Studying in the Helsinki Metropolitan Region
Higher education system in Finland is considered flexible by international students because of the multiple alternatives offered as well as non-hierarchical student-teacher/professor relationship. Independent, hard-working, proactive and determined attitude is required and appreciated. Information and assistance are available, but you will need to actively seek them.
Each institution has study advisors for international students. These advisors are experts on your particular challenges, so make sure to contact them for the help you may need. Many institutions have also appointed teacher tutors who can help you with your questions. You can find the contact information at your chosen institution.
Institutions usually hold an orientation week for international students at the beginning of the school semester. During the orientation week, you will get important information about your studies and practical matters concerning settling down in Finland. You will also meet the other international students. In order to get the valuable information, it is important to come to Finland before the semester starts and participate in the orientation week.
In the beginning of your studies, you will also have the assistance of a student tutor who is a senior student. The student tutor will be a great help in acquainting you with the system of studies, campus life, and many practical questions.
You will be in charge of your studies, and you are expected to make your own study plan. You should take a look at the degree requirements and periodically review them to see if your studies are advancing as expected.
The relationship between teachers and students is not very hierarchical in Finland. Teachers and professors are easy to approach and are often addressed by their first names, but they may be busy with multiple projects and research. Therefore it’s good to e-mail or call ahead to set up the meeting and have a few precise questions ready in order to make the most of your meetings with them.
Types of Instruction
The higher education system in Finland comprises universities and universities of applied sciences. The universities as academic institutions focus on research and education based on research. The universities of applied sciences in turn offer less theoretical education designed to answer labour market needs.
Finnish institutions offer different types of courses. The two most traditional are lecture courses that last for a study period, usually half a semester, and independently studied book exams you can take when they best suit your schedule. In addition to these, it is likely that your studies will include interactive lectures, group projects, case studies, and virtual classes. Your studies might also include essays, reports, and seminars. In seminars and project presentations, you will get comments on your work not only from your teacher but your fellow students as well. You will also practice being an opponent yourself and learn constructive criticism firsthand.
Universities of applied sciences have strong links to surrounding community and efficient co-operation with companies. A concrete example of this is a mandatory internship included in degree programmes that enables students to acquire relevant work experience before graduation.
One of the key defining aspects of the Finnish education system is that students “learn to learn.” This means that learning is more than just excellent learning by memorizing. Being aware of one’s own learning habits creates a strong base for one’s self-esteem and for all future endeavours. Students graduating from the Finnish higher education institutions are thus provided with high motivation and belief in their acquired skills.
Finland is very proud of its high-class research. Your education, especially writing your thesis, prepares you to retrieve information from various sources independently and to apply your knowledge in an in-depth and critical manner. Theses have high, specific standards to meet. Your thesis should reflect your skills in finding and applying information, making relevant research questions and using scientific methods in answering them.
Participating in seminars and following your teacher’s instructions are essential for your work. For example, the importance of references cannot be stressed enough: general information can go without, but statements always need to be backed up. Even criticism needs to be specific and with references.
When you begin to write your thesis, it is good to discuss your subject and approach to it with your teacher first. After a while, you should show your teacher what you have written so far, even if it still is a work in progress. This way you ensure your work is going to the right direction and meets the required standards.
The Finnish education system challenges you as an individual, helps your independent growth and is an advantage for your life after school. Above all, your time here will certainly equip you with the tools for success in the modern world: problem-solving, independent decision-making, and innovation.