Category Archives: Travelling

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

Russia

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

Finland

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

Norway

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

Iceland

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

Sweden

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

Research projects on the Arctic at Stockholm University

Canada

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

Hitchhiking tips: thumb up and get a ride!

Passionate about travelling? Not scared going out of your comfort zone? Want to bring some excitement into your life? Then you are in a right place!

Travelling is the most popular trend nowadays, especially among youngsters. However, not every person is able to do travelling, because of the financial side of it. It surely requires some amount of money to cover transport expenses, living costs, food etc. However, there are some things you can save money on.

hitchhiking

You have probably heard about auto-stop? The more advanced travelers nowadays use the word “hitchhiking”. Hitchhiking is getting more and more common way to travel these days. Not only because it’s basically free, but also because it’s unusual, brings you lots of new emotions as well as new acquaintances and even friends!

Last year my friend and I made a 12 days non-stop hitchhike across Europe. We started from Italy, went to France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, Germany, Sweden and finished our journey in Finland. On our way we met bunch of amazing people and got a ride from 17 drivers: some German and Italian students, DJ and wine bottle designer, pretty old couple that drove us way further than they needed to, policeman, volleyball coach, oil and cacao company worker, 86 years old sailor going to a party, French couple going for vacation, lady who works with mentally ill people, a lawyer & doctor couple who walked back to us because they wanted to help, two Finnish guys, airport push/pull plane driver, the girl from movie-making industry, oil distributor, top manager of IKEA warehouse and a chef cook of 3 top restaurants around Helsinki.

hitchhiking

However, if you are up for trying this way of travelling, you need to plan things well and some things even beforehand. So, here I am to give you some hints and to share my personal experience.

1. Choose a good location

Location is the most important thing in getting a ride. You need to find a good spot where you can be easily seen and where cars can stop safely. Therefore, it is essential to have a map. For a hitchhiking spot I recommend a public highway – it is absolutely the best spot to catch a ride. Going downtown is a bad idea since it´s gonna be hard to find a long-distance ride from there; also downtown there is usually no space for a car to stop, because of the heavy traffic in the center.

Also,  a good idea is to join different hitchhiking clubs and to check out the world HitchWiki map where travelers mark the best hitchhiking spots to get a ride from. If you can’t get a ride on the road, try petrol stations. Just walk around, ask people to give you a lift. This will be helpful!

2. Take some comfortable and bright clothes with you

It is really important to dress up properly. You will walk a lot, so make yourself ready for it. Think about comfortable clothes and shoes. Fill your backpack only with necessary things! Check out few tips for How to Pack a Backpack. Personally I suggest taking few T-shirts, extra pair of socks, rain cover, deodorant and camera. Color is important! Wear bright clothes, so that drivers can easily see you from a distance. Such items like a flashlight, a pocketknife, black marker for writing on a cardboard, sunscreen, etc. would become useful and they don’t weight much.

hitchhiking
On our way to Amsterdam.

3. Don´t hitchhike alone

If you use this way of travelling – always take a friend with you. However, it’s good to know, that you cannot take all of your friends either! Two people is usually the best option, since cars don’t have space for more. Also for safety reasons, it is always fun to travel with somebody you know. Stay positive, talk, laugh – this experience will stay with you forever!

4. Stay awake!

If there are two of you travelling, one person should always be awake! If it’s been really hard day and you need some sleep, you can do rotation with your friend. One person sleeps, another follows the road and vice versa. It is also a good idea, to keep some conversation going with the driver. Usually the people who give you a ride are open-minded and very interesting people (they probably pick you up to have a talk and not to get bored), so grab the opportunity! Make friends, build connections!

hitc
The road from Milan to Paris.

5. Stay safe

Hitchhiking might seem risky, but that should not stop you from trying it. Just always keep an eye out! If the driver looks suspicious to you, do not accept a ride! It is good to remember the car number and even take a picture of a car if possible, and send it to your friend or family before leaving.

To sum up, I just want to say: never be afraid of trying something new and as my teacher once said “Live fast, love hard and die laughing”!
-Daria Tcvetkova

Coming back home from exchange – another type of culture shock

Flying back home

The process of student exchange consists of great variety of different emotional roller coasters – not only fun and games. You might be mentally prepared for obstacles in the target country and studies, even some amount of homesickness and a culture shock. Nevertheless, you might not be expecting a situation where coming back home appears to be the hardest part of your exchange experience. Here are listed some feelings that might fill your head when coming back, and also some ideas how to soften the blow:

Coming back home from an exchange

1. “I have changed so much but back home everything´s the same.”

You have had an amazing eye-opening phase of your life but it might feel like nothing has changed back home. Your friends and family members talk about the same things as they did a year back, and their stories and worries seem so small and boring. Maybe you don´t even remember where the home is if your life has been a bit messy and hectic also in your home country. Try to keep an open mind for the people back home, some of them might have had same experiences as you in the past. You might also find new friends who share your passion for travelling.

2. “I don´t know how to embrace my new lifestyle back home.”

Perhaps while abroad, you started to know who you are a bit more and picked up refreshing new manners and habits? Still, they don´t quite adapt to the life you are leading back home. Your biggest fear might be the fact that in the end, you will not change at all, and you´ll revert back to the same old you once again. However,  you should not worry too much. Many of the things you learn while abroad are so abstract, that you do not necessarily became aware of the change yourself. Once you have opened your eyes to new things, they won´t easily be shut again.

Back home
Don´t you guys understand what I have experienced!

3. “Nobody gets me.”

You begin to sound like a broken record when you constantly bring up the memories from your time abroad and compare the two countries. After a while nobody cares anymore and you begin to bore even yourself. You start to lose contact with your exchange friends and they gradually get lost in the sea of social media. A good way to embrace the new you and revisit the exchange atmosphere is to join your home university´s international circles. Tutoring the newly arrived exchange students should come naturally now that you understand what they are experiencing.

Read here Top 5 reasons why employers love applicants who have studied abroad.

4. “I am thirsty for more.”

Usually life will go on back home: You´ll find yourself again and mix a great cocktail out of the best parts of the two different worlds. Still, if this feels totally impossible, the only medicine to heal you might be planning another adventure. And what´s the harm in that?

Back home you can start to plan new adventures.

For the great adventures ahead, check out Study Advisory´s university ratings.

Best Study Breaks for Spring Break

It’s that time of year again! A much needed spring break to leave the books at home, let loose and have some fun! I know you can already feel the sun on your face just thinking about it, but before you grab your swimsuits and head south towards the usual destination, consider some of our favourite Spring break destinations too!

Paris – For all the art Louvre’s!

Pun intended! Haha! But seriously, pun’s aside, Paris has a lot to offer those who are looking for an alternative to the traditional sun soaked spring break festivities! Especially for those who have a passion for the finer things in life, such as arts and architecture! The spring season in France can be a mixture of beautiful days and chilly romantic nights, and the city comes to life with early blooms and dazzling lights! This is a great chance to see the city in many shades. Photographers and Instagramers rejoice: No filter necessary!

spring break
Spring is a beautiful time to visit Paris! Instagram fans approve!

Due to the fact that Paris is not in the midst of its’ peak season at this time of year, you can be sure to get more bang for your buck and you will face fewer crowds, making this a great opportunity to invest in visiting this European destination of your dreams!

Got your passport out and ready to go? You simply MUST see the Eiffel Tower: worth every penny! On a sunny day with clear visibility the beautiful structure and consistency of the city of Paris is jaw dropping from every corner! The first floor has a transparent floor where you can wonder out onto the glass and take in the view from 57 meters below! At 115 meters, you can take in the views of Paris from the second floor, or if you are feeling adventurous, you can take the lift all the way up to the third floor 276 meters high! Be prepared to experience a serious case of the “Jell-O legs” as you exit onto the viewing platform if you are not a natural lover of heights!

The Musee du Louvre is also so much more than the Mona Lisa and a chance to take a selfie with the glass pyramids outside (though we highly suggest you do this too while you are there)! The Notre Dame Cathedral is another Parisian icon, and taking it in both from the outside and the inside is a must, especially during a mass! Latin songs echo off the steep walls and delicate painted windows. The smell of incense and the soft candlelight is dizzying. Somehow within all the awe, one can find a certain relaxation with the rhythm of the comings and goings inside. It is an experience you have to feel to believe!

Foodie? Paris by Mouth Food Tours is a great way to get the inside scoop on some of the best eateries around town! Travelers are simply raving about Paris by Mouth Food Tours, and there is no question in our mind that you should be too! In 3 hours time expect to taste the best food and beverages that Paris has to offer with special attention paid to the seasonality of the food culture! Prepared to be stuffed, and very happy!

spring break
Your spring break in Paris is easier than you think!

London – Harry Potter and History!

Admit it: You are all about London because of Harry Potter! No? Well then you are certainly going for the history! These are two of the hottest attractive features of this grand city! None the less, in London there is always something for everyone! Grab your umbrella, because there may be a little rain, but don’t let that dampen your spirits!

Spend a half-day at the Tower of London. Wow, all that history! Can you hear the calls of the murder of crows that call the tower home? Can you almost feel the powerful emotions of those who were held captive and met their untimely end here? How about the pull of the crown jewels, or the undeniable presence of a long timeline of valuable historic movements? Do take advantage of the audio guide! There is a LOT to take in here!

Want the best view in London? The View from the Shard is an exhilarating experience beginning with two quick 30 second leaps to the observation deck spanning the 68th, 69th, and 72nd floors. At the top, take in the one of a kind experience to see 360-degree views of London from 244 meters high!

Big Ben and the London Eye are two of the most iconic and photographed sights in London, hands down! They are also in close proximity for a good stroll! Any trip to London would not be complete without exploring the area around these giants! Take in the might of the River Thames, which separates these two beauties by way of the Westminster Bridge. This is a perfect place for a sunset stroll to take in this legendary neighbourhood in various light settings, making it a fun place for photo-ops! Stroll a bit away from the river and explore the Westminster Abbey where a multitude of famous unions and burials have taken place by royals!

spring break
Spring break in London is perfect for history buffs!

Let’s face it, we are all still recovering a bit from the fact that our owl got lost while trying to deliver our letter to Hogwarts! Luckily for us, there is a place full of the magic that has roots deep within our childhood, and that is the site of the Warner Brothers Studios where almost all of the 8 Harry potter films were shot!

Pass the cramped cupboard under the stairs where it all began and walk right threw the doors into the great hall, and zig zag your way threw the wide variety of props and sets taken strait from the films, as well as the technical rooms which unveil the secrets and tidbits that made all the magic come to life! Sip on an ice cold butter beer midway and don’t forget to snap a picture of your butter beer moustache! Towards the end of the self-guided tour, pause to admire the original artwork created for the movie storyboards, as well as the model of Hogwarts castle from which all of the outside castle scenes were shot!

Last but not least, enjoy the ends of your evenings in London over a hearty meal and an ice cold drink. You will not be lonely long! The people of London can be very warm and inviting, so be prepared to extend your night in the city with the buddy you bumped elbows with at the nearby pub! Cheers!

Ireland – St.Paddy’s day

Ahhh the luck of the Irish! You can feel it in the air particularly in March as the Irish ring in their annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations!

First and foremost, if you want to be in the centre of all the action, Dublin is where it’s at! Whether you are visiting because of roots or because of curiosity, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day! For the full experience, squeeze yourself into a local hostel to meet up with several other spring breakers who crossed the puddle to have a good time!

Put on your greenest frocks and make your way down to the festival area. The parade is something that is certainly NOT TO BE MISSED! This colourful and engaging experience full of live music and performances is certainly one of kind in its’ own right! Follow the crowds afterwards to find wonderful food, drink and company to fill your evening with!

Taking part in this all is also a great way to take an informal walking tour of all of the sights of downtown Dublin, as the festival area and parade are located in such a close proximity that they would be hard to miss! There are also parties on-going and on-going, so you can be sure to never be bored! In your free time between celebrations, don’t miss the Guinness Storehouse and the Irish Whiskey Museum, because: reasons!

spring break
Feel the passion of Irish culture during one of the most exciting festival events!

Classic Caribbean!

So Europe just can’t kick the call of the sea? We understand, with summer just around the corner, why not get yours in a little early?

Bahamas – The new Cancun!

Yep, you heard right! Cancun is a classic, yes, but why not explore another island paradise instead this year? In Nassau, the capital and largest city of the Bahamas, you get the full spring break party experience as well as a chance to relax in paradise!

Go with the flow, and do what you want! A wide variety of parties can be found all over the island day and night, so you will never run low on options to mix, mingle, and get down! From hopping bars, to wave beaten turquoise beachfronts and every little detail in between, this could be the best spring break of your entire life!! Why not try a party boat? Or why not take part in few wild water sports?  You know you always wondered what its like to go parasailing! Grab your swim gear and get ready to soak up the sun with thousands of other students from all around!

Want to live the life of luxury? Splurge to stay at Atlantis, or at one of the notorious all-inclusive resorts around the island. Nothing more to worry about than having the time of your life! On a Shoestring? There are loads of amazing places to stay on the island, and food is quite affordable in the Bahamas!

spring break
Views to take your breath away, and all of the fun of spring break at night!

Puerto Rico – Unexpected Adventure of a Lifetime!

Even though Puerto Rico is not as virally advertised as a spring break destination, for a very affordable price and without the need for a passport for American travellers, Puerto Rico has the potential to become one of the hottest spring break destinations in years to come!

From its’ stretch of beautiful beaches, to the call of the wild in the rainforest, the landscape itself is breath-taking and an excellent host for various outdoor activities to explore in the daytime! The nights are also full of life, and parties are not in low supply either!

You can find all the basics for an excellent spring break in Pureto Rico, so grab your ticket and just remember to not forget your sunscreen! Have a blast, stay safe and best of luck to you for the rest of your semester!

spring break
Looking for a new place to soak up the sun? Look no further than Puerto Rico!