Top 3 reasons why students should go on exchange

If you’re still wondering would going on exchange do you any good, I am bringing you some good news. There are plenty of reasons to be an exchange student! The following list includes our top three reasons why you should go on exchange.

International experience

International experience definitely looks good on your resume. Many employers feel that studying abroad shows great initiative and independence. Additionally, experiencing a different culture or learning a foreign language makes you more marketable to employers. Students who have studied abroad are exposed to new situations meaning they are often more adaptable in the work place in the future. Not to forget, employers will also be impressed by the fact that you have stepped out of your comfort zone. All in all, international experience will add some colour to your resume and will give a ‘one-up’ on your competition in the job market.


You probably already know this and don’t need me to tell you, but yes, you get to travel. Going on exchange allows you to travel a lot. On top of the opportunity to travel, you also get to experience new cultures. You get to experience the differences in cuisine, tradition, languages and communications. However, it might also invite a sense of feeling lost in the world. This is also known as the culture shock. It is a common phenomenon and it often affects travellers and exchange students that are living far from home. Travellers that are unfamiliar with social norms or can’t understand the language the locals speak. After this, so called, ‘frustration stage’, the ‘adjustment stage’ follows. During this stage, friends are established, communications become easier, and the details of local languages may become more recognizable. The last phase is the ‘acceptance stage’, this doesn’t mean that the whole foreign culture is understood; rather it signifies realization that complete understanding isn’t necessarily. Don’t let the potential culture shock stop you, by recognizing it for what it is and finding ways to deal with it, you will have a fantastic, life changing, experience abroad.

So you should stop making excuses and convince yourself to go on exchange. We have to keep reminding ourselves that there will never be a better time for us to go traveling than right now.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Go on exchange and go on an adventure!

Meeting new people

The point of going on an exchange is being introduced to new people and cultures you have never had the chance to experience. By being an exchange student you get to meet new friends from all around the world. Your exchange program will have meetings and trips where you get to meet other students.

Now that you have met some cool people, and you guys can get along pretty well. Why not strengthen the bond for your new group of friends by going on a weekend get-away. Share hotel rooms, hostels, or even tents, and do at least one thing that scared you both or that you have never done before. It is time to go on an adventure.

AIESEC friends
Strengthen your friendship by having a get-away

Now it is time to step out of your comfort zone and start planning your exchange trip. If you’re wondering how to choose the right university for your exchange programme, you should first of all, collect all the information you can get for the university. Most importantly, you should read a lot of reviews from other students that went to the universities you are looking for. I suggest you to visit Study Advisory to find your next destination to study and read what others are saying.

Happy Penkkarit!

Today, being on my way to work by bus, I wondered if seeing the girl dressed in a pink elephant costume in front of me, meant that I didn’t have enough coffee in the morning or if I am slowly going crazy. However, thanks to my Finnish colleagues at the office, I found out that today is a very important day in the life of Finnish High School graduating students – Penkinpainajaiset (shortly, Penkkarit and directly translating, pushing benches).

On this day, students dress up in wild costumes (finally, everyone gets a chance to demonstrate their inner self), get a ride in a truck around the city center, throw candies to the crowd and get more than a little tipsy.

Penkkarit truck drive
Penkkarit truck drive

Some schools have a tradition of creating teams and getting dressed in the same way (would you want to be a part of a bunch of ballerinas?) and some schools prefer being dressed uniquely. Also, coming up with a creative and funny poster to win a competition is a must!

Penkkarit truck with a poster
Penkkarit truck with a poster

While we are enjoying our candies picked up on the streets after Penkkarit, we hope you will enjoy these pictures taken from Tampere.

Happy Penkkarit everyone!


Our Demola Team

Study Advisory UX with Demola

Demola Tampere is located at old cotton factory area called Finlayson in Tampere. Demola locates in premise which is called The New Factory Innovation Center. New Factory was the place where the idea of Demola was launched in 2008. Today Demola is carrying annually around 100 projects. From the 450 students participating, the 40 % is of international background.

At the meeting with Demola Team
At the meeting with Demola Team

Idea of Demola

The main idea about Demola is that company’s approach Demola with a project suggestion they have. After Demola receiving suggestion, they search the right students to the build project team. Students can apply for the certain project and Demola staff decide which students are the best for the projects.

The students consisting the project team have the freedom of approaching the project’s question in their own way. They develop the project in collaboration with the company, while owning the rights to their work. Upon completion, the company can buy the rights from the project team and develop it further. As a result, the companies have licensed 80% of the projects outputs and recruited 15% of Demola students.

Why did Study Advisory approach to Demola?

The need of student recruitment and on-line marketing, among the universities, has been increasing in the past years. In Study Advisory, we want to approach this market need for student perspective with special attention on users’ experience.

Having an idea?

What do students need when they consider their study options? How can they find Study Advisory website easier? When they find it, the question is: How we, at Study Advisory, can be sure the website is attractive and user-friendly for students to spend time there? After they interact with it will they talk about Study Advisory with their networks on-line and also in real life?

Meeting in progress
Meeting in progress


The aim of this Demola Tampere project is to have competitive market advantage, add more user value on our website and increase the amount of visitors and buzz in different media.

For the project we were hoping for a team with skills in various fields to help us to recognize and tackle some our challenges. In the end of the recruiting we have an international team with various skills of expertise, for example students from Germany, UK, Vietnam and Hungary.

The projects has just started. The team is having their first meetings and starting their innovation journey. We are eager to work and be in cooperation with these students and Demola staff and we are very excited to see the final product of this project. More updates about the project along the spring…

Exchange your life, new adventures are coming!

This time we have a guest blogger Dimitra Panopoulou-Huovila who is sharing her perspectives about studying abroad. Dimitra is originally from Greece but has been studying her Master degree in Internet and Game Studies at University of Tampere, and bachelor studies in Library Science and Information Systems in Greece. Dimitra attended an Erasmus program in Hanze U.A.S, located in Groningen, The Netherlands, and a summerschool in Hochshule der Medien in Stuttgart, Germany. Now, she currently lives in Tampere, Finland.

Would you like to know what is her experience about studying abroad?

Let’s start then!

Studying abroad

Distances are growing smaller with every passing year. Internationalization is a reality that many meet during their student life or in their working environment. More and more students in higher education choose to relocate and study abroad, either for a degree or a limited period of time as exchange students. What is “studying abroad” exactly?

Studying abroad is a unique opportunity. You will submerge in a different culture and improve yourself. No matter how many lectures and workshops one enrolls to, nothing can compare to the real life experience of intercultural communications. As an exchange student, you will have the chance to enrich your degree with knowledge not taught at your home university. As a degree student you can return back home with a complete set of skills not taught in your home country’s higher education. Some lucky students have even found a new place to call home and choose to move permanently in their host country.

It's time to start a new adventure!
It’s time to start a new adventure!

Studying abroad is a challenge. The culture shock with its ups and downs is real. Everyone experiences it and is affected by it in different ways. First comes the romantic stage, the honeymoon period. You are in love with the city, with the people, with the sounds and smells of your hosting city. You see new opportunities in every corner and are thrilled to interact with new people. Next comes the time you start feeling homesick. All those things you loved upon your arrival become less exciting. You start noticing how everything is different from the experiences you were used to back in your home country. Suddenly, you miss the life and faces you left behind. Finally comes the time of adjustment. You are now more comfortable with the new culture. You are aware of cultural differences but feel comfortable living with them. It is perfectly normal to experience culture shock. One should not be afraid of it, but embrace it.

Studying abroad is a great way to meet people from around the world!
Studying abroad is a great way to meet people from around the world!

Studying abroad is an eye opener. The host country may teach you new ways of dealing with everyday life. There might be differences in problem solving methods or work ethics. Maybe, simply the eating customs are a little bit different than in your home country. You may adjust to those new habits easier than you thought and even carry them with you long after you return. The radical change of moving to a new country, most likely alone, will allow you to face yourself which is important for self-improvement.

Moving abroad for studies is certainly not a vacation. It may seem like a big change, but it might be the best choice you will ever make. Studying abroad is an experience that can change your life.

Bali – exchange experience in all way possible

Having the experience being an exchange student is very useful in future in normal life and also workwise. Many of students use the possibility to go for an exchange and they should. My dear friend as adventurous she is and always will be, she took bull by the horns and went to Bali for exchange period. Here is her exchange story.


When I arrived in Bali I didn’t expected there would be so much people and scooters everywhere. At first I stayed in a hotel in Kuta for the first week with few friends. For the first week our job was to find a villa for us to stay in. After week of searching we found the perfect villa with 10 bedrooms and own pool.

Beautiful sunset
Beautiful sunset

I think I settled pretty fast to the way of living in Bali. Kuta didn’t feel like home to me but Kerobokan where we lived was just perfect for me. When you are looking villas in Bali I would recommend getting it from Kerobokan/Canggu/Seminyak area. I personally liked the Kerobokan area more than Kuta.

Reason for Bali

The reason I chose to go to Bali for my exchange had been tickling in back of my brain for a while from the beginning of university. But after finishing my bachelor’s degree I had a feeling that I needed to take a break somewhere far away where it would be sunny and warm. We also had been talking about going to Bali for exchange from the beginning of University like I told you in the beginning of this paragraph. And finally we made it come true. All in all I stayed in Bali for 5 months and also travelled around Asia and Australia before and after my exchange.

On the cliff Uluwatu
On the cliff of Uluwatu

Studies and friends

In Bali I studied in Universitas Udayana. The campus was located in Jimbaran area of Bali. My home university Oulu University wasn’t a partner school with Udayana and that’s why my exchange was free-mover exchange. The application period wasn’t difficult in my opinion. There wasn’t too much paper work. And all in all the applications were pretty easy to fill out.

I got lot of friends from the university. But also before arriving in Bali I was added to a Facebook group, where I met my exchange student friends. A lot of people talked through the group and got to know each other before arriving in Bali. When we arrived in Bali, we already had group of people together who would want to rent a villa together.


In free time there was lots of things to do. During the days off from school we went often to have breakfast in one of the many cafes in Bali. Bali has the best breakfast places to offer.

I recommend you to check out

Crate Café
Milk & Madu

After breakfast I went surfing, sun bathing, shopping and chilled at pool etc. I also went to some trips with my friends around the island by scooters and saw beautiful rice fields, waterfalls, dolphins, temples and overall amazing places.

Dolphins playing
Dolphins playing

When I didn’t have a day off I had school. Normally I had school 2 to 3 times per week. Mostly Thursdays and Fridays were free for us. Indonesian language class was the only mandatory class for everyone. Otherwise we could choose the subjects we wanted to study. Additional to normal classes we had fieldtrips to traditional market and one of the biggest temple in Bali.

If I would do another exchange I would like to see some other countries, perhaps in South-America. But in Bali I would go for a holiday again anytime.

Learning experience

In my exchange period I learned so much about the Indonesian culture. Most of the Indonesian islands are Muslim, but in Bali the main religion was and it is Hindu. And I also learned that Balinese people eat a lot of rice with their food. Typical Balinese foods are Nasi Goreng (fried rice), Mie Goreng (fried noodles) and Nasi Campur (mix of rice and different other ingredients). The flavors of Balinese food are really good and the food is really cheap there. At the end of our semester there was a closing ceremony where everyone wore the traditional Balinese costume. It was really nice way to show respect towards the Balinese culture.

First days school lunch
First days school lunch

Bali… for whom? And best memory

I think Bali is a great destination for everyone who loves sun, isn’t fear of new adventures and overall is eager to get new experiences and learn about different culture. I don’t know anybody that would have regretted spending their exchange semester in Bali!

My best memory from the Bali trip was the people I met there and shared amazing adventures with. I claim also many connections around Europe throughout the exchange and friends for lifetime.

Exploring beaches
Exploring beaches

All in all, my exchange period was successful and lot of fun. As a student who already have visited Bali to someone who is thinking about to go there I would say GO FOR IT! Get to know the culture and local people. Getting to know some locals can be more teachable moments than learning the culture from any book. Also learn to speak Indonesian. Take surf lessons, try yoga and discover as many places you can. Go to the night markets and eat the same way the locals would. Bali is an experience in all way possible. Enjoy every day like it would be your last and get experiences that you can reminisce many years later.

Two new marketing interns at Study Advisory

In the beginning of January we started to work at Study Advisory as a marketing interns. SA is a Finland based company that offers a channel for marketing, recruitment which uses modern and innovative technical solutions. Continue reading to learn more about us as intern in SA!

Social Media intern

I’m Meeri originally from here Tampere. I have also lived few places besides Tampere, like Turku and Varkaus. And after living like 6 years elsewhere my family and I came back to Tampere, to our roots. I like travelling a lot and also I’m quite adventurous.

Before my BBA degree I studied in Business School of Tampere bookkeeping. I went to Business School because after High School I didn’t get to study what I really wanted so I took on something totally different. Bookkeeping didn’t end up being what I liked to do. So after while graduating from the Business School I applied to Lahti University of Applied Sciences. And luckily I did get in to read business economics. After getting in I moved part time to Lahti. Monday to Friday in Lahti and all the weekends in Tampere.

I graduated from high school in year 2011 and got in Applied Sciences School in 2014 so there were few years of searching myself and finding what I really want to study. When I was in High School I thought I want to study marketing but somehow I changed my mind and started to think alternatives to study. Luckily when I discover bookkeeping isn’t my thing I found again marketing as a strong desire of mine to study. And that’s why I applied to Lahti.

When studying in Lahti many times I wandered if marketing was the plan to go with ahead. When study year two came and I have to decide what I my major I rapidly decided “What a heck I’m going with marketing, it has been my dream for many years. So why not. It can’t be the worse choice of them all…” There were many majors to choose from like logistics, HR, financial management and etc. With “major” marketing I decided to read also courses from international trade, because the courses were in English and I have all my life liked English and been good at it.

For my third year I moved totally to Tampere. We made an agreement that I would do all my courses from there. I didn’t have almost any school left so it was possible. In in the end of autumn I only had left my internship and thesis on to do list.

Luckily in end of December I got a call from Study Advisories Sami and he called to me for an interview for the internship in marketing.  And the best news of the year I got it! Now I have been here at Study Advisory for almost entire week and it has been blast. I have enjoyed so much. Every day something new and interesting stuff. I’m impatiently waiting next weeks and what’s more for me from this internship.

Meeri in a sunny day in front of the church near the office
Meeri in a sunny day in front of the church near the office

Translation intern

My name is Alba, I´m coming from Olesa de Montserrat, it’s a small town near Barcelona, Spain. I have been living in Finland four years now.

I have studied Business Sciences and Market Research in Spain. In the last year in the university, I participated in the Erasmus Exchange Program in Turku, Finland. I decided to come to Finland because I have always been interested in northern cultures and Nordic countries. To do an Erasmus program is the best way to learn new culture, new system, and meeting lots of people who are around the world.

One week ago I had the opportunity to join in the Study Advisory team, and working as a translation intern, translating Study Advisory website to my native Spanish, but also I am doing marketing tasks. I like to work in a finnish company with international co-workers.

Alba in front of church near the office
Alba in front of church near the office

In Study Advisory we will help you to find the best place for you that fulfills your needs as a student!

Ah, kaamos

What does it feel like to study in winter, or, in Finnish “kaamos”? Nordic winter may start snowing in late October and there might be a majority of snowy days until, say, April. That’s also true in other countries, such as Switzerland, or Poland, but in both cases there will be more light than in Finland, or, say, Alaska. Here are reasons to enjoy winter at a higher latitude.

Ah, kaamos: hibernating
Do you feel like hibernating in the long winter of the Nordic countries?

What is kaamos? “Kaamos” is Finnish for days without daylight, basically.  During the kaamos season, around the winter solstice, you will see perhaps a few hours of light, just south of the polar circle, or a few minutes (just north). Places where there is absolute kaamos for a while, i.e. no light at all, are very scarcely populated, at least in Scandinavia. But even a bit south of the polar circle little light might be a bit of a shock if you come from abroad… On the other hand, the actual “kaamos border” is situated 93 kilometers north of the polar circle, where you are at no risk of being studying at a Finnish university… as the northernmost one is found in Rovaniemi. So even if you are enrolled at the Finnish Lapland’s “capital”, the sun will still accompany you year round (in a way).

Ah, kaamos: Tromso
In Tromso, the sun is down all day until January 14. Still, this is a thriving university city, with about 12 000 students, 10% of whom are international.

“Seasonal affective disorder” (SAD), as it is called, is a highly debated concept, which might mean less energy to do stuff, or a general sense of unease as the winter comes or lasts. (This however may not hit you on the very first days of your time near the polar circle, rather this sense of depletion “grows” over time, including in the autumn, a less dark month objectively speaking but one during which the decrease in daylight is the sharpest.) If you find yourself low, do try to ask yourself why. And try to solve that specific problem – additional lighting, or additional exercise if you are feeling lethargic, for instance. Or a more general answer can be found in vitamins, such as vitamin D.

Ah kaamos: vitamins
Vitamins, especially vitamin D, counter the effects of SAD effectively. Usually those living above the 44th parallel might already lack vitamin D in the winter, so this recommendation applies also south of Scandinavia. Vitamin D notably reduces the risk of cancer.

So, you might ask, how much will “kaamos” likely affect your studies? The answer is probably “not so much”, especially if you are a young man (women suffer more from SAD, according to research, and so do older people). But chances are you will be affected one way or another (less energy, unexplained sadness or irritability are among frequent symptoms). While malls in Scandinavia can make up for the daylight you are secretly craving for, by displaying all sorts of entertaining, and highly lit, shopping opportunities, cafés, sports centres, etc. , it is recommended to exercise.

Ah, kaamos: sports
Exercising will, at least, take the lethargy out of you.

You can also stay inside more, at home or in your library, reading, enjoying a cup of coffee, or just watching the snow from the cosy place you are calling your exchange home, but do not let the cold deter you from meeting friends. In fact, many friendships or indeed love stories can be built making a fire in a chalet, on a trip to Lapland, for instance. So if the need to be alone most of the time is one of your own kaamos symptoms, resist it by experiencing the winter to the fullest. Consider for instance:

  • A friendship prone intellectual pursuit: exploring a particular aspect of your subject related to the Northern regions (examples might include geopolitics of the Arctic, the Sami language, or the local fauna) with a friend at your place, with nice candles on;
  • Going to to the sauna (in Finland), skiing (anywhere) or snowshoeing (same)… no need to schedule an expensive trip… skis can be rented, a sauna is usually between 5-6 euros, and many natural wonders are accessible easily from city centres (though you might have to do a bit more planning to go to national parks);
  • Getting to know the local culture, for instance by going to Arktikum in Rovaniemi, the Sami museum in Jokkmokk  (Sweden) or in Inari (Finland), and being inspired by the way locals have adapted to such environments;
  • Finding one thing you would not do at home, and pushing your boundaries to achieve it. It could be avanto (swimming in a frozen lake), camping outside or just, watching a magical aurora borealis/even if it means going BACK outside.
Ah, kaamos: Northern lights
Even if you are not an adventurer, many pleasures of the Arctic winter/spring are on offer, such as watching such lights on your way back home from university…

We once wrote about reverse cultural shock. I wonder if there is such a thing as “surprise to find similarities with home” in culture shock theory. For instance, you might be slightly surprised that Scandinavian/Finnish trains do not always run on time, when the temperatures reach -15°C, 25°C or less. Well, as it is so unusual here, you might as well take it as a way to exercise your patience… read a book, drink hot chocolate… The slower pace of the Scandinavian winter might just be the opportunity your body needs to embrace a pre-clock, pre-Internet, wilderness adventure. For instance, phones might stop working in extreme cold weather, so be prepared to take paper maps 😉 only until you get inside and switch your phone back on, of course!

Useful links to study above or near the Arctic – and Antarctic – circles:

UArctic, a cooperation initiative of higher education institutions and other organizations concerned about Arctic research


Murmansk Arctic State University, excellently rated for teaching, value for money and security (or their official website)


University of Lapland (official website here) and its Arctic centre 


The ‘Arctic University of Norway’: the University of Tromso (be among the first ones to rate!)  Includes campuses notably in Narvik, Hammerfest, and Kirkenes. Official website

University Centre in Svalbard


University of Iceland (be among the first ones to rate, or explore the official website).  Studies in English at the university of Iceland. According to the first SA’s review, courses of Icelandic for foreigners seem to be top-notch!

University of Reykjavik on SA and their official website


University of Umeå on SA (be among the first ones to rate), official website

Research projects on the Arctic at Stockholm University


Nunavut Arctic college; Aurora College; Yukon College

United States

University of Alaska at Fairbanks. Study Advisory’s page, official website. Note the relatively low tuition fees for Alaska residents, by US standards, celebrating 100 years old like Finland this year, including an initiative to boost current scholarship schemes.

Meanwhile on the other hemisphere (still a distance away from the Southern pole):

Universidad Nacional de Tierra del Fuego (national university of Tierra del Fuego), Ushuaia, Argentina. Polar sciences page and official website

On dealing with SAD:

Vitamin D foods

Finnish Student Health Service document on kaamos for international students  and summary on bright light therapy

Rendezvous on Tamsui-Xinyi Line

It started raining last night. Lately, every time when I sit down to look and listen to the rain it reminds me of a Hong Kongese movie director Wong Kar-wai. Maybe it is the melancholia that has finally taken over me. Or maybe it is the unholy alliance of the rain, the heat and the sweat, which renders the sunshine completely unnecessary in the process of bodily perspiration. Out of the twenty eight decembery degrees of warmth, none have Christmas spirit whatsoever.


Alternatively, could the reason for the “Wong Kar-wai rain feeling” be, that the traditional balcony, accessible through the East Asian style sliding doors – of course – where I observe the rain from, happens to be in a building ordered to be demolished, yet which has been taken over by the mafia and renovated, and, for some reason, all this makes perfect sense for me to call home now? What am I doing here anyway?

Every morning in Dongmen metro station the doors to the carriages know how to slide open and close in four different languages. As I step in I am relieved to discover that there is no game of thrones going on with the seats this time. I would have not fared well, I am afraid, as I am on my way to the northern part of Taipei, Tamsui, where I am supposed to meet the professor of linguistics, and really, it must be the end of the line for me, no doubt.

I expect the journey to last for an hour or so, as I forget to look worried in likes of the stressed business people around me seem to do. I guess this is it then, finally, the feeling of being old in spirit.


It is somewhere along the way, where the train enters from an underground tunnel to above the ground, where the hills and the mountains ripe with all sorts of vegetation set the scene for those thousands of indigenous species of animals to eat – or get eaten by – other animals.

Hence, it is no wonder, life itself existing in a circular fashion as it can be observed here, that the various religions from Buddhists to Catholics have found a save haven from this island and are visually present even in the most commercial parts of the city. Regardless, the common spiritual atmosphere has maintained its delightfully atheistic fragrance.


A family of five enters the carriage. They speak Japanese to each other, as it is a common sight in Taipei. No doubt that their polite and modest conversation concern the most passionate and religious topic imaginable: dinner plans.

If food would be a religion, I would be hell-bent for martyrdom by now, as I have come to realize that in order to navigate through the versatile fabric of Taiwan and its culture, the most important skill necessary is the unsatisfied hunger. Those who lack the hunger, better not set their foot on this soil that is jam-packed with Taiwanese, Japanese and other Asian restaurants, not forgetting the western trends. Even the locals´ take on – what is called – Chinese cuisine deserves a silent smirk and a modest nod of approval, that is, if I am lucky enough not to receive my favorite continental noodle dish covered with a sauce that has the color and the consistency of a diarrhea, and of which name I do not even dare to mention aloud, just in case.

The scene changes into something completely different and unknown to me as the carriage doors slide open once again. Change makes evolution possible, I remember some world renown biologist to argue. Feeling emerges as a breeze of fresh tropic-like air kicks in. I exit. There is still time. And it is exactly that immediate flash of a moment, that makes me wonder: would I change anything.

No, nothing.. In this case I would not even change the change itself.


The sun set down faster than usual in that day, but not because of the thieves, the swindlers and the other lurkers of the dark were chasing it, but rather because of the ever-present, relaxed and tranquil state of existence that got me carried away as I entered into a philosophical dialogue with a newly met acquaintance who was soon – no doubt – to evolve into a dear friend, as it so often happens in Ilha Formosa.

Truly, Taiwan is best described as an island of infinitely repetitive bye-byes, yet which were evolved from, and hence signify, the existence of infinite greetings, thank-yous and rendezvous; basic human kindness in interactions, with the persistence of the rainy season.

Text and photos: Markku Väisänen

Read more interesting blog posts written by Markku, Study Advisory’s team member, staying in Taipei:

Oulu – Lee Yu-hsuan´s lessons in heavy metal ethics

Dissonant echoes of a former music student

Studying the future to help organisations and the planet

As Study Advisory’s vision lies in helping future and current students to craft their own future, we decided to write a piece on future studies, which is, actually, a field in its own right.

Ever considered studying the future?

Future studies seek to explore potential options for the future, and also likely scenarios. Sometimes a normative method is also used: which scenario is to be chosen or favoured, and why? The Finland Futures research centre is one of the few of its kind in the world. Others like-minded centres include the research centre for future studies at the University (of Hawaii) at Manoa and the more recent Taiwanese Graduate Institute of Future Studies, at Tamkang university (where the whole university has “futurizing” as an essential part of its mission statement).

stuyding the future
Planning and creating the future is all about solid scenarios and picking the preferred outcomes among various future options

But back to Finland. The Finnish futures research centre boasts a long tradition for the field, with research on the future happening in Finland from the 1960s. The centre itself was founded in 1992 in a forward-looking moment for the world and for Finland. The Finnish futures research centres organises and a yearly conference that attracts specialists from around the globe. The 2017 conference will be about complexity with a focus on globalisation. Also, interestingly, the UN organisation Study Advisory gives money to thanks to students’ reviews, UNESCO, is the same one Finnish futures research Markku Wilenius was recently appointed to. Wilenius’s UNESCO professorship’s aim is to support futures studies in developing countries.

A unique doctoral programme in Turku

According to Dr Jari Kaivo-oja, research director at the Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC), the number of foreign students in both the master and PhD programme has risen in recent years, showing the global impact of a forerunner in this original, multidisciplinary subject. In Turku (the centre is hosted by the University’s School of Economics), the doctoral programme in futures studies is unique in Europe.

Master and PhD students of futures studies in Turku come from all walks of life: engineering, economics, business research, natural sciences… They have started a blog, Black Swans, inspired by a 2011 book by Nassim Taleb on highly improbable events.

studying the future
Highly improbable events can shake countries, organisations, individuals or even academic subjects.

Upon graduation, these Turku trained students set up their own companies, or work in bigger organisations, while some join family businesses. Often, fresh graduates find themselves using the skill set of future studies tools they have been trained in. Futures methods are valued by research centres across Finland, in particular, including for internships and research positions, and are of course valuable for PhD candidates.

The Finnish Futures research centre also has offices in Tampere and Helsinki.

A universal field with a wide range of potential implications

Future studies are increasingly attractive to Latin American and Chinese universities and research centre, though China has its own tradition that dates back to about 100 years ago. And the Finnish parliament has its own committee for the future, science and technology policy with 17 members of parliament advising the government on the foresight using a long view.

Many management methods can be used to conduct future studies. Foresight, network and decision-making analysis are usually steps that ensure all aspects are taken into account by the organisation seeking to get insight into its futures. As a holistic field, futures studies can encompass topics such as food, sustainability, or security.

studying the future
Sustainability in particular is at the core of the Finnish Futures Research centre’s values and projects. The creation of Sustainable Development Goals has led to a pioneering exercise in integrating strategic foresight to sustainability.

Futures studies and higher education

Asked what trends are the most disturbing in higher education at this point in time, Dr Kaivo-oja answered that students will need to learn to use big data in the coming years, and the upcoming generation of youngsters is already being redefined as ‘artificial intelligence natives’ (with the Internet of things) rather than ‘digital natives’. And it is true that many classrooms already use tablets, interactive polls and games (Kahoot, which Study Advisory uses too during high school visits). But currently, most university students might still be “good old” digital natives, so what is at stake?

For Dr Kaivo-oja, a future studies perspective on higher education also unravels two trends: which proportion of private vs public education do societies want for the next generations? (an open question which is central to many reforms in education these days), and a fact: more and more people need tertiary education. This is particularly true of ‘developing nations’, while some free, efficient university systems like Finland are at a crossroads, with the introduction of fees for international students next year.

Another take-home point from Study Advisory’s meeting with the Finnish Future research centre lies in the ‘weak signal’ (first sign of a trend) that cultural interaction is being transformed by artificial intelligence and that more and more people can, through the Internet, engage with others while using their own language. This hints at a post-globalised world in which (native and non native) English ‘was’ the common language.

studying the future
Has the Internet already caused a revolution in universities? Digital natives are co-creating their learning environment, and as digitalization has already reached a point of no return, languages can be seen as a factor in improved digitalization and online communication across cultures.

Trends and scenario analysis might not help us determine what tomorrow’s university will look like (will more students use MOOCs for their whole degrees, will we speak Mandarin instead of Chinese in international MBAs? Or even will future studies still attract master and PhD students?). But, in a world that seems to be changing at a faster pace than before, the long view of the discipline might be valuable to take hindsight and ponder what to keep and what to change from a current society or organisation. In this respect, making sense of the future proves crucial to predict – and then decide – what emerging needs a country or company ought to be prepared for.

-Pauline Trabuc

Why studying the future may be valuable

  • You can work in many organizations, public or private, large and small
  • Your degree will be original yet traditional (research methods can be applied in other contexts), and you will have been taught original ways of thinking
  • A small but close-knit community of specialists around the world
  • A door to sustainability careers
  • A multidisciplinary cohort and impact, with a unique understanding of scenarios, including improbable futures.

More information

Finland Futures Research Centre

Note that future students at Turku also take part in an intensive short summer school in June, where they will hone their thinking about complexity and discuss the upcoming future studies conference.

Master’s degree in future studies and doctoral programme in future studies

University of Turku on Study Advisory (148 reviews, you can also rate)

University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, on Study Advisory (5 student reviews, you can also rate)

University of Tamkang on Study Advisory (be among the first ones to rate)

Strategic foresight and sustainability on Sitra, the Finnish innovation fund’s website

Oulu – Lee Yu-hsuan´s lessons in heavy metal ethics

“I am ashamed of it”, she describes, retrospectively, about a scene in Oulu, Finland, where a grinning, hairy, face of a man approaches the face of a girl, her, not long pass her prime. For a flash of a second, it can be imagined that she will get spit on her face from him, such is the proximity of the two, and such is the brutality of the act. Yet, her eyes show only ecstatic acceptance, which is highlighted by the untamed make-up she wears. Her head twitches wildly, and her hair splits the air. He is sure to see right through her tantalized gaze and knows what it means: unapologetic synchronization – wild and primitive.

Really, Yu-hsuan, are you ashamed of it?

“Not really a fan of metal, before I went to Finland”, Taiwanese Lee Yu-hsuan, a former university student and a performer in the city of Oulu´s official, heavy metal themed commercial, starts her story. “I applied for four different programs in four different countries”. The year was 2010, and obviously there was an important and long-lasting choice to be made. “At that time, I really wanted to get out from the comfort zone, so of course Oulu was the top choice. None of my friends had a clue about there”.

How much of a danger zone did Oulu – known for its black winter days – turn out to be?

“Ookko nää Oulusta, pelekääkkö nää polliisia?” Oulu can appear as a “danger zone”, especially for international students, but only for a short while as the policeman’s statue is also a reassuring figure in this university city.

Luckily, a complete castaway she was not. “When I was in Finland, I got a lot of help from the local people”, she remembers those times, adding that the living costs were affordable as well. And how about the studies then?

“The program was well designed, and it was also really international”, Yu-hsuan characterizes the University of Oulu´s Education and Globalization program. “I hope I didn’t give you the wrong impression: that I am pessimistic about Taiwan’s international status”, she is quick to realize, and continues: “the common experience is that the universities [in Taiwan] are not providing enough courses in English for international students”. “I just wanted to choose a different way”.

Group photo of the education and globalization programme’s students.

And, indeed, a different way she chose; in Oulu “I got time to really think about me – what I want – without any social pressure”. Could it be at that point, when the metal music stepped into the otherwise more ordinary story?

“It was actually from a cocktail show in a local bar”, she starts to unravel the metallic mystery, and is sure to continue: “we wanted to celebrate this special moment, so my friends ordered some special cocktails for me, and the bartender accompanied the drinks with this type of music and fire”. It had caught her soon-to-become metal heart, though with peculiar modesty she points out that she is not a big fan of heavy metal, but finds it, nevertheless, interesting. However, there is a dash of typical Finnish downplaying to be sensed in her storytelling, which raises the question: what other habits did Yu-hsuan – from the land of the mid-day sun – pick up in the land of the midnight sun.

Metal music fosters acceptance and inner thinking.

“Frankly, seeing all the LGBT -rights debate lately in Taiwan makes me recall the demonstration in Helsinki in October this year”, she changes the topic, referring to the equal marriage act that is called to be enacted in the Taiwanese legislative bodies, and of which the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender are head over heels in favour of, and who have taken it to the streets of Taipei. “I just don’t get it – I thought it would be easy to pass the law in Taiwan”, Yu-hsuan explains.

Apart from pressing political matters, surely, Taiwan is nothing like Finland, at least when it comes to metal music, and the tropical island nation must be a flat out Copacabana compared to kalevalaesque Oulu, right? Not quite. “Surprisingly, there is an up-coming metal music event happening in Hsinchu”, where a non-surprising selection of songs from Finnish household names – such as Nightwish, Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica – is played. “What makes Finnish people so into it”, she wonders aloud.

“Do you keep up with the Finnish tradition as a heavy drinker?”, she then asks out of the blue.


Hopefully, the answer is no, but I must admit that all this talk about drinks and LGBT -rights made me wonder about one of my favorite clubs in Taipei. It is a place well known for its LGBT crowds during the occasional, “rainbowishly” themed nights – a rainbow in the dark, dare I say. And, frankly, you can’t go wrong with a club where one receives a free shot of whiskey for being a Finn, and another one for being a fan, a fan of of metal music that is, and where the bartender remembers to mention his favourite band being Stratovarius.

It seems to forever amaze me, what makes specifically the metal crowd so uniquely accepting and peace-loving. At least, for some reason, those who have spent a winter beyond the 60th parallel seem to not lack the courage.

And then, between us, there was a silence that was not awkward at all. It was rather synchronous, anticipating a faster pace to come, and, sure enough:

“Busy, busy!”, she commented her current life as a project manager for an art investment company Arttime, and then added: “looking forward to my dinner in Taipei tonight – we are doing coffee tasting”.

Metal music, human rights, craft beer, coffee tasting and silence. How awfully Finnish can life sometimes be..

PS. There are (at least) 9 more or less famous metal song names embedded in the article. Those who wish to prove themselves worthy, may have a go at finding and recognizing all of the names.

Text: Markku Väisänen