Experiences abroad in Finland

Shawn Foster

When I arrived in Finland, I had no idea what to expect for the next six months of my life. I had only been out of the U.S. once before with a student group to Berlin during spring break in 2018. Other than that, I had not been outside of the Upper Cumberland region many times. 

What made me come all the way to Finland? The opportunity fell into my lap. I went to speak with the Study Abroad office about doing another spring break trip, and then Amy Miller, assistant director of the Study Abroad Office, mentioned that I could go for a full semester instead. With a month left in the semester I hurried and tried to get everything ready to go to Finland for six months, not knowing how much this would really impact my life.

I have been here for about three months now, and have loved every minute of it. When you look up Finland on the Internet, it will say it is one of the most expensive countries in the world. But the city I am in, Pori, is actually listed as one of the most affordable cities for students. 

Almost everyone around here except for the elderly and the young children speak fluent English, so getting around Finland and meeting people hasn’t been too hard. Learning a little bit of Finnish before going would really help you in the long run, though.

Since Satakunnan ammattikorkeakoulu (SAMK) offers numerous degrees in English, students travel from all over the world to come here. The school here represents so much of a international presence. In my physiotherapy class there are 5 Estonians, 1 Australian, 1 Englishman, 2 French, 1 South Korean, and a handful of Finns. This is great because it introduces students to different cultures and different ways of learning. 

School here is drastically different than it is back home. Here, you start school with 20 people in your “section” and you have all your courses together for the next three and a half years. Since most students are international, it helps them to feel less homesick and gives the class a better dynamic.

There is not much to do in Finland if you don’t like the outdoors. Part of the country is in the Arctic Circle, so you can see the Northern Lights fairly often. There are nature trails all around and lakes at the end of almost all of them. Finland is also in an ideal location if you want to be able to travel around for a reasonable price. Getting from city to city in Finland is pretty cheap. 

If you feel like you want to try something new, I would truly recommend studying abroad in Finland. It is full of great opportunities to learn, but also is a lot of fun. Coming here has given me the chance to be who I want to be, meet incredible new people, and it has shown me what I am capable of.

Photo by Shawn Foster