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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have you heard of Universum’s rankings? This year, in Finland, Kone, Finnair, Google and Fazer rank first in terms of most attractive employers for corporate positions. For IT types, the ranking comes in a different shape and includes first Google, second Reaktor and third Supercell. Wait, you might think this has got nothing to do with education, attractive universities, and Study Advisory… But it does! In Finland like in the rest of the world, students get a higher education because, at the end of the day, they think these extra years after high school will land them a job close enough to their dream job.
While usually, at the end of high school, you might be too young to think of the company you would like to work at, you generally have a sense of what type of company or organisation would fit your values, or sell the sort of product you buy… And then, suddenly you turn 23, and if you are like the silent majority, you might regret not having known earlier where you absolutely wanted to (apply, and, hopefully) work. This suggests a missing link between the early stages of career planning and career starting.
In the meantime, the university you as a high school student are contemplating or you, university student, are attending might well be interesting to particular employers. Especially those surveyed for the French consultancy Emerging by the German firm Trendence. The tendency to start ranking universities not only for their academic strengths like publications, or mere employment ratios post graduation, but also with regards to actual attraction for a critical mass of global employers is worth noticing.
The latest Emerging-Trendence ranking, which surveyed almost 6000 employers in 20 countries of the world, presents a story rather diverging from the research focus. As Emerging explains the ranking only describes the ‘market’s viewpoint’, i.e. of recruitment and international specialists recruiting or managing a least 50 new young graduates per year, taken across major industries.
A German university in the top ten of higher education institutions’ employability ranking: TU Munich
But what does ’employability’ mean? Of course it is, first, getting a job. At a multinational or an SME, or one that you create in your own brand-new start up, whatever… The crux of the matter lies elsewhere: in the soft skills you get at university are also very valuable. Soft skills can be languages, but they can also include adaptability, emotional intelligence, or being capable of presenting well the result of your research on any given project. Among Finnish universities, the University of Helsinki ranks 72th on the Emerging global employability ranking.
But universities are not only good for employers or future employees, they are also valuable for society, which can be measured through innovations, in turn measured by patents’ number, quality, reach, and impact. This is where another ranking can be described as influential: the Reuters innovation ranking of European universities, which relies on publications and patents data gathered by Thomson Reuters Intellectual Property & Science.
Study Advisory’s partner university KU Leuven came first in 2016, followed by Imperial College London, Cambridge University (both in the United Kingdom), and the Swiss EPFL. The fifth most innovative university is perhaps well worth mentioning again (TU Munich), should one want to compile a personal ranking of valuable rankings… of the kind that would aggregate employability and innovation. Meanwhile, other Study Advisory’s partners are in the top 50 of innovative universities: Erasmus University Rotterdam and Vrije University of Brussels.
Yes, broadening your horizons can be as simple as an exchange…but, beyond that, innovation or career plans can stay at the back of your head, or maybe just the idea that you can factor in employability and innovation when choosing your university.
If you are interested in patents… as well as employability
Here is a table that gathers the top 15 European universities for employability and innovation:
Employability rankings (taken from Emerging Trendence world ranking)
Innovation (retrieved from Reuters: Europe most innovative universities)
At the end of the day, patents and publications of tomorrow’s graduates will differ from the 2016 rankings, but general trends last. University-business cooperation is strong in certain countries or at certain universities of applied sciences and this does not change year or year, it might rather depend on which European funding a group of researchers might secure for the coming years. Likewise, universities might help you find your job, but not to be successful at it.
Some universities think getting their graduates onto the job market means they have fulfilled their duty… But do graduates consistently satisfy employers, and do they satisfy them in the long run? According to the definition of employability given by surveyed employers in the Emerging study, there is a ‘professional know-how’ dimension that comes into play, in addition to the expertise required to get the position.
This is in line with what the vice-president for institutional advancement at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology told Times Higher Education: a university should help you make a good job after you have landed it. That is why being in contact with innovative researchers or conducting research for a company during your studies might be worthwhile. (In other words, do not focus solely on the first column of the table above!)
Sometimes there are situations in life when you need to — or want to — combine different life phases, that are equally important to you. Combining studies and building a family might sound complex, but it can also give you the most precious memories of your life. Here are three different true stories told by anonymous people, two mothers and a father, who have experience in studying with a baby on their lap.
Language student reads epic poetry to the newborn
I am studying Finnish language in a humanistic faculty and am just about to graduate. I started my studies in the autumn 2011 and my daughter was born in December 2012. At the same time, I was still finishing my studies in the University of applied sciences. I didn’t have any maternity leave, but my husband was taking care of the baby, as I was attending to my exams. For a long time, I was not able to stay outside the house, only enough to write the examinations!
The best memories of those times came from the baby, of course! I realized I started to deal with my studies in much more relaxed way, as I noticed there was something even more special and valuable in my life. I was doing my literacy studies while my child was a newborn, so I read out loud some of my exam books, for example the Finnish epic poetry Kalevala. My life in general felt quite laid-back and carefree. I was doing as much studies as I could, and sniffing the baby’s pink smell.
The biggest challenge for me was to really get myself to the uni and to find time for the studies, since being a mother is quite holistic and all-encompassing. Usually I was trying to finish my exams before the baby would get hungry again, cause she wouldn’t eat from a bottle. I was always doing my study tasks while she was sleeping. Actually, I have done all my studies in the evenings, after she has fallen asleep — it can get quite tough! What I am looking forward to about my graduation, is that I am finally going to be able to have a moment in the evening when I don’t have to do anything.
Coffee and bun, makes a happy student-mom
My husband’s parents have been priceless help for us. They have been helping me the whole time and supporting me with my studies. It has been so lovely that every time after each of my exams, my husband’s father has served me with coffee and bun! Then we have discussed about the topics of my exam. I was also lucky that during my husband’s parental leave, I was able to attend to a few courses at the uni. There is also a very nice Children’s Stop at my university, where I could leave my baby, before she went to a proper daycare.
Journalist mother of two got strength and inspiration from her studies
I studied broadcasting journalism by the time my son was born, and I already had a daughter aged four. I wasn’t planning on having another baby, and the times were extremely hard. I had no maternity leave, I had to both study and work part time at the same time, when taking care of the kids. I was basically always the sole guardian. I don’t really even remember much of the times when my son was a baby; it’s all a blur and too traumatic to remember — a black hole in my life.
The studies were a life-saver — both in a symbolic and practical meaning
I was extremely unhappy, but having a burn out or giving up was not even an option. My social life was somewhat non-existent, I had nothing of my own. I lived only hoping that once I pull through, I can one day build a life I can be happy with.
My studies were a gateway to another kind of life, to independence, to self-value. It was really important to study something I was so keen on, it gave me hope and meaning! Of course I didn’t really excel in my studies because of my situation, and I regret that. But for me, the most important thing was that my studies helped me to get there where I’m today professionally. I think being so young as I was helped me in a way, to manage the physical stress that the situation caused me.
Studying — “the best possible investment in the future”
The children motivated me into working hard and developing my skills, so I could have a career and a job I actually like, or even love — a thing not many young, teenage and /or single mothers can achieve. At the moment, I enjoy my current professional status and the fact that my children are already in school age, getting more and more independent all the time. Other women of my age are starting to stress about having kids, but I can focus on my career and my own personal happiness.
Sometimes I do feel a bit saddened by it though: I never got to experience a maternity leave nor was I able to offer a prosperous start in life for my kids. And who can say where I’d be in my life — both professional and personal ways – without my kids. Then again, had I not had them that time, maybe I never would have experienced motherhood.
Studying was the best possible investment in the future — both for me and my kids. The cost was my youth, but in situation I was in, it was the best thing to do.
Statistician father — the small things made the days
When my son was born, I was finishing my university studies majoring in statistics. I was able to stay home for eight months after he was born, because I was writing my Masters’s theses. It was a great thing, that the theses were the last task for my study program, so I was able to study at home before I started to work.
The best memories of that time, were the moments when I got to see how my baby was developing every day and learning new things. The small things made my days — and they still do. For example the moments when I saw how the child was making contact with a lion toy. He was afraid but making contact at the same time! I also got a good buddy to join me with my hobbies.
The biggest struggle for me was to realize, how the feelings can change so rapidly. Especially when I was trying to get him to sleep and I was not succeeding — he struggle is real! What helped me the most, was to acknowledge that the baby is not doing things difficult just to piss you off, there is a true matter and need behind the behavior. It was also helpful to know that the baby-times are not going to last forever.
If you are planning to combine your studies with a baby, you should know that the graduation might take more time than the usual, but it is still possible to go on one step at a time.
“Business” is one of the most common and popular study fields, but nevertheless, for some students it may be difficult to understand what they can achieve with their business degree. In this post, I am going to give four key points to help business students get the most out of their degree. These goals are achievable and measurable, and will help you pursue your studies further. You can try to change them into practical tasks and add them to your to-do list.
I am sure that by reading this, the business degree will become a bit more meaningful to all of you!
1. Pay attention to classes
Business students may want to achieve different goals in universities. Some may want to get a good grade so that they can be promoted to a better job. Some may want to receive tertiary education so they can be improved spiritually and knowledgeably. Some may want to try every new thing so they can develop their potential. Going to class, especially for the business students, would be the easiest way to accomplish the above-mentioned goals. Apart from learning hard facts from the books and PowerPoints, in class you will also get the chance to discuss with your fellow students. You can learn from other business students and review your own ideas. It is also a golden opportunity to develop your own network!
2. Take part in different activities
If you are planning to achieve a business-related career, I would recommend you to join some business-related societies or consulting clubs. You can meet more students and professionals in different fields and you may also sniff some career information. If you dream of getting a work related to technology, it might be a wise idea to join some seminars about new technologies. This is an excellent way to learn more about the current trends. It’s good to always bear in mind that your current friends may become your colleagues one day.
3. Don’t bound yourself
As a university student, you should keep an open mind to every new people, environment or study field. By going to different lectures, you can learn something completely new that you can possibly apply in your future projects. For example, marketing skills are essential to all the disciplines. I recommend all of you, no matter what is your major, should go to have some marketing lessons.
Furthermore, you can also join some sports club to keep yourself always energetic and your body in a good condition to accept different challenges. It would also be a great occasion for you to widen the social cycle. While exercising, you can share your innovative ideas to other outstanding students. A tip for you: Mark Zuckerberg loves playing tennis !
4. Join more discussions
You can meet so many professors, staff members and experts in business when you have lectures or seminars. Grab the chance and rdon’t hesitate to ask any questions you have! I am sure that they would be pleased to share their knowledge, experiences and personal connections with you. These can certainly bring new insights to your academic research and future career path.
I know all of you must share the same question right now. “How can we have so much time to achieve all four goals? I wish I could have 48 hours a day!” There is no doubt that we only have limited time while we have plenty of tasks needs to be done! However, as mature students, we should have the ability to prioritize the tasks according to their importance and emergency. It is reasonable that you focus on the tasks that you consider the key to your success! You may also check out our other blog posts about time management to utilize your time!
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 !
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.
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).
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 Facebook. For 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.
Volunteering at university can benefit and enrich your life in many ways. By volunteering we mean an altruistic activity done for the good of the society. It can be help to disabled people, caring about homeless animals, organising social events etc.
Students are offered plenty of possibilities for voluntary activities. However, some students ignore them because of lack of time or because they underestimate the perks such type of work can bring them.
Gain new competencies
Volunteering is doing new things in a fresh working environment. You learn general skills such as goal setting, planning, organising and team work, but also gain specific competencies, e.g how to encounter challenges and take responsibility. Your communication and social skills will be enhanced greatly. And who knows what kind of hidden talents could be discovering then! You might even become so skilled that you will get some money compensation for your work.
Enhance your career
While volunteering, you build networks and communicate with people from different working environments and backgrounds. You get precious insights into a specific career. Volunteering at university stage benefits your life track and makes a good contribution also to your personal development. It enormously raises the chances of your employability: hiring managers prefer job applicants with a volunteer experience over those without it.
Expand new horizons
Volunteering opens new horizons as you might socialise with people from other cultures and explore new places and even get the possibility to travel. For international students it is a good possibility to fit in a local life style or learn a new language etc. Benefit from the deep immersion into new cultures!
While working for your student union you can make impact and change something you feel unsatisfied with. It is your chance to take decisions and improve study environment around you!
Those who do unpaid work gain a sense of satisfaction from their involvement. By helping others, you will get recharged by positive energy and maybe discover a new perspective of life. Make the best of your study time!
Where to find information about volunteering
Be open and active! There are multiple sources of information to get involved. The information about volunteering can be found on the webpages of universities and student unions. The higher education institutions might have special events for students interested in volunteering. E.g University of Eastern Finland (UEF) participated in various campaigns and events with a goal to promote the integration of asylum seekers into Finnish society. (1)
Moreover, you can check the webpages of different volunteering organizations. There are also internet platforms that connect people interested in volunteering worldwide . E.g Volunteer World is the first independent platform that connects volunteers and social projects globally. This platform provides a community marketplace to present, discover, and apply to international volunteer options. Volunteer World aims to provide cost and service transparency of volunteer programs as well as significantly facilitates the search and application process. The portal has more than 1000 registered users and offers about 600 programs in more than 70 countries. You can easily compare the options based on cost, price and purpose. In addition to valuable peers feedback, the website contains a lot of useful information you might need if you going work as a volunteer.
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 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.
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).
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. 
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, 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.
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.