Why wouldn't you go to Jyväskylä?!

Alexander B.

University:  University of Jyväskylä
Study Period: 
Fall Semester 2012/2013
Academic Level:  Master 

687 DSC02729I assume unless you are already decently familiar with Finland, it is unlikely that you have yet heard of Jyväskylä—neither did I before I was offered the option to spend my term abroad there. When I started to look for a destination for my term abroad, I had already decided that I wanted to go to Scandinavia, however, I did not have a preference for a specific country. Consulting my advisor, he mentioned that in addition to existing cooperations with universities in Sweden and Norway, an university from Finland was about to join the IS-Link network. Jyväskylä, located in the middle of Finland, about 150 km from Tampere, the next town. Is this a good place to study? It turned out that Jyväskylä in fact is a great place to live and study—it offers a vivid, international student atmosphere as well as a great starting point for exploring traditional Finnish and Scandinavian culture and countryside.

Jyväskylä is a medium-sized town in central Finland. It is located nicely next to a large lake (a dozen lakes, in fact) and it is surrounded by the characteristic, wide Finnish forests (though, to be fair, this setting holds true for virtually any town or village in Finland). Jyväskylä has a large university (the university I visited) as well as an university of applied science. The town features a neat center with dozens of bars and pubs, and it is home to various technology and industry companies as well as diverse cultural events and places. Jyväskylä today is regarded as a cultural and economic core of middle Finland.

Organization, Arrival, and Accommodation

684 20120918 163142The process of applying and arriving at the university of Jyväskylä is well organized and you receive ample support as a visiting student. The application takes places online exclusively, and you receive feedback in a timely manner. In case you would like to have your accommodation organized by the university — which I strongly recommend — you can already state so in the course of the application process. There are various student villages in Jyväskylä, organized by two major organizations, KOAS and Kortepohja. I opted for KOAS and was offered a room in a shared flat for three students in the student village Myllyjärvi (named after the obligatory lake next to the student village). The shared apartments provide all necessary basic furnishings, and you live in company with many other international and Finnish students. In the first weeks of the semester, the university and the student organizations arrange diverse helpful meetings, events, and parties to introduce you to the place. You are also offered support by a tutor, who even picks you up from the train station and provides you with all necessary information to find your way around. This is also a great help to get in first touch with Finnish students. Overall, arriving and settling in Jyväskylä was a really convenient and pleasant process.

Living and Studying in Jyväskylä

Studying in Jyväskylä was a685 20121125 101019surprisingly international experience. For one thing, there is a large number of international exchange students from all countries around the world; for another thing, even a great rate of regular students in Jyväskylä (especially in Information Technology) have an international background. Often, there will be an equally large amount of Finnish and international students in most courses. The majority of courses offered by the faculty of Information Technology are taught in English language. In general, it is perfectly possible to navigate and study in Jyväskylä using English exclusively, as most Finns speak excellent English. Nevertheless, I advise learning some Finnish. It is an interesting language, since it has little in common with most other European languages, and attending a Finnish language course or some other language program (I attended a language partner program) is a great opportunity to get additional insights into Finnish culture. University courses in Finland place emphasis on group work, presentations, and mini projects. Usually, an exam will be accompanied by additional assignments, or there will be no exam at all. However, you have to spend more time preparing weekly sessions. The personal contact with Finnish professors and international guest professors was friendly and uncomplicated—interestingly, in Finland it is even the custom to address professors by their first names. I enjoyed Finnish university life; due to its focus on interaction and its international context I got to know many people from all around the world in university already. For your spare time, Jyväskylä also offers an active student life. Since both the university and the university of applied science are rather large, and since there are few towns close to Jyväskylä, there is a high rate of students in town and most students stay in Jyväskylä for the entire semester. There are diverse parties, events, and concerts all the time, and the student organizations and the faculties arrange many opportunities for connecting Finnish and international students. The town is not too large and you can go everywhere by bike (in fact, students almost exclusively use bicycles in Jyväskylä). Although Jyväskylä may not be huge compared to other cities, it offers many opportunities for spending your free time with fellow students (pubs, concert clubs, sports, skiing, local and cultural events...) and I never felt bored throughout my stay.

Finnish Countryside, Climate, and Culture

686 20121221 142641If you are going to Finland, it is absolutely worthwhile to get to know the Finnish culture more closely and to explore the country. Finnish people are always very friendly and helpful. Although there is some truth to the idea that northern people do enjoy calmness, they are very open-minded and hospitable towards visitors. During my stay, together with fellow students, I travelled within Finland, we visited Estonia, and in winter we joined a trip to Lapland, the most northern part of Finland. Finnish countryside offers wide beautiful landscapes and spending a week in a cabin village in the middle of the snowy forests of Lapland was an unmatched experience. You should bring warm clothes and prepare for short days, though. Since both summer (January–April) and winter term (September–December) mostly embrace cold months, you should expect snow and quite low temperatures not only in Lapland, but also in Jyväskylä for at least the half of your stay. Nevertheless, there is a solution to surviving the Finnish winter—Finnish sauna. Virtually any student residential building features a sauna and many social events are even combined with having a sauna together. While this may appear to be unusual at the beginning, it is a great custom in the cold months and after a while, I did not want to miss having sauna twice a week. Also, if you want to talk to native Finns, visiting the sauna is the best place to start.

Final Thoughts

Spending my term abroad in Finland was a great experience and I will definitely visit Finland again. I got to know many new people, found new friends, and had an awesome time experiencing a new culture. If you are unsure, whether you should go to Finland, it might be easier to think about why you would notlike to go to Finland: (1) You only enjoy hot weather (although the summer in Finland can be quite hot, it is unlikely that there are many hot days throughout semester time), and (2) you are primarily interested in metropolitan city life. Apart from that, I absolutely recommend spending a term abroad in Jyväskylä to any IS student.