Jolien Greven

Experience report
Study Program:
Exchange semester:
Academic year:
Host University:
Jolien Greven
Spring 2013
University of Eastern Finland (Joensuu Campus)
City and University information
The city I lived in (Joensuu), is a small city in Eastern Finland. It is a city surrounded by forest and
lakes. There are not so many activities, but it is still a quite lively city in Spring and Autumn. The
Central Market Square is the city center, surrounded by shops and the river.
The University is located at an approximately 5 – 10 minutes walk from this city center. All the
buildings are located next to each other, like the Tilburg University Campus. Again, forest surrounds
the campus, but still you feel like you are close to the city center. The buildings are quite new, built in
a nice, but simple way.
The best places for exchange students to go for eating are the university cafetaria (cheap, but
sufficient food) and some of the restaurants in the city center. For drinking it is nice to go to Jet Set, a
local pub where a lot of exchange students meet, together with the local people. There are also some
night clubs where you can go and dance. Sport activities are organised by the Student Union, of
which you can/must become a member. Most sports are free if you are a member of this Student
Union. They also organize a lot of other activities for (exchange) students. Although there are not so
many sights in Joensuu, there are some beautiful places where to go, for example the river, the lakes
and going for a walk in one of the forest.
The difference between Joensuu and Tilburg is quite big, there is a lot more nature in Joensuu, the
climate is completely different and Joensuu is smaller. Still, I think it is worth staying there.
The University itself consists of three campuses, all in Eastern Finland. The Joensuu campus is the
biggest one, with many different faculties. Still, I noticed that the most important faculties are
Education and Forestry. Which doesn’t say that other faculties or departments are not good enough.
The complete University consist of approximately 15,000 students, divided by the three campuses.
Still, it feels like a small University where teachers know you by name. I think there are around 150 200 exchange students (some for one semester, some for the whole semester). You can get to know
a lot of them.
One important thing to understand is the difference in studying. In Finland, all education is free and it
is not hard to go to University. That might be one reason why I thought the level of education is not
really high. Advanced courses could be first or second year Bachelor courses in Tilburg University.
However, they have a nice way of teaching, really open for student comments and student
The pre-arrival information was send to me in the end of October, it consisted of two parts. Besides
the fact that I would have liked it to receive it earlier, there were no difficulties.
One week before my arrival, I received an e-mail from my student tutors with some information
about my arrival. They picked me up from the airport and had already picked up my key from the
housing company. After giving me a tour around the city center, they dropped my of at my room,
together with my ‘survival package’. This package was provided by the Student Union and consisted
of some basic equipment to ‘survive’ in the empty room. The day after my arrival, my tutors gave me
and other tutorees a tour around the city and explained where we could register for everything.
The reception at school was at the same time as the orientation days, we were told a lot about
studying in Finland, Joensuu and about studying at the UEF. Interesting, but long days.
The housing was organized quite good. Before leaving, I applied for the housing and I received an
offer around one month before departure. The offer I received consisted of a private room with two
other flatmates and a shared bathroom and kitchen. Upon arrival, my tutors had, as said, already
picked up the key and I could move in right away. There are many exchange students located in the
same areas, so it was a good place to live. The university also recommended this company.
Living Costs
Finland is quite an expensive country, that is an important point to keep in mind. Housing is cheaper
than in The Netherlands, but other things are not. I had some savings and together with the Erasmus
Grant and the ‘Studiefinanciering’, it was doable for me. The major expenses were housing, food and
traveling to other places. This is a list of the approximate costs per month:
Housing € 220
Food € 200
Transport: bus: € 60 or bike (€10 per month when renting or buy one)
Books € 0
Miscellaneous € 150
Academic Calendar
Arrival date & introductory week 7-9 January
First day of the semester? 7 January
Last day of classes? 31 of May
Mid-term break? February, short holidays like easter
Examination period? No specific time, exams when courses end (can be any date)
Any special events? May Day and lots of other things
The International Office
There is a good functioning International Office, Päivi Haltilahtiv is responsible for the exchange
students. Her given information was sufficient.
Social activities and promotion
Unfortunately, there were no ways to promote Tilburg University, apart from telling students about it
during normal time and wearing the Tilburg University sweater.
Social activities were organized quite a lot. From trips to other places (Lapland) or countries (Russia)
to relaxing sauna evenings. ESN was organizing most of these activities for exchange students. It was
not easy to get in contact with Finnish students, other than during some of the classes and in the
cafetaria if you really wanted it.
Culture and Language
When I look back, I don’t think I have experienced a culture shock. Finland is quite the same
compared to The Netherlands. The best thing was that it was really safe, relaxed and quiet. During
my stay I realized that Dutch people are quite rude and always in a hurry. Finnish people are
definitely nicer and friendlier. Unfortunately, there were a lot of drunk Finnish people (especially in
Winter), but other than that, the culture is one I can appreciate a lot.
When traveling to Lapland, there were not a lot of differences (apart from the even more quiet
atmosphere), but while being in Russia (St. Petersburg), I really realized Joensuu is a great place to
live in, save and friendly. Helsinki is again completely different, but other cities in Finland are
comparable to Joensuu.
During my stay, I have followed a course in basic Finnish, since the EILC was not available for the
Spring semester. However, the language is so complicated, that English was the only option.
Sometimes that made it hard to communicate, since a lot of Finnish people are afraid to speak in
Personal development
During my exchange, I have developed myself in a lot of ways. Cooping with a lot of different people
with different cultural backgrounds have made me more open towards these different cultures. It
also helped me in making contact with others in an easier way. Living in a different country made me
more self-concious and self-aware. Those thing can help me in the future in developing my career.
Besides that, I think the stay will represent that I am able to step out of my comfort zone and that I
want to improve myself.
If I have to choose something that I would’ve done differently, it would probably be that I should’ve
done this exchange earlier in my studies. Also, one thing that I maybe should’ve done is making
contact with more different people.
It is hard for me to find a best experience, but visiting Lapland is definitely one of the best things I’ve
ever done. Also the experience of studying in a different country, seeing how it works somewhere
else, has been an eye-opener for me. However, the worst experience is even harder to think of.
Maybe it is the long dark and cold Winter nights, maybe it was the time that I sometimes felt a bit
The things that I will never forget about my exchange periods are probably the friendships that I
made. Also the nature, the Winter, the Northern Lights and a lot of other new experiences will be in
my memory forever.
And out of all my new experiences, the most important lesson I’ve learned is probably that I am
capable of doing more things that I thought I could do.
Academic level at host university
The courses at the UEF were offered in Finnish (mainly) and English (for exchange students). Because
of the complexity of the Finnish language, I only followed courses in English. I choose courses of the
Border Crossing and Sociology masters, because I thought they looked really interesting. In the end,
looking at the content of the courses, I would recommend some of these courses. However, the level
is not really high, and some might not be as interesting. I would recommend these courses, mainly
because they had interesting subjects, a good structure and good teachers, with whom it was easy to
get in contact. The use of material was sufficient, the level of English was mostly sufficient , but the
workload was low.
The teaching style at my department was a combination of theoretical lectures and practical
assignments (presentations, papers and exams). There were lectures, seminars and some courses
included groupwork. Overall, I am happy with my academic achievements during my exchange, but
maybe it would’ve been better if the level of education was a little bit higher, or a little bit higher
Most of the courses ended with a presentation, a paper, an exam or a combination of these options.
The exams were open ended (essay questions), but not difficult. The papers I had to make were short
and not so hard. However, in other departments or faculties, there were other rules and harder
Students can indeed easily acces the library. There is enough support and you can borrow all the
lecture books in the library. However, there are not so many computers available, so usually, I had to
wait before being able to find a free computer.
1131003 Orientation
for International
8014300 Survival
5516108 Racism,
Prejudice and
Course diary,
attendence at
orientation days
Homework for every
Interesting course,
good professor.
5516116 Citizenship,
Nationality and
5515301 Global
Change, Local
… Youth in Society
Interesting to
compare different
country views
Short paper for extra
Interesting to
compare different
country views
Tips for the future students
I would definitely recommend an exchange period. I have learned a lot of these five months. It has
been an amazing experience and it has given me so much knowledge for the future.
The UEF is a good university to go to if you like small, quiet cities and a lot of nature surrounding you.
If you want high quality education and a busy scedule, you should find either another department, or
another university.