If you are coming to Estonia to live and study, the chances are pretty high that sooner or later you will end up visiting Finland. An obvious travel destination, Helsinki is only 80 kilometers away from Tallinn. It is so close that in the near future Finland and Estonia are going to build an underwater tunnel to effectively unite two capitals with a train connection. Such futuristic underwater trip will probably take only around 30 minutes, but for now you are limited to ferries that offer frequent and affordable 2-3 hour trips between two cities.
This semester I am using the Erasmus exchange programme to explore Finland and to experience studying at Aalto University, one of the best places to study Engineering and Technology topics in the region. It has been some busy couple of weeks for me, and now I want to share my very first impressions of what’s the difference between studying in Estonia and in Finland.
1. Finland is expensive
It may be well known and obvious, but I have to confirm and stress the fact that Finland hits your pocket pretty hard after Estonia. It applies mostly to housing (I was very lucky to get an affordable student dormitory) and services, such as public transport, cafes, cinemas etc. All this stuff is 100-500% more expensive than in Estonia. At the same time food and groceries cost just a bit more expensive, so cooking at home is inevitable. Some “universal” commodity prices (for example, H&M and IKEA) are the same or even lower. At least they feel much lower here, so Finns actually live at a completely different financial scale compared to Estonians.
2. Students get it all
Finnish government clearly appreciates all the hard work we do to get our university degrees. Being a student here feels a bit like when you’re playing a computer game with “the god mode” cheat enabled. Students get housing prices that are unimaginable in Finland, huge discounts for public transport, some basic healthcare, great gym prices and, most importantly, student lunches! Student lunches are very cheap, fairly big, and I have around 15 cafeterias only on my campus to enjoy them. Of course, you need to pay some Student Union fees first, but it all pays back. Surprisingly, in Estonia being a student can be more difficult and more expensive.
3. Everything ends with sauna
It absolutely doesn’t matter what kind of event is happening, or if there is any event at all. If it’s in Finland, you can be pretty sure that a sauna is getting hot somewhere nearby. During my first two weeks in Finland I have been to sauna more times than for the entire last semester in Estonia. ESN parties, Student Union events, even an IT recruitment fair (!) end the same way. I even went to a little “sauna-crawl” on a special day when all saunas on campus were open. And there are so many of them! Basically in every building, plus the special huge sauna that can fit around 50 people at time, also really weird ones, like one inside an old van (?). Students can use them for free any day it’s open, and it’s open almost every day. Finns really do love sauna.
That’s all for now, next time I will try to tell you about the university and actual studying. Näkemiin!
Picture from Finnish Nightmares, a “comic about uncomfortable social situations, uncomfortable everything”.