Lapland.
We went here by bus and staid in two big cottages with all the exchange students who joined (around
50 people). During one of the last weeks I made a trip to Lapland again with a few other exchange
students to Rovaniemi, the village of Santa Claus.
TOPIC: Living costs
How did you finance your exchange period, apart from the grant you received from Tilburg University?
What were your living expenses abroad like compared to Tilburg? What did you spend most of your
money on? What would you advice future students to spend their money on? Please outline your
approximate monthly budget whilst on exchange: housing, food, textbooks, etc.
Finland is bit more expensive as the Netherlands, and especially with the trips it is wise to be sure
that you have enough money on your bank account. I already had some money on my saving account
but it is wise to look for a job in the Netherlands before you leave so you can be sure you have
enough money. The rent for my room in Helsinki was higher than for my room in Tilburg and also the
prices of food is higher than in the Netherlands. I think I spent around €1000, - a month of which
almost half was for the rent. The rent of the Hoas apartments was around €370/€390 if I am right so
that would already be a saving of almost €100,-. I did not spend much money on textbooks because
you could rent them for a few cents during the period you needed them, so actually the rest of the
money was spend on food, drinks, trips and other side activities. The trips to Sint-Petersburg, Lapland
and Stockholm are also quit expensive but those were just occasional expenses and really worth it.
I think you have to keep in mind that it is just for a few months and really need to enjoy your time
being there. It should be a pity if you miss nice trips or activities because of a lack of money, I do not
regret a single euro I spend there.
TOPIC: Culture
Did you experience culture shock while on exchange? How would you compare your host culture to
your own culture? What did you learn about your own culture while on exchange? What was different
about your host culture than you expected? What did you like and not like about your host culture? Do
you feel you learned a lot about your host culture, and if not, what would you like to learn more? How
would you describe your host countries culture? If you travelled to other cities/countries during your
exchange, were they different than your host city/country, and how?
In my opinion, the Finnish culture does not differ so much from our culture. Actually I cannot really
point out a difference with the Dutch culture. Before, some people told that Finnish people are closed
but I did not notice anything of that. They were very helpful and the fact that almost all of them can
speak English very well is a big advantage of Finland. This language advantage became even clearer
during our trip to Sint-Petersburg, In Russia the people speak very bad English. It was really hard to
order some food in the restaurant but during our guided tours we had a very good English speaking
Russian guide who told us some good stories about Russia and Sint-Petersburg. The trip was too
short to draw more conclusions about the Russian culture.
TOPIC: Personal development
What did you learn from the people you met during your exchange? Would you do things differently if
you had the chance and what would you do differently? What was your best experience, and what
was your worst experience? What will you remember for ever about your exchange period? What was
the most important lesson you learned about yourself during your exchange period?
For me, the most important and unforgettable part of my exchange were all the new people I met. Like
I said before, Hanken is quit a small university so we had a small group of exchange students. That
made it possible to get to learn most of the exchange students fast and build up some good
relationships. I regret the fact that I was quit late with registration for HOAS so I did not get a HOAS
accommodation, especially in the first weeks it would be nice to live together with students from your
university. But in no time I started to know a lot of people and it was not such a big point anymore. In
the beginning the language was for me a barrier to start conversations but for most people English
was not there mother tongue so nobody expected that you would talk it fluently or without mistakes. In
no time I was used to the fact that I needed to speak English all the time and it was not a problem
anymore. I think my English is really improved during my exchange and it is no problem for me
anymore to start a conversation in English.
For me, the trip to Lapland was one of the best experiences of my exchange although we,
unfortunately, did not saw the northern-light. We had two really nice cottages were we lived with all
the people who joined and we had a great time together. I cannot point out a really bad experience.
The thing I will never forget about my exchange is the fact that I came there without knowing anyone,
but leaving with the knowledge that now I know a lot of people all over the world with which I shared a
very nice semester studying in Helsinki. Most people came there with knowing anybody so everybody
is looking for new contacts and is very open minded. For me, that social aspect was the best and
unforgettable part of my exchange.
TOPIC: Tips for future students
Would you recommend an exchange period? Would you recommend your host university? What
should prospective students bring with them/leave behind? What preparation is required for going on
exchange to this destination? Was there anything you should have done in preparation that you didn’t
I would everybody recommend to go on exchange because it is the best experience off my live. Living
abroad is a whole next level of being independent, even if you already live on your own. It is a whole
different country, do not know anybody but in no time it starting to feel like home. If you decide to go
to Helsinki, I can really recommend Hanken because it is a nice, quit university where the tutors
arrange a lot of things for exchange students. Not only the trips but also the activities and a lot of
parties, but everything without any obligations. If you want to go to Helsinki I really require you to be
on time with your registration for the HOAS apartments because, although it is possible to find
something on the private market, it saves a lot of stress of searching by yourself. When I was there it
was not a really cold winter but it can get very cold there so if you want to go there it is better to bring
some warm clothes with you.
Hanken School of Business and Economics
Part of the exchange group in Sinter-Petersburg
Finnish National Sport: Ice Hockey
Husky Ride in Lapland