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Article About Exchange Students: Tampere on my Mind

Riccardo de Blasis
No need to long for the sauna anymore: Riccardo de Blasis rolled up his sleeves and made his own sauna.

At its best, your exchange destination can become your second home. At its worst, a place that brings the taste of vomit to your mouth whenever you hear its name. What are former exchange studentsÂ’ thoughts on Tampere?

Alejandro de la Garza, Mexico, autumn term 2009, journalism

"I came to Tampere straight from Spain, where I had spent two weeks on the Way of St. James pilgrimage route. After that experience I felt IÂ’m ready for anything.

One of the biggest shocks was to see how naturally it came to Finns to respect laws and rules. I donÂ’t mean theyÂ’d do whatever they are told to, but that they believe rules are for the benefit of everyone.

The state aims to help people, not to cause trouble! In Mexico, things arenÂ’t going as well.

There was no sun in sight, but there was water everywhere. The food shocked me - with its healthiness. At first I thought it was tasteless, but then I began to appreciate the way Finns take care of their health, after seeing how well the health services were functioning.

It took a while to get used to small talk not existing in Finland. I was frightened at first, but I soon got used to it, and I began learning the Finnish straight-to-business way of talking myself.

When I left, I was happy and sad at the same time. Finland felt something like a dream I didnÂ’t want to wake up from. But I understood I had learned and experienced a lot.

I havenÂ’t visited Finland after my exchange, but IÂ’ve been planning to return. I fell in love with the whole country, all the way from the people to the climate.

My life has changed since my exchange: I am a father as well as a husband. Now Finland feels like a place where I got to know myself again and I saw what possibilities the world holds. I still miss the sauna, the taste of water, swimming in icy water, rye bread, the people - how could I not?

My friends in Mexico also noticed I had changed, and no wonder: I felt like a different man. The Finnish straightforwardness was contagious. Now I understand things sometimes have to be said like they are.

I must confess that itÂ’s thanks to the sincerity and truthfulness I learned in Finland I have such a good relationship with my wife.

If Erasmus had a capital, it would be Tampere. To me, it was a place that exceeded my wildest expectations."

Magda Nowicka, Poland, autumn term 2006, sociology

"Going on exchange to Finland felt natural to me, since the Nordic countries interested me. I had also got to know a Finnish girl from Tampere in Poland.

The first things to admire were the architecture, the amount of green spaces and the clean streets in the city. It was also a surprise that people knew how to speak English anywhere I went.

I didnÂ’t experience any special kind of culture shock; weÂ’re all Europeans after all. What did feel crazy, though, was that when the young people partied at the town in the evening and left behind a mess, the city was done cleaning up by the morning. In my home town Lodz, it would take a much longer time to clear up the mess...

After the exchange period was over, I didnÂ’t want to leave. One semester didnÂ’t seem long enough to really experience the city.

I havenÂ’t been in Finland after my exchange, but I would like to. Maybe a teaching visit of some kind would be possible now that IÂ’m working at the University of Lodz, although my mental image of Tampere might have become a bit idealized during eight years.

I miss my tutor, who was tremendously helpful. I also miss the climbing club. If thereÂ’s something I donÂ’t miss, itÂ’s my roommate from the exchange period, who barely talked to me at all.

The exchange made me much surer of myself, which has helped me afterwards.

I would recommend Tampere for exchange, but only for independent people. Finns keep their distance at first, but when you get over that, they become true friends.

Riccardo de Blasis, Italy, spring term 2009, economics

"There are many exchange destinations with loads of people applying for them, and I did not believe I would be chosen. There were two applicants for Finland, and I was one of them.

The journey didnÂ’t begin quite the way it was supposed to, as my flight had been cancelled. We would have had to wait for the next flight for a few days, so I decided to hop on the plane headed for Stockholm. In Stockholm, I somehow managed to get on the dayÂ’s last ferry to Turku. I got my first touch of Finland in Turku, at the Kauppatori marketplace, when I tried to ask about the whereabouts of the railway station. Everyone ran away.

Even though I had read before my exchange that they are organized and efficient in Finland, I was still surprised: the traffic and services worked and it was clean everywhere. I also wondered where the hell the sun is.

After the term ended, I didnÂ’t want to leave. Since I had been hanging around with Finns and working as well, I didnÂ’t feel like a mere exchange student anymore, but like someone actually living in Finland.

I fell in love with being in the sauna. I missed the sauna for years, until I built my own. What I miss the most is the lifestyle. The exchange period opened my mind, and when you return home, you look at old things quite differently. There are many things in Italy that are plain wrong. After my return, I kept talking about Finland so much my friends got fed up and told me to shut my face.

IÂ’ve been in Finland once after my exchange. I still plan to move back."

Pleased with Tampere

The University of Tampere is interested in hearing about exchange student experiences. Not all exchange students are interested in sharing them, though: there were 310 exchange students at the University of Tampere in autumn term 2012, of which only a fifth answered the student survey directed at exchange students.

The results of the survey are collected into a report each year. The latest available report is from 2012.

The survey attempts to find out things like why the student had chosen Tampere as their exchange destination and how satisfied they have been with both the teaching and the exchange period.

In the latest survey, at least three fourths of those who answered had chosen Tampere because Finland seemed tempting as a country. The majority also found the University of Tampere a good exchange option for its high quality of studies and students, modern facilities and professional personnel.

According to Tarja Nieminen, Coordinator of International Education, some exchange students end up applying for the University of Tampere as degree students. The amount of them is not put into statistics.


Why did exchange students choose the University of Tampere (autumn 2012)?

74.1% Finland attracted as a country

62.1% Quality of teaching

50% It was easy to arrange the exchange

Article and photographs: Anne Salomäki

Translated by: Elli Oravainen

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