All posts by Confessions of Students

New intern joins Study Advisory team in Tampere

Hello everyone! To start with, I just want to say that I am super glad to join this awesome team of young and enthusiastic Study Advisory members! I`ve been here for one week only, but it already feels great! Now, a bit about myself.

Study Advisory

My name is Dasha and I’m coming from Saint-Petersburg, Russia. In Finland, I feel like home. Honestly, nowadays I feel more home here than back to Russia. I think the reason of it might be that my whole independent and grown-up life started here in Finland. I study International Business at HAMK and I’m really grateful for all the opportunities and challenges I had during those two years. Studying and working with people from all over the world opens up your mind and changes the way you think, therefore I definitely recommend everyone (at least once in a lifetime) going somewhere abroad to study, work or just volunteer. It will make you a different person and you will learn lots of new things about yourself!

During my second year in Finland I went for exchange program to Kyung Hee University in Seoul, South Korea. Going somewhere far and not that well-known for me was my main purpose. I’ve been travelling across Europe quite a lot before, therefore I thought why not trying something new and exotic! Those 4 months which I spent there made me a person I am today. I had great days, I had bad days also. That’s totally fine! Living in a completely different environment with completely different people was the best experience I have ever had which brought me a new version of myself.

study in South Korea
My campus at Kyung Hee University

One of the most memorable and really cool things I’ve done after my first year in Finland was hitchhiking trip with a friend of mine during summer holidays. In 12 days of our non-stop hitchhike we’ve  visited 8 countries and covered about 4100km. We started from Italy, went to France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, Germany, Sweden and finished our journey in Finland! You can see some of the pics below.

P.S. Stay tuned up on our blog page about hitchhike soon !:P

chocolate and tulips
Delicious Belgium chocolate and nice tulips from Amsterdam

Travelling is my passion and something that I’m always craving to do.In life I always follow “if you fear it, go for it!” motto, that is why I highly recommend everyone to go out of a comfort zone and study abroad! Study Advisory will guide you and I, as a new team member, will also do my best to find your dream university!

-Daria Tcvetkova

Pitching a PhD should not take more time than necessary

180 seconds… does that seem like a short amount of time? Surely, not when you compulsively check your phone for yet another short gratification message, photo, or gif. Or even compared to 3 or 5 years of PhD studies! But even three minutes can be used wisely.

Imagine if a long process of research was to be shortened in such a meaningful way that it would make a very complex topic actually interesting AND, on some level, understandable to non-specialists? Leaving you with a sense of lasting contentment while being also academically significant to specialists?

Three minute PhD or thesis

On September 29 in Rabat, Morocco, the French language version of ‘my PhD (or my thesis) in 180 seconds’ gathered doctoral students from 10 countries… mixing various French accents and communicating a sense of passion on various complex topics. This competition first set up by the Australian University of Queensland in 2008 and developed in French in Québec from 2012, with national finals preceding the yearly worldwide contest.

Should a PhD viva be long? Probably... The three minute PhD does not break the rules of this convention, only adds a cherry on the cake of a long research project !Should a PhD viva be long? Probably… The three minute PhD does not break the rules of this convention, only adds a cherry on the cake of a long research project !

The idea is for a jury of academics and also journalists and businesspeople to assess the conciseness and clarity of a presentation on a whole PhD topic while the participant is only allowed one slide to back his speech up visually. The presentation must be compelling enough to captivate the audience as attendees also get to rate the candidates for the audience prize. An English language version of the competition is also organised in Canada by the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies, which is also open to master’s students. In many involved universities, such as the Swiss Ecole Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, a training ahead of the competition is provided, and ECTS credits can even be earned through participation in it. In France, the competitions are organised by the CNRS research agency.

The 2016 winner of the French language 3 minute thesis is from the University of Fribourg. Désirée König studies zebrafish, a species with exceptional regenerative capabilities. Next on the podium were also scientific topics, which all sound crucial to tomorrow’s society, such as Alzheimer disease and agricultural productivity.

Zebrafish properties were presented during the 3 minute PhD in Morocco

According to Rachida Brahim from Aix-Marseille University in France who presented her sociological research on racist crime, it is a unique opportunity for young researchers to speak in a full lecture theatre as intricate topics generally only gather interest from a small group of like-minded specialists. Some participants have also expressed their appreciation of the exchanges that stem from conversation with PhD candidates beyond their field or even subject.

Another example is found from the University of Geneva, in the field of psychology. Ecological behaviour and habits can vary depending on whether they are encouraged by negative or positive comments, with negative comments usually taken as an excuse to give up, whilst those who are encouraged to continue riding their bike are expected to persevere more:

Not only are the topics fascinating, participating in the competition can also be a boost to for doctors to gain access to postdocs… On the audience side, might be slightly easier to follow than attending your best friend’s PhD viva! (though a PhD defence arguably has some aura of its own and might be best suited for those who crave for more detail or to hear how the PhD candidate will answer the jury’s questions).

Study in Turkey
A three minute pitch might take hours of preparation – but it will be worth it!

In the meantime, if you are considering applying for PhDs, you can search Study Advisory’s doctorate degree level search. And if you are in the process of writing your PhD, or have finished it, why not be generous to future scholars and rate the university  where YOU completed your doctoral thesis?

For more information on Ma thèse in 180 seconds, you can like them on FacebookFor examples in English, you can check the University of Bristol’s website, the University of Edinburgh’s tips (and feel free to rate them too here and there) and for a list of participating schools in Asia-Pacific and Oceania, this link might be handy.

Cheer, love and security at Seeds of Hope Children’s home

In today’s post, we are sharing some experiences from Study Advisory’s charity projects. Previously we have told about our regular charity campaign for UNESCO, but occasionally we also participate in other projects. Last week we visited the Balinese Seeds of Hope Children’s home together with our sister organisation Asia Exchange.

Bali, the most popular tourist destination of Indonesia is famous of its beautiful beaches and rich Balinese culture. The tropical and sunny island is a lovely place for a holiday or a study semester! However, among all the beauty of Bali there’s a population living on the island facing different kinds of social problems. At the side of the happy complete families there are also broken families. There are kids having brothers and sisters and kids living without mother or father – or both. Some parents can’t afford a sustainable life for the kids, and the kids end up to be abandoned. Tommy and Sandra at Seeds of Hope are replacing the important parent’s role in many children’s lives. This couple runs a Balinese orphanage and provides love and security for almost 60 children without family.

Seeds of Hope

A large family unit

The Seeds of Hope (SoH) was founded in March 2001 and is located in north-west of Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. Kids who are living there are aged from 3 to 21 years old. They are going to school and doing the daily tasks like cooking and cleaning by themselves. They don’t have staff working for the children’s home. Therefore, the place is more like a large family unit and all the daily tasks are done together. Everyone respects each other, which is something you will observe really quickly when visiting the place.

Seeds of Hope 2
Sandra (speaking on the microphone) as the oma (grandmother in Javanese language) and Tommy (on left) as the opa (grandfather in Javanese) for all the kids.

Sandra and Tommy want to teach the children the importance of education and useful skills for independent life for the future.  In July 2016, there were 67 children living in the Seeds of Hope. By September the same year, 12 of them have graduated and found a good job. It means they are able to live an independent life now.  This is something that Sandra and Tommy are extremely proud of!

Study Advisory is supporting the meaningful work of Seeds of Hope

Study Advisory’s sister company Asia Exchange organises student exchanges in Bali at Udayana University. Each semester, Asia Exchange visits the children’s house with the students, and this year Study Advisory had the honour to be represented as well. As the students are enjoying the study semester in the paradise, Asia Exchange is trying to encourage the students to visit the Seeds of Hope and give a while of their time for the kids. This is a great opportunity for the students to give back for all the unforgettable experiences and adventures the island has provided for them. This semester, in total one hundred students visited and played with the kids!  Seeing how many students were interested in visiting the place, meeting the kids and spending time with them warmed our hearts!

Seeds of Hope 4

In the beginning of the visit, the visitors were touched by the kids of the orphanage singing “You raise me up” and another song they had been practising. The beautiful performance was followed by a nice sing-along and the boys were playing guitar.  Afterwards, the little girls liked to play musical chairs while the boys were more excited of basketball and other sports – and by the way, they were super good at sports!  They were also happy to show their rooms and living areas. The kids loved to be in photos and to see the pictures of themselves. The cheerful afternoon at the orphanage was full of love and laugh.

Seeds of Hope 3
This time one hundred Asia Exchange students visited the Seeds of Hope and had a great time with the kids.

The Seeds of Hope doesn’t receive any support from the government. Thus, the possibility to send the kids to school and give them food every day depends fully on donations. Study Advisory and Asia Exchange really appreciate the work that Sandra and Tommy are doing for the kids. As an expression of this, the companies made a donation of a 4 million rupiahs (270 euros) to the Seeds of Hope.

Would you like to visit the kids?

If you are visiting Bali and want to go play with the kids and support the Seeds of Hope, you can read more about them at their website. Everyone is warmly welcome to visit the children’s home. However, we recommend you to contact Sandra in advance (contact details on their website) to make sure the time is suitable for them.

Study Advisory wishes all the best for the Seeds of Hope!

Seeds of Hope 5
Let it rain! It doesn’t bother us, we´re always happy!

Study Advisory’s Charity Project – What is it and why we do it?

Study Advisory is a modern start-up from Finland, genuinely interested in helping and caring of others. Once a wise man said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” (N. Mandela). We believe in the same idea, which was also one inspiration for our mission: Connect students with tertiary level educational institutions worldwide and provide them with the necessary information to find the most suitable study option for everyone.

Education is a rapidly growing field, and enrolment in higher education is expected to double up to 262 million by 2025. More and more students are moving across borders seeking education outside their home countries. Nevertheless, we have to remember that at the same time there are still more than 72 million children who should be in primary school according to their age, but who don’t have access to basic education. There are several reasons for that, for example wars, poverty and some related on cultural old traditions etc. There has been even a discussion about “a lost generation”, which means that there is a risk that, in certain areas in the world, an entire generation will remain without basic education including skills in reading and writing.

This is something we want to help stop happening with Study Advisory. Right from the beginning we knew that we wanted to regularly donate to charity, and more specifically for children’s education. That’s why we decided to target our donation to UNESCO’s programme for the Education of Children in Need. The program has been existing since 1992 and over the years it has raised over $40 million dollars and shared them to over 400 projects in almost 100 countries.

Study Advisory's charity project
Our managing director Sami, excited to make the first yearly donation to UNESCO.

We make a donation to UNESCO based on the number of student reviews in our online service – 25 euro cents for each review. With the help of the students, we participate in building a better tomorrow for those children who are vulnerable in the society and are lacking access to basic education. Study Advisory’s online service was launched in September 2015 and during our first year we managed to gather about 3 200 reviews. Next year we want to triple that!

Help us reach that goal & rate to donate!

Top 5 reasons why employers love applicants who have studied abroad

Why should the employers care about your study abroad experiences?

Are you planning to go to study abroad and wondering what kind of benefits it could bring you in the future? Or have you already studied abroad and are now thinking how to tell it to your potential future employers? We in the Study Advisory team are very familiar with these questions, since we have all been there and explained our employers why they should appreciate our experiences. Let us tell you our top 5 reasons why employers will love you when you tell them that you have studied abroad!

1. You are used to getting out of your comfort zone

All those friends of yours who have never stepped out of their home country sometimes think that studying abroad is just about partying hard and hitting the beach. Well, usually it’s not. It is a journey that will make you grow as a person. You have to do things that you have never done before, and sometimes, there is nobody there to help you out. Often you also have to manage those situations in a foreign language. It is also a way to take a look at your own study field from another perspective.

Studying abroad is a great way to get out of your comfort zone. This is a skill that is heavily needed also in today’s working life in the globalising world.

Intercultural communication are important for employers.

2. You are able to be flexible

When you have studied abroad, you have probably adapted to many new things. Maybe you had to deal with some bureaucratic officials, maybe you found a cockroach under your bed and had to sleep on a sofa. Thus, you have built an amazing amount of flexibility that is also needed in today’s working life. You have also realised and accepted that there are different ways to do things in different parts of the world.

In a job interview, for example, you can share a story or two about how flexible you can be in everyday situations. This will most likely convince the employers that you’ll be flexible in your new work, too.

3. You have great networks

You networks have probably exploded compared to your homies, who stayed in the comfort of their home country. You have new friends now, such as an engineering student from Brazil, a waitress from Spain, a landlord from Greece and a flatmate from China. In addition to the already existing networks, you can easily convince your future employers that you will be able to build new career-related networks in no time!

Make sure to keep those networks alive even after you come home. A day might come when you need your network also for some work-related stuff. Or maybe there is just a conference in your friend’s hometown and you want someone to show you around the city? Building these networks and keeping them up and running will totally be worth it – trust us!

4. Language skills

No matter whether you studied in English, learned just a few words of Spanish or are now completely fluent in Japanese, your future employer will surely appreciate it.

Language skills in the working life are not just about being grammatically correct, they are about having the courage to use languages in everyday life. Surely, if you have studied abroad, you already have what it takes to communicate in different languages. Make sure to highlight this courage also in your CV.

Sharing your stories in a new job is great.

5. Intercultural communication skills

It is not just about the language skills. In order to work efficiently in an international atmosphere you also have to handle communication with people from different cultures.

Studying abroad is probably one of the best ways to develop communication skills. You get more confidence with being around foreign people and you learn how to handle even the biggest of misunderstandings.

+ Great coffee room conversations

Who wouldn’t want to hear your awesome experiences about studying abroad? If you are working for an international company, the odds are good that your new colleagues have also studied abroad at some point. Those stories make for great conversations, and you will bond with your colleagues in a totally new way. If your boss appreciated your study abroad experiences already in the application process, there is a great chance that maybe they were also partying under the Italian sun as an Erasmus student just few years before you… Go and see!

So, here we have listed some tips about why future employers will appreciate your studies abroad. Study abroad experience is a great way to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Just go for it – and remember to make it visible on your CV!

How to get motivated

Try and find your motivation
Get up and try

The bright blob is creeping from the cracks of the window shades and it hits you straight in the eyes. You roll over to the other side just to wake up to the oh-so-annoying alarm. Swipe it off and cuddle under the blanket to sigh until the snooze. What’s the point of getting up?

It is not only students who feel like losing their motivation from time to time. It happens to all of us, whether already in working-life or on a summer holiday or retired. No matter if it’s sunny, grey, winter or summer. It just hits us humans like a flower that blooms at the same spot every spring even after the coldest of winter.

What to do then when everything seems pointless?

The most common answer is maybe: “nothing”. Because that is how unmotivated thoughts make you feel.

However, there is one thing you can try to start from: live in the moment. Stress is something that can kill motivation so easily so aim to keep your mind in the present: don’t dwell in the past or live in woulds or coulds of the future either.

Find your inner motivation – not the outer. So many people live their whole life chasing objects when the best things in life are often not measured in material or titles. Surely you have felt passionately about something – think if you would have that feeling about your studies and life all the time? Have you ever loved someone? That sensation does not require any material; it is a pure feeling that makes your whole body feel good.

Solid rewards are not always motivating in longer term. “If you do this, you get that”- thinking is actually pushing you to a cycle where you operate towards something that does not come from your own willingness. Do you want to achieve something for your own growth or for external happiness, such as a high-paying job?

Of course it is good to reward yourself with also small material good every once in a while. Having a nice cup of coffee or a special treat waiting for you in the end of day makes it that much better, just don’t make it a habit.

Make a change to be motivated

Cut out stressful things from your life and find your passion (but don’t seek it). Take a break from the social media. Many of the stressing aspects such as envy are flourishing there. It is a place for highlighting the good parts of one’s life and might make you feel like you are not experiencing anything but drawbacks and boring everyday stuff. It is hard to think positively if what you see all the time makes you feel like you are not accomplishing anything.

Positive thinking makes positive outcomes and realising your passion makes your inner motivation flourish! Take a look at this video to get a new perspective to passion:

Find a hobby to balance your life

This relates to sorting out your passion. Do you have something you’ve always been interested in? What about enrolling to a knitting course or buying that new bike you have been dreaming of for a long time? Maybe start doing yoga or meditate? Run, go for long walks. Getting your heart rate up is something that lowers the stress levels and clarifies your thoughts, same as getting really into something that you love doing. You don’t need to even do it for long, just 20 minutes a day is enough to de-stress your body. When your mindset is clear, everything else seems easier. Read other tips to combat stress from here.

Take a break

Having a break is alright to stay motivated.
Take a break.

In today’s society you might feel pushed to achieve everything at an early age and as soon as possible. Being impatient is not helping you to be motivated – it is another cause of anxiety and stress. Do not feel bad about taking a break – not only small breaks every day but even a longer one if you feel like your life is stuck. Ignore people saying “You need to do this now and sort out your life”. Take your own time and you will not have regrets later. One-month retreat in India sound good to you? Go for it. You can always return, but regretting for not taking the chances is the worst feeling. Or does it feel hard to get one hour of studying done? Try having a 20 minute break every half an hour, before you even notice it, you’ve made already two hours!

Organise things (i.e. make lists)

It has never hurt anyone to be organized, quite the opposite. Writing a journal might help you get your feelings together when you are having a hard time or if writing is not something you do, record a diary. Next day, read or listen to it and think how you feel about it compared to the current moment. If you always seem to feel the same blues, you need a change. But if your feelings seem to be like a rollercoaster: one day your high up, one day down – you need to identify the things that are making the downward rides and eating your motivation. People grow and habits change. Maybe consider if the way you have always studied has just turned out to be less suitable for you within years.

Scheduling your work and free time gives you some kind of control over your life that can seem like a mess. If you think your work does not progress, record it. Make a list of all the things you have accomplished and learned. Try to list 3 positive things from your life that you are grateful for, every day. When you do it for a few weeks, you start to realise how many things are amazing in your life.

And then, just remember to try your best and smile. It is contagious and even if you need to make an effort for it in the beginning, it helps!

Written by Suvi Loponen

Higher education tuition fees – marketised academic world?

From free to fees

Next year Finland, following its Scandinavian neighbours, is introducing tuition fees ranging all the way up to 25,000 euros for non-European Union (EU) and non-European Economic Area (EEA) students.

Finland is not the first nation to introduce tuition fees – and certainly will not be the last. Of the Nordic countries the only ones still offering tuition free education for international students are Iceland and Norway, both of whom have said that they highly doubt ever introducing any fees.

In general, Europe-wise, tuition free higher education is limited to the two Nordic countries of Iceland and Norway, as well as Germany and France. Globally, many other universities are only charging a registration fee, such as in Brazil and Argentina.

The effects of the change in Finland are still uncertain, but based on what came about in other Nordic countries, Denmark in 2006 and Sweden in 2011, the quantity of international applicants and students is likely to decrease – unless that is, the universities manage to maintain the student flows with effective marketing.

Milla Eronen, the head of communications at Aalto University, says: “We still aim to attract international students with our high-quality teaching and the variety of study choices. In the beginning, the adoption of tuition fees is certainly going to lower the number of international applicants. This has happened everywhere, and to tackle this some innovative actions are needed.”

In Sweden the number of international students has dropped from over 22,100 to 14,700[1] following the introduction of tuition fees for non-EU/EEA students in 2011. However, the Swedish institutions have managed to change course and raise the number of non-EU/EEA students with a steady increase. The Swedish example illustrates the value of well sustained marketing and recruitment.[2]

By the rising of and introduction of tuition fees, universities are challenged even more in attracting overseas students and maintaining their internationality. Similarly to Finland, the second most important factor in deciding on a place to study for international students was the cost of their studies (previously free).[3]

The three most expensive countries for studying are still the UK, USA and Australia, all of which also have the most universities in the world’s top 100 ranking lists. (Though these lists are not extensive meters of student satisfaction, as our research has shown.)

“Of course, the introduction of tuition fees is going to bring some extra income to Aalto, but then again, improving the services and creating a scholarship system are going to produce some expenses. So, this practice evens out the profit making-aspect of the tuition fees – at least in the beginning”, Eronen continues.

Increasing the existing tuition fees

The British government has once again proposed to raise their tuition fee -ceiling from the current £9000. With only two weeks to go before the dreadful Brexit-vote, especially the students of the European Union are facing the chill of the winds of change.

When the United Kingdom introduced the maximum tuition fee of £9000 – which was almost thrice higher than it had been – it was noticeably visible in the applicant numbers, which dropped 12 % between 2011 and 2013. And not only does the rises in the fees dry out the applicant flows in the home countries of potential students – but it also drives students to look for alternatives abroad. Many applicants from the United Kingdom started to see other European countries as more attractive when that of their own homeland became increasingly expensive, and some fear that as a result, the fee cap is to be eventually removed altogether. [5]

The drop in only international applicant numbers rather than the general admissions of locals can be explained because international students and native students quite commonly pay different tuition fees. For example, in the University of Cambridge the tuition for overseas students can be up to £38 000[4], whereas the locals and EU-citizens pay only up to £9000 for their undergraduate degree.

What is known as the domino effect in this matter is that, while the tuition fees are first introduced only to the international students of Finland, later on it might change to apply to even the local students. And even though the fees are introduced in response to cost cuts, for example in Denmark the same amount that is acquired from the tuition fees is now used for talented students’ scholarships. Thus with the fundamental shift towards non-free education, in a marketised academic world it is becoming increasingly important for universities to amp up their marketing strategies. Something that Study Advisory can certainly help with.


[1] Sweden on the rebound from tuition fee fallout, accessed 11/6

[2] Sweden’s international student numbers up for the first time since 2011


[4] International fees and costs

[5] UK university fees to be linked to quality of ‘student experience’ 

Am I too old to study? Studying as a mature student

Mature student

Who is a mature student?

What is considered a “mature student” varies throughout the world – whereas in Finland it’s a normality to start university when aged over 20, but in the UK, you are already considered a mature student if you are aged 21 or older.

In general, the age of graduating classes is decreasing. When comparing the years 2005 and 2011, the age of acquiring a first degree has dropped from 25.2 to 24.7 years and older students are respectively graduating almost a year earlier, aged on average 27.9. (OECD Indicators, 2013)  Also, in the UK, the statistics of 2014 shows a drastic drop in the number of mature applicants – which was highly criticised by the government, as education is meant for everyone and it is clear if the ever-increasing fees is making it just that much harder for less well-off people to enrol into higher education.

The benefits of studying at an older age are, nevertheless, easy to point out. Many mature students are more motivated in their studies than others: they have had the time to decide what they want and now they are going for it – all out.

This is not always the case with younger students, who are afraid
of getting left behind if they take too long dwelling on decision-making. That is why the older students should embrace their age rather than be embarrassed about it.

It is not a hindrance to be older and in higher education – on the contrary. Those people sitting in the front row of the lecture hall, those who have the courage to stand up and ask for more clarifying answers when something is unclear, those people looking like they could be your parents – they are often the most mature students.

Why are they sometimes having more of an advantage than the youngsters?

Because they have passed the phase of “oh my god I have no idea what this means, but if I ask the tutor, everyone is going to look at me and think I am dumb”. Most of 18-year-olds nowadays think that is it stupid to ask how to print a document. But for someone aged around 40, with three children, coming back to education after a working career, it is a completely relevant question that they are not afraid to ask.

I was 22-years old when I started my bachelors degree. My peers were mostly 18-year-olds or some of them even 17. I was told multiple times that I was too old for starting my studies, that I should already be graduating. And every time I had this conversation with someone, I wondered if they were right.

I had no children nor was I that much older than the others, but it was surprising how much more “mature” I had become from the age of 18, within those few unplanned gap years that I took.

It sometimes seemed like there was this huge Grand Canyon between me and the other students celebrating their 18th birthday, coming up to the lectures looking like the night had ended up rolling in the bushes. Those moments I felt the most happy I had spent my night in bed catching up with HIMYM.

They recently raised the age of retiring here in Finland to 65. So with my math skills, even if I graduate at the age of 28 with my master’s papers, I have 37 full working years ahead of me. It makes me feel astounded to say the least. It is a long time. I sometimes feel tired already now, after my 7 years of mostly part-time working.

And for some, it is not the first higher education degree that they start as a mature student. Many realise after getting the diploma that the job is not for them. It is amazing how full of possibilities world is, even if you decide to change your mind!

So don’t be afraid of taking a gap year or even another, because you have time. It is more important to study something you feel motivated about, something that teaches you things  you need not only in an exam, but you are actually interested in.

by Suvi Loponen

TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC – the language test monsters measuring your English skills

These language test tongue-twisters may lurk in the dark for you until one day you get the opportunity or idea of studying in English. Most universities that offer teaching in English require you to take one of these tests in order to prove your proficiency in the language. You wish the acronyms would be the most complex part of them– but they are not. The tests vary in how they are composed and what they emphasise on, but also in their grading scale. And in Finland for example, you can only sit the IELTS in the capital city.


The Test Of English as Foreign Language is the most common requirement for entering American universities as a non-native English speaker, taken already by over 30 million people in the world. TOEFL is possible to take in two formats: paper (PBT) or internet (iBT). These two are executed in slightly different formats and also produce a different grade. The four sections (listening, reading, speaking, and writing) will take about 4,5 hours in total, and despite it being an internet based test, you need to take it in a test centre. [1] The paper version takes about the same amount of time but excludes the speaking section, focusing more heavily on writing performance. [2]The PBT is scored on a range between 310-677, writing given a separate grade and iBT out of 120.

The cost of the TOEFL is about $160 (145€).


The International English Language Testing System is the second most common language test required by higher education institutions. It consists of four units:

  1. Listening includes 4 sections, has 40 questions and you have 30 minutes time to tackle it.
  2. Speaking is measured in an interview which takes 15 minutes.
  3. The reading part is different for Academic or General Training; it consists of 3 sections having 40 questions. You have 60 minutes to finish this.
  4. Writing part is also different for Academic and General Training but it requires you to do 2 pieces of writing in 60 minutes (talk about tough).

You get scored on a scale from 1 to 9. Half points are possible, i.e. 6.5. All the units are taken into account when calculating your overall score, meaning the average of all components.[3]

The test is costly; hence you probably want to nail it on the first try. The price is over 200€ (£150-200, $ 200).

The Cambridge English Exam

Wait, no acronym? Oh there is. The Cambridge English Exam is a kind of mother of all language tests. The first CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English) was sat by three candidates (all of whom failed [4]) already back in 1913. It was a test ‘for Foreign Students who desire a satisfactory proof of their knowledge of the language with a view on teaching it in foreign schools.’ So not that much has changed in the purpose of it – except that it’s not only required from teachers today and it does not cost £3 anymore.

From 1913 onward, the tests produced in the University of Cambridge Language Assessment have boomed. IELTS is one of the tests produced under this branch and CAE (Cambridge English: Advanced) is recognised by most higher education institutes and companies for the proof of excellent English proficiency. You get scored from 180 to 230 or from C1 to A.

The cost of CAE is around 150€ ($160).


The Test of English for International Communication is used primarily for businesses, yet it is a very common language test, taken by about 7 million people in the world, and also accepted by some universities. The test has two parts; reading and listening and speaking and writing. The reading and listening part is divided into two sections, in both of which you are required to answer 100 multiple choice questions. The total time this takes is about 2 and a half hours. The second part, speaking and writing, you’ll have a 20-minute speaking section with 11 questions, followed by writing answers for 8 questions, taking up to 60 minutes. Compared to IELTS,

TOEIC’s price is around $ 170 (145€) [5].

IELTS language test

Written by Suvi Loponen







Follow your passion – 10 degrees you probably didn’t know exist!

Does your degree feel like a waste of time? Do you get the feeling that sitting in the Quantum physics 101 is not your thing?

So do others. But the range of classes today is immersive – you can honestly study something that you like, unlike in the first ever universities almost 900 years ago, when you could choose from basically four subjects (in Latin).

So worries be gone, ditch the boring physics! Here are some degrees that might bring back your passion for studying!

1.Harry Potter and The Age of Illusion

They see me rowling - they hatin' my Harry Potter degree
They see me rolling – they hatin’ my Harry Potter degree

Is Harry Potter a favorite of yours? If so, the Durham University in the United Kingdom offers a fantastic opportunity to deepen your understanding on this cultural phenomenon as part of your Educational studies. You will learn (almost) everything about the World of Quidditch in its social, cultural and educational context. Could it be time to forget the boring English Lit classes, and study potions instead?

2. Ethical Hacking

Who doesn’t like stalking, even just a tiny bit! We all do it and whether or not we admit it, some people even do it professionally (and legally) and get paid for it. In the University of Abertay Dundee, you can study how to hack and prevent someone from hacking you, ethically. It is a guaranteed employment if you decide to go down the path to learn how to hack – for good purposes of course.

Ethical Hacking degree
Bad example of ethical hacking.

3. Baking Technology Management

Cookies degree
True story. Every time.

Apart from Harry Potter, baking is close to coming in my personal second place on things that I want to learn everything about. The London Southbank University has “The Worshipful Company of Bakers” – an endorsed degree in baking, and it probably does not even sound as sweet as studying it would be! Being a baking technologist – that’s impressive if something.

4. The Joy of Garbage

Joy of Garbage degree
Garbage is coming

If hacking and baking are too much of neat indoor jobs, garbage digging gets your hands dirty. It’s not a whole degree you can study, but Santa Clara University offers a course in, directly quoted from their website, “Mold, methane, and enteric fermentation. Rates of decomposition. And a lot of pictures of dead things. It’s not “CSI.” It’s the Joy of Garbage.” In this course, students get to experience the joy of landfills, sewage treatment plants and waste recycling facilities. Something for everyone, right?

5. Artist Blacksmithing

Thor degree
If so, he’s still hot.

Today it is important to be hip (yet not to be called hipster) and do something a bit outside the box. Game of Thrones is cool, The Vikings as well. And what do they have in common (apart from a lot of nudity and blood): muscular, topless men. I mean, blacksmiths! In Hereford College of Arts one can learn how to combine traditional blacksmithing skills in order to produce contemporary art. Probably with a shirt on. And of course girls can be blacksmiths as well.

6. Viking and Old Norse Studies

Vikings degree

For those admiring the history of the Nords, University College London offers a great opportunity to get some insight into the culture of the Viking Age. During the 4-year long studies, you will master not only one Nordic language but also spend your third year abroad in Scandinavia. And if you still have a burning passion to learn more, University of Iceland offers a 2-year masters class in the same subject!

7. Beer studies (Brewing & distilling)

Beer brewing degree
Learn to ye own beer!

Alcohol consumption is something that students have been criticised for since the early days of universities, so what would be better than turning this passion for the malt drink into a profession? In the Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, you can educate yourself to be a manager of the malting, brewing and distilling industries and get a full understanding of the science and technology of the processes involved from cereal farming to bottling and packaging.

8. Surf Science and Technology

Surf studies degree
Learn how to be cool – study surfing

Do you feel more stable on a surf board rocking the waves than on solid ground? Cornwall College could be your dream uni in that case! And even if you are a complete newbie to surfing, they’ll teach you everything from the basics to Sociological and Psychological Perspectives of Surfing.

9. Viticulture and Oenelogy

Viticulture studies degree
When you study viticulture, you’ll know.

Your first question is probably: what is this?! It is of course a course in wine culture and wine science. Charles Sturt University in Australia offers this opportunity to gain skills or maybe even maintaining a wine yard after graduation! And as a cherry on top, you will be eligible for student membership to the Australian Society for Viticulture and Oenology.

10. International Spa Management

Spa Studies degree
Spa studies might be your path to your dream job

Last but not least – some relaxing studies in the spa industry. This University of Derby’s bachelor’s degree is “one of the most employable” and after your graduation you can open your own spa, with full training in massaging and other spa-treatments, as well as the spa business in general.


Written by Suvi Loponen