This report should be a help for people planning a foreign study or a practical training in Finland. It contains my impression and experiences of the foreign study I have spent from September 2003 to May 2004 at the University of Vaasa.

If you have questions, ideas but also criticism, generally or especially on this report, simply write an e-mail to Florian.Schneider(at)

After I created my first own website at the end of 2003 ( I have renewed this site in the curse of the year 2004 and have finally finished my new site:
There you find apart from general information of Finland also reports, photos and videos of the city Vaasa, the University of Vaasa, several trips and partys as well as contact possiblities and useful links related to the topic Finland.
Apart from the pure information function you have the chance to exchange information with other students in the forum.

Finally I wish you very much fun with this report and hope that I give you a realistic and positive picture of Finland and the study in Vaasa.

I have divided my report in different parts:

1.) Information and organization before the departure to Finland

- Study documents
- Accommodation
- Transport to Finland
- Mobile phone
- Health insurance
- Transfer of money
- International student identity card
- Organizational things at the university in Mainz
- Vaccination card
- Acceptation of the Finnish lectures

2.) The first days in Finland

- The Finnish language
- Accommodation
- Bank account
- Post
- Residence permit
- Transport possibilities
- Supermarket
- Program at the university

3.) The University of Vaasa

- General
- Student restaurants
- Food
- Lectures
- Exams
- Lecture rooms
- Library
- Care of the exchange students
- Website

4.) The city Vaasa

- The city Vaasa
- Climate
- Places to go out
- Alcohol
- Secondhand shops
- Sights
- Website

5.) The Finn

- Person
- Sauna
- Game of chance
- Summer houses

6.) General

- Get numbers
- Fuel price
- Television
- Zebra crossings
- Drink habits
- Old women
- Warm clothes
- Lightness
- Clock change
- Passport

1.) Information and Organisation before the departure to Finland

After you have been informed about the receiving of the study place in Vaasa don’t get into a panic. Many things are already organized before you are coming to Finland. The Erasmus coordinator in Mainz contacts very early the “International Office” at the University of Vaasa.

You receive  s t u d y   d o c u m e n t s  in form of the „Handbook for International Students“.
There the different study programmes and lectures are presented. The offered lectures are described (Organiser, period, teacher/s, teaching, ECTS credits, Finnish credits, contents, course literature) and the requirements are listed.
Furthermore the handbook is containing information about the University of Vaasa, the formalities, for example the exams and the registration, an explanation of the ECTS system, but also general information about Finland and practical information of Vaasa.
The most important things are also presented during the introduction events in the first weeks.
The handbook is also online avaiable: .

VOAS, the local housing agency, is contacting you because of the  a c c o m o d a t i o n  . You have the choice between a single room or a shared flat.
Personally I would recommend you the shared flat because then you get to know other students better. If you have a German friend and want to live together with him/her you can mention it, but also this combination I wouldn’t propose you because you are speaking to much German. If you live together with a foreign student you have to speak English and by that you improves it easily.
The website of VOAS is also in English: .

I would consider the question of the  t r a n s p o r t   t o   F i n l a n d  very carefully. The two possibilities car and plane have both advantages but also disadvantages.
I took the car and afterwards I think it was a good decision. On the one hand you have a very long trip with the car (I needed approximately 3 days) but on the other hand you can take more luggage with you and that’s very decisive when you stay one year in Vaasa.
In the plane the quantity of luggage is always restricted or you have to pay for each kilogram more.
But if you decide to take the car ask someone to join you because traveling alone is more expensive and boring.
I drove with the car to Rostock (approximately 800 kilometers), then I crossed with the ferry from Rostock to Hanko (21 hours) and last but not least I drove from Hanko to Vaasa (approximately 550 kilometers).
Different websites of ferries you can find here: (Rostock-Hanko), (Rostock-Helsinki, only in the summer) or (Travemünde-Helsinki).

You can take your  m o b i l e    p h o n e  from Germany to Finland. In Finland it’s the best when you buy a prepaid card and always reload it. In the country of Nokia you get almost everywhere a connection, also in remoted areas. It’s not profitable to order a connection in the fixed network because the costs of a call via mobile phone are less expensive than in Germany.

About an additional  h e a l t h   i n s u r a n c e  I would principally only think if I am legal insured. In the case of an private health insurance (like I had it) you should contact the respective insurance and inform you about the scope of your insurance in Finland – in my case there was no problem concerning the taking over of costs and the scope of health services in Finland. It’s very useful if you request an insurance certificate in English.
Generally you are health insured in Finland when you join the “Student Union”. I would recommend you this joining because you also get many benefits, for example meal discounts, but later more.
If you are legal insured you have to fill in some formulas and take them with you to Finland. In the case of an additional health insurance costs and benefits should be weighted up – but in an emergency an additional health insurance is more safe.

The  t r a n s f e r   o f   m o n e y  should be no problem if you open a bank account in Finland. Transfers within the EU are free since 01.07.2003 to the amount of 12.500€ and that’s why you can always transfer money from Germany problem-free. Furthermore you can get money in Finland at cash dispensers (“Otto”) with your bank card. The Finnish bank accounts have many advantages that I am explaining later, for example online banking.
The decision to take a credit card with you should be analyzed carefully, because credit cards are very common in Finland and although in student restaurants they are used very often.

You also have the opportunity to get an  i n t e r n a t i o n a l   s t u d e n t   i d e n t i t y   c a r d  with many advantages in the whole world. But these cards are only valid for a special time frame – though inform you early. You can get information at the website of the AStA: .

It’s also necessary that you arrange some  o r g a n i z a t i o n a l   t h i n g s   a t   t h e   u n i v e r s i t y   i n   M a i n z  . You should take leave – the right formula is available at the study secretary. You shouldn’t forget to pay your semester fee during your stay in Finland. A part of the semester fee can be demanded back. Formulas are available at the bureau of the ASTA or at the website: “Befreiung vom Studienticket”, ( ).

Generally you should take a  v a c c i n a t i o n   c a r d  with you. If you are planning to go to Russia a vaccination against hepatitis is recommended.

The  a c c e p t a t i o n   o f   t h e   F i n n i s h   l e c t u r e s   in Germany is not very easy. It’s very helpful to contact the departments in Mainz before the departure to Finland and to ask which courses will be accepted through submitting the content of the lectures.
Some lectures have been accepted in the last years (for example "Theory of Corporate Finance") but in my case it was quiet difficult to choose the right courses. That’s why I have tried to make some certificates and furthermore I have hoped that some of the courses will be accepted in Germany.
I have also spoken with other German students and the universities often have lists in the internet with acceptation of lectures of the last years (for example: Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt).
I hope that something similar is introduced in Mainz soon. That would minimize the stress after the foreign study.

2.) The First Days in Finland

The first days have been very stressful. We had to organize so many things and you are also going to almost every party to get to know other students. You have to get used to the new environment and especially to the language. But every student has its own tutor who is big help during the first days.

The   F i n n i s h   l a n g u a g e   is very difficult. At the beginning you understand nothing. It belongs to a special language family. This family is an alien element in the almost similar Indo-European language body. I recommend you to make a language course before your departure to know at least some basic words and phrases. But it's no prerequisite because there are offered some language courses at the University of Vaasa in the first weeks.
Finland is a country with two national languages: Finnish is the first, Swedish the second national language. You will recognize that everything is written in Finnish and Swedish but you will understand Swedish easier. But I wouldn’t recommend you to learn Swedish because the Finns don’t like very much to speak it, especially younger people.
But the Finns can speak English very well. They know that they are a minority with their language spoken by only 5.2 million people and that it’s necessary to know other languages when traveling into the world. In the Finnish television are many films in English with Finnish subtitle – that supports the improvement of the English language. Although in the cinema are all movies in English with Finnish and Swedish subtitle, except children movies because it’s to difficult for them to read the subtitle.

A few Finnish words:

Hello – Hei, No – Ei, Excuse me – Anteeksi, Cheers – Kippis,
Yes – Kyllä, Student – Opiskelija, Beer – Olut

The   a c c o m m o d a t i o n   is very good equipped but I can only tell now about my shared flat in Tekla II. But I haven’t heard complains from other students who were living in other student accommodations.
It’s important to get a room in a student flat which isn’t too far away from the university and where many other students are living. I have lived in Tekla II, which was 10 minutes from the university away. In this area most of the exchange students have lived together – other student flats in this area are Siksak, Linna and Ahvenranta.
Every room includes a free internet connection. Therefore you have to register in the city. Furthermore you have a connection for television and radio. If you are living in a shared flat you are sharing kitchen, shower and toilette. Sometimes the shower and toilette are separated, sometimes not. It depends on the flat.
At the beginning of your rent you have to sign the lease and to transfer a caution – around 200€. But you get it back at the end of the rent presupposed the room is still in a good condition.
In the first days you also have to fill in a mangle list on which you should describe all noticed damages in your room. If you don’t do this you can get made liable for them.
It's possible to get a survival set from the Student Union that includes kitchen stuff like blades, cups, pans etc. You only have to leave a caution which you get back at the end of the use.
All accommodations have a bike cellar, a laundry and a sauna. Sometimes there also exists a common-room.

You should open a  b a n k   a c c o u n t   very soon. As a student you don’t have to pay fees for your account. It’s very helpful to use online banking, which is also in English, because then you can easily transfer money, for example your rent.
If necessary you can also choose Swedish as your account language because it’s more simple then Finnish.
In whole Finland you find cash machines which are called “Otto” (yellow). But the language is normally only in Finnish so that you first have to get used to it. You find a sufficient number of them in Vaasa.

If you want to get letters from Germany it’s necessary to register yourself at the     p o s t   office.

You have to apply for a  r e s i d e n c e   p e r m i t   at the police station if you stay longer than 3 months in Finland. The charge is around 26€.

The  t r a n s p o r t   p o s s i b i l i t i e s   are mainly limited on bikes if you don’t have an own car. A bike is almost indispensable to life. It’s also working without but then you have to accept long ways by foot. If you are living near the university you can also walk but most of the parties are in the centre of Vaasa and without a bike you always have to wander half an hour.
In Vaasa are different bike shops – the Finnish tutors know more about them. You can also give your bike at the end of your stay back to the shop and still get half of the price.
Buses are rarely used in Vaasa – in the winter they are fuller. Taxis are often used in the winter because it’s to cold or too slippery for riding the bike. You can use shared taxis with 8-12 persons and everyone pays only around 1€ for a drive to the centre from Palosaari. If you have an own car in Vaasa it is possible to rent a parking lot. You pay 7€ for parking lots outside and 20€ for parking lots inside a parking garage with key card.

The  s u p e r m a r k e t s   are more expensive than in Germany, often till 30%. In Vaasa you have different shopping possibilities. Near the student accommodations you find smaller shops (K-Market, S-Market), but outside of the centre of Vaasa you find bigger stores like the German discounter Lidl or Prisma. In the nearer future there should also be established a Lidl near the city centre.
In all Finish supermarkets you can find slot machines, where all Finns are playing like crazy people – independent from the age.
At the beginning you will have problems with the Finnish language but you get used to it.

In the first days there is very much  p r o g r a m   a t   t h e   u n i v e r s i t y  . There will be very much information events and your tutor shows you the different departments, restaurants and the lecture rooms.
You also have to go to the International Office where you have to sign many formulas. This is very stressful. But the persons looking after you the whole time are very kind. Then you will also get to know to the Student Union and their tasks. You get very much papers with information, which you slowly memorize.
At the beginning very much meetings and trips are organized, for example the visit of a fish restaurant or a picnic outside.
The tutors also show you the whole facilities (library, computer rooms) and you are introduced to the different systems in the internet, for example an electronic schedule (Wompat) – similar to Univis.
You sign in to the ESN-list (Erasmus Student Network), from where you almost daily get news about parties, lectures and special events.
You also apply for a student card, which you get after a few weeks.
Furthermore you can order a red overall, which looks like a mechanical at the Formula One. At special parties you get a kind of buttons, which you put on your overall. So you can always recognize who was at which party. Every university has its own color and logo. I am glad that the University of Vaasa has the color red, because I have also seen overalls with the color purple or yellow - ugly.
At the university you find at almost each department files, where you can sign in for courses. But for some lectures you can only sign in electronically. The lectures and programs which you have chosen at the university in Mainz are only a preselection, so that the University of Vaasa can plan easier.
But it’s possible to change the lectures in the first days at the University of Vaasa. That means to choose new lectures or cancel other lectures.

3.) The University of Vaasa

The Vaasan yliopisto has 4600 students and is standing out in the university area of Vaasa.
Vaasa has totally 57000 citizens and every fifth citizen is a student. Beside the Vaasan yliopisto there are also two Swedish Universities with in total over 2000 students. Furthermore there are two polytechnics.

G e n er a l  ly the campus is more modern and nicer than in Mainz. The university is situated on a peninsula directly at the sea. The most modern building is the library Tritonia, which was opened in September 2001. The distance from the university to the centre is around 20 minutes by foot.
The university consists of 4 faculties (Business Studies, Humanities, Public Administration and Technology).

There are different   s t u d e n t   r e s t a u r a n t s   on the campus area. In the building Tervahovi you find the student restaurant Mathilda. In comparison with the canteen in Mainz it’s smaller and more comfortable. To the side of the sea you can find a glass wall with a nice view.
In the building Tritonia you find the student café Oscar. Here you comfortably drink your coffee or eat a little thing. There is also a glass wall and a nice view on the campus with its grass areas.
In the building Fabriiki you can find a little student restaurant with the name Café Buffetti where you can mainly eat pasta.
Below the campus area is the Cotton Club. Here you can eat something in the afternoon or drink a coffee. Furthermore you have a great view on the sea.
Further student restaurants are in the city, for example at the post office or at VOAS. There you also get student discount.

The  f o o d  in the student restaurants is similar. You have 3-4 different meals, which you can put together by yourself. There is always a meal for vegetarian. Furthermore you have a salad to the meal. The price for a meal with student discount is between 2.20€ and 3.90€.
You can take bread and water as much as you want. Milk, malt beer and a kind of tea are also available.
The meals are not very spicy but you always have a huge range of spices to add to.

The system of the  l e c t u r e s  is different from the German way. The lectures last only a few weeks or months, sometimes only a few days and afterwards you directly write the exam. That’s better because you have less material for the exams and the exams are also scattered over the whole semester. The lectures are all in English, but you get used to the language very quickly.
The level of the lectures is lower than in Germany. It’s easier to pass an exam and to get a good grade. The final grade is often fragmented, which means that an exam rarely counts for 100% of the final grade.
Often you also have to make presentations or special tasks. The study is more practically oriented. You often have to work together with other exchange students – very interesting. You shouldn’t have the problem to find enough lectures because many are offered.
Almost all lectures are presented with PowerPoint, so that you don’t have to depend on the handwriting of the lecturer. You can get almost all lecture scripts in the bookstore in the building Tritonia or in the internet.
The lectures consist of a maximum of 50 people which guarantees a good working atmosphere. You can always ask in the lectures and if some questions remain you can go to the lecturer. The relationship is very personal.
As a foreign student you have 1500 free copies, which you can’t use so often, because most of the scripts are available in the bookstore.
The lectures in the autumn term are from September till Christmas. The lectures in the spring term are from January till the end of June.

The  e x a m s  are during the whole semester. Independent from the topic of the exam they last generally 4 hours. So you always have enough time for an exam and don’t have to get into a panic or be in a hurry. It's also allowed to take the dictionary into the exam.

The   l e c t u r e   r o o m s   are better equipped than in Germany. The seats are upholstered and it’s very comfortably to work.
In every room is a computer which has the newest operating system (Windows XP).
In the whole university are various computer rooms. The computers also have the newest operating system (Windows XP). Furthermore it’s possible to burn CDs.

The  l i b r a r y  was opened in 2001 and is very modern. There is a sufficient number of computers. You can find many places to seat and to work. There are also special group rooms where you can for example prepare presentations. But it’s necessary to reserve them.
The number of books for the lectures is almost never sufficient, so you have to be quick. But you always have overnight copies of the standard works, which you can lend for one night to copy.
The administration of the books occurs in the internet. Beside the prolongation of books you can also search or reserve books there.
If you are so ambitious and want to work in the night or at the weekend you can get a magnet card. With this card you can always enter the university and work quietly or surf in the internet. But you can’t get books with this card.

The  c a r e   o f   t h e   e x c h a n g e   s t u d e n t s   is very good. Generally you have a personal tutor who helps. The staff in the International Office is very kind and always there for you.
If you have problems you can also go to the Student Union, which has always an open ear for you.
The lecturers are also very helpful. You can go to them almost always or contact them via email. Because of the small number of students an individual care is possible.

The  w e b s i t e  of the university:

4.) The City Vaasa

T h e   c i t y   V a a s a   has almost 57000 citizens. The Finns have two national languages: in Vaasa 75% of the people speak Finnish, 25% of the people Swedish.
Vaasa has over 10000 students and every fifth citizen is a student.
Vaasa is the sunniest place in Finland. It’s the capital of the region Ostrobothnia.

The  c l i m a t e  is very cold although Vaasa is the sunniest city in Finland. Especially in the winter the temperature can fall till -30 degree. It’s always very windy in Vaasa because of the situation at the sea. Because you are always using the bike you recognize the wind.
I still had my gloves and my cap on until the middle of April, my winter jacket even longer. In the winter it’s very important to have warm clothes because of the long distances to the centre with the bike, often around 30 minutes.
But if it’s really cold you can’t take the bike anymore. Then you have to take the taxi or the bus.

You can find many  p l a c e s   t o   g o   o u t   in Vaasa. The most important are Fontana Night Club, Giggling Marlin, HulloPullo, Papin Nenä (PaNe), PartyHouse 22 und Royal Night. These clubs have normally opened until 4 o’clock in the night.
Important pubs and bars are D.O.M., El Gringo, Oliver’s Inn, O'Malley's, All Stars and Amarillo.
There are often special evenings, for example 2€-Party in PaNe or a 2€-Evening in Oliver’s Inn. You often get free entrance in clubs with your student card.
You also find sitting parties, where you are sitting together with very much people, drinking alcohol and singing songs. You get all information about parties at the ESN-list.

Like in whole Finland you find in Vaasa special Alko-shops, where you can buy      a l c o h o l . The Finnish government has the alcohol monopole. All alcoholic drinks are more expensive than in Germany because you have high taxes on them.
In the supermarkets are special offers to make self-made beer or wine. You can find "hard alcohol" only in siuch Alco-Shops.
Many Finns are going with the ferry to Stockholm and Tallinn only to buy cheaper alcohol. It’s really a unique experience to take part on such a trip.

In Vaasa different   s e c o n d h a n d   s h o p s   exist. There you can get almost everything. If you need something go there and buy it for a few cents. The most famous shop is Jupiter, which is situated near VOAS. There you find kitchen stuff, clothes, shoes, computer, washing machines etc.

One of the  s i g h t s  of Vaasa I would recommend is Old Vaasa. It’s situated 7 kilometers away from the city centre. There the old city centre burned down in the 19th century. Today you can see there the ruin of the church. Furthermore there is a museum related to the topic Vaasa.
Another sight is the so called Edvin’s Art Park. It shows the history and the culture in the shape of wooden and metallic sculptures standing in the nature.
A last sight is the longest bridge of Finland, which is near Vaasa. The name is Replot Bridge. It is situated near Replot Island and is 30 kilometers away from Vaasa.

The  w e b s i t e  of the city: .

5.) The Finn

The Finns are very cautious and own. They are not the  p e r s o n  s who directly contact other people. In the weekday they keep distance.
At the university this caution fits to the men. The women are more open and sociable, but the men are really shy. This situation changes when the Finns begin to drink alcohol. Then it can occur that the Finns get talkative and approach to you.

The  s a u n a  belongs to the Finnish culture. Almost every of the 1.5 million households in Finland have a sauna. The Finns use the sauna to relax from the daily stress. It’s bounded into the Finnish culture and has a long tradition.
Many sauna habits exist which you simply have to find out. Some people drink a cool beer in the sauna, some are eating or even barbecuing there.
The sauna is heated by electricity or by wood. The temperature is between 70 and 110 degree.
After or between the saunas you take a cooling. Here also different habits exist. Normally you take a cold shower, but the Finns also jump into the sea, if in the summer or in the winter. It’s also usual to run into the snow.
It’s very important that you are feeling well during the saunas. If you can't enjoy they are not recommendable and useful. That’s why you individually have to choose the length, temperature and the frequency.
The sauna is offered in all student accommodations for free.

The Finns like very much the   g a m e   o f   c h a n c e s  . In every supermarket you find at the exit such machines. There the Finns gamble away their last money.
In pubs you find gambling tables with croupiers. In restaurants and cafés you find beside gambling machines also play computers at the tables. There you can also play skill games and thinking games.

S u m m e r   h o u s e s  , or in Finnish Mökki, are very popular. Many Finns have such a Mökki where they can withdraw from the weekday. They are mostly situated at the seas and offer many opportunities in the summer to relax.

6.) General

Don’t think in Finland about queuing in post offices, banks or other public buildings. If you go to such facilities you have to  g e t   a   n u m b e r  . You have to wait and then it’s your turn when your number appears on a screen.

The  f u e l   p r i c e   is almost as high as in Germany. The difference to the German fuel price development is the high of the fuel price which already exists a long time in Finland. In Germany the fuel price rose in the course of the years.

The  t e l e v i s i o n  is mainly in English with Finnish subtitle. Also in the cinema usually all films are in English with Finnish/Swedish subtitle, except the children movies.

It’s true that  z e b r a   c r o s s i n g s   exist in Finland, but you have to pay attention. The Finns drive quickly and don’t pay so much attention to the crossings – so always look twice before you cross.

The   d r i n k   h a b i t s   are in Finland different from the German ones. The alcohol prices are very expensive and so the Finns drink very much if they drink. You can always see a totally drunk Finn in the pub, restaurant or the train, independent from the time.

You will always see   o l d   w o m e n   in the evening in the front of pubs or discos. Also when it’s really cold they collect bottles to get the deposit.

You absolutely should take   w a r m   c l o t h e s   to Finland. In the winter the temperature can reach -30 degree.

L i g h t n e s s   is very limited in the winter. The light only stays for a few hours per day and it’s getting dark very early. That also influences your mood. Against that there exist days in the summer where the sun never set down.

Finland is in another time frame (time zone) than Germany. If you come to Finland you have to do a   c l o c k   c h a n g e   – one hour further.

If you are planning to go to Russia you absolutely have to take a  p a s s p or t  with you to apply for a visa. In Finland it’s not necessary because it belongs to the EU.

I hope I made your decision to go to Finland easier. If you still have some questions simply contact me.


Standing: May 2004

Report 1:  Field Report
Field Report