At this point, it’s been more than a year since my student exchange at Åbo Akademi in Turku ended. Still, every time I remember some event or talk to my Erasmus friends about some happening, I relive these moments again and again. And every time it feels great!
My story starts somewhere in the middle of my master studies. I got an idea to go somewhere for an exchange. Almost all exchange programs at that moment were closed untill the next year, except EUROWEB+ program. They opened the second round of application. Quickly, I gathered all the necessary documents, wrote biography, motivation letter, etc. and then after more than a month, I got a confirmation that I was accepted. From that moment, things started to happen even quicker: find a best deal for the airplane ticket, apply for visa, apply for a dormitory, prepare everything else… And then finally, the D day arrives: it’s time to fly. Get up early (actually I wasn’t event sleeping that night), catch a bus, catch a plane..
When Finnair finally set down at Helsinki, after a lot of turbulence, I immediately sensed the difference in temperature. I also felt how kind were people who works there at the airport. I caught a bus to Turku, met some other students who arrived here for the same purpose as me, and spent the rest of the ride sleeping.
In Turku, my tutor Ida waited for me and one other girl on the bus station. She walked us to our dormitories and gave us our starting packages. I am not sure if such thing exists elsewhere, but it’s basically a box with some useful items for the room and the kitchen while you are there.
The morning after, we had a introduction course at the faculty. It’s called the orientation course and last for a week. We got all the necessary information there: what is the grading system, how we register for the classes and the exams, things about the health insurance, what do they expect from us and what are our obligations, and many more. During that course, I also changed my learning agreement, because some of the subjects overlapped in the schedule.
So for those who are curious, here are the subjects I have chosen:
- Advanced computer graphics and graphic hardware
- Special Course in CS: Distributed systems and algorithms
- Special Course in CS: Graph Algorithms
- Special Course in CS: Local Networks
- Real-Time Systems
- Evolutionary Algorithms
- Neural Networks
New thing for me was that some of the classes were not “gradable”, but instead you just get Pass/Fail at the end. No grades/marks.
Also, in Serbia we have semesters where you listen to some courses for the whole semester – for about 4 months. At Åbo Akademi, semesters are divided to two periods and you have different classes each period.
Interesting thing was that we had actual homework there! I haven’t had that since the high school, and it was cool. It was also possible to gain extra points for these homeworks, and it’s even possible to pass some classes just by doing homework. Just to make myself clear, it’s not easy as it sounds.
Before I move on to other aspects of exchange experience, I’d like to single out the Real-Time Systems class, because the professor was outstanding, and the way he presented lectures was very interesting and remarkable and easy to understand, even though the class itself was not that easy.
So now regarding non-academic part, there was everything. Literally. With other exchange students we have been organizing international dinners, were watching movies, traveled together, visited Santa Clause, we drank – we sobered up together. Climbed up to the roofs of some buildings, walked over the frozen sea, we were going to sauna an then ran naked on the snow, fell into 2 meters deep snow, and barely got out. We ran at 3 AM because the sun didn’t go down, laughed, hugged, helped each other, cried when we were going home.. Promised that we will gather again one day and relived that day as those six months behind us. We made many memories which are hard to explain using words, especially to the people outside of that context.
Now there are some things I learned about Finland while I was there, to which I was not used to. And these are good things. For example, security in the clubs is not always uneasy and edgy, that people know how to enter the bus on the front door an to pay the ticket, that these same buses don’t have to be smelly and dirty, and that the drivers don’t need to drive them like a rally. When you miss some document in the bank it’s not a problem, they will fetch it from the university via phone if it’s possible. And if you loose your phone or wallet, they will find a way back to you.
Anyway, for me, this is one of the most valuable experiences in my life till now, and I will probably remember and talk about it forever end ever. And I am really eager and I am looking forward to meeting all these people again one day, some where..