All posts by Confessions of Students

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

Studying the future to help organisations and the planet

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

Ever considered studying the future?

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

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

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

A unique doctoral programme in Turku

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

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

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

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

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

A universal field with a wide range of potential implications

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

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

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

Futures studies and higher education

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

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

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

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

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

-Pauline Trabuc

Why studying the future may be valuable

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

More information

Finland Futures Research Centre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oulu
Metal music fosters acceptance and inner thinking.

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

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

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

Oulu

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text: Markku Väisänen

Attractive universities for businesses, with a touch of innovation

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.

attractive universities
Universum’s questions include the type of potential employer(s) you find most appealing or suited to your career goals and personality

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

Most top 10 finalists on the list are United States-based institutions, but not all. For instance, the Technical University of Munich (Technische Universität München) ranks 8th, just above Princeton. If you are studying a whole degree in Korea, there are 5 universities you can go on an exchange to TU München. If you are from France, TU München is a university you can go to as an exchange from the prestigious (and well-ranked) Ecole Polytechnique, but also the Ecole des Mines de Nantes, and Aix-Marseille University. So there is no need to pay high fees to study at a top institution in terms of employability.

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.

attractive universities

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.

At the global level, the Reuters innovative university ranking shows an expected American dominance, but a little Asian surprise at the middle of the top 10, KAIST (profile of KAIST, Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology on Study Advisory). For Finnish or Finland-based students, KAIST is a potential exchange destination if you are enrolled at one of these two institutions: Helsinki Metropolia or Tampere University of Technology.

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)
Cambridge University UK KU Leuven Belgium
Oxford UK Imperial College London UK
TU Munich Germany Cambridge University UK
Imperial College UK EPFL Lausanne Switzerland
HEC Paris France TU Munich Germany
Kings College London UK Erlangen University Nuremberg Germany
Manchester University UK Delft University of Technology Netherlands
IE University (Instituto de Empresa) Spain Oxford University UK
EM Lyon France University of Munich Germany
ETH Zurich Switzerland University of Zurich Switzerland
University of Munich Germany University of Copenhagen Denmark
University of Edinburgh Scotland, UK Technical university of Denmark Denmark
Ecole Normale Supérieure France ETH Zurich Switzerland
EPFL Switzerland Pierre et Marie Curie University Paris 6 France
Mines Paris Tech France Paris 11 Paris Sud France

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.

attractive universities
Applications are not only about determination: an innovative approach will help, just like in the university world and to be good at any job in the long run.

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!)

More information:

Universum’s ranking of most attractive employers in Finland

Emerging-Trendence: Global and German employability rankings

Reuters: world’s most innovative universities and Europe’s most innovative universities

Studying with a baby on board – combining studies and a child

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.

Studying with a baby
Building a family and finishing your studies are a combination that might sound messy. Read the true stories.

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.

Studying with a baby

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.

Studying with a baby

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.

Studying with a baby

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.

Studying with a baby

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

Studying with a baby and multitasking

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.

Studying with a baby

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.

Studying with a babyIf 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.

Exchange Students Writing Competition 2016

You felt nervous when you stepped in the new campus? You got amazed when you understood a new culture? You felt reluctant when you left from the host University?  That’s right! Join Study Advisory’s writing competition and  win  $500 HKD/$65 USD/$60 EUR by writing us an article about your life of exchange!

Submit your entries on or before
15th February,2017

Prize:

Cash prize $500 HKD/$65 USD/$60 EUR for the best writer
– The best article will be published on our Facebook and webpage
– The organization the best writer represents can be mentioned
Writing Competition

Submission Guidelines:

  1. Failure in following the below guidelines may lead to disqualification
  2. Entries must be in English
  3. Content should be related to the school life of an exchange student, it can include the school culture, unforgettable experience or any touching stories
  4. Around 400-600 words
  5. The entries should be sent to coordinator@StudyAdvisory.org with a subject  “Exchange Students Writing Competition 2016_Full Name_1st Entry” and  it should be in a .doc or .docx format
    The document must be in the following format:

    Topic:
    Personal Details: (Your full name, name of students’ organization representing (if applicable), pen name (if needed), email address , name of the home university, host university ,year of exchange ,  and how do you know about this contest)
    Brief Introduction: (50-100 words brief introduction of yourself or the place that you have been to exchange)
    Content :

  6. The submission deadline is  15th February 2017. Study Advisory reserves the right to extend the closing date for a reasonable period where an insufficient number of the entries received have satisfied the entry and judging criteria.
  7. Maximum five photos can be included in the article to enrich the content but they will NOT be evaluated
  8. Submitted entries must be original, must be your own work and must not be published on other websites or publications
  9. Open to everyone
  10. Edited to the best of your ability for spelling, grammar and punctuation
  11. Unlimited entries can be submitted per person
  12. The applicant must like our Facebook page and share the page of writing competition (privacy should be set to public )
  13. If you submit materials to us, you agree:
    (1) to grant us a royalty free, worldwide, perpetual license to use, copy, distribute, publish, republish, store, archive, syndicate, sub-license, transmit, adapt, edit, create derivative works from, perform, exercise publicity and copyright rights in relation to such material (including any ideas, concepts or formats) in any manner and in any format and/or media;
    (2) to any moral rights in the material submitted;
    (3) that we may disclose your identity to any third party making any claim or assertion of any kind in relation to your material; and
    In submitting material to us, you warrant that any material you submit:
    (4) is your own original work and that you own the copyright and any other relevant rights;
    (5) is not obscene, threatening, menacing, offensive, defamatory, abusive, in breach of confidence, in breach of any intellectual property right (including, without limitation, copyright) or otherwise in breach of or violates any applicable law or regulation or code, and you shall indemnify us and keep us fully indemnified against any third party liabilities, claims, costs, loss or damage we incur as a result of publishing material you submit to us, including consequential losses.
    We may choose to publish or not publish any material you submit to us and exercise our rights in relation to that material in our absolute discretion.
    We accept no liability for any content submitted by you or other users and third parties. We do not vet or pre-screen any material that you or other users and third parties have submitted to the Site, however we reserve the right to remove, at any time and without reason or prior notice or any liability any material submitted by you or other users and third parties.

Feel free to contact us via sending email at coordinator@StudyAdvisory.org if you have any enquiries.

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

How about going on an entrepreneurial exchange? Erasmus for young entrepreneurs.

The Erasmus programme has been around for almost thirty years now and it might be a great memory of your (recent) past or something to look forward to if you are younger. I remember getting really excited about Erasmus when seeing the film L’Auberge espagnole (The Spanish apartment) by Cédric Klapisch.

A second international experience after Erasmus: let me think...
A second international experience after Erasmus: let me think…

How about re-writing your own second film by doing another Erasmus, unlike Klapisch’s second film Les Poupées russes (which was all about getting settled in life). What if your own second international experience was neither an academic exchange nor a trip to Russia (picture above), but rather a hands-on entrepreneurship programme in another company?

Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs helps EU small and medium enterprises grow and learn from even newer entrepreneurs
Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs helps EU small and medium enterprises grow and learn from even newer entrepreneurs

That’s right, the Erasmus programme is not only about university studies. The Erasmus for young entrepreneurs programme connects a new entrepreneur with an experienced one, with the view of providing him/her with practical experience abroad in his or her field.

Wait... ANOTHER Erasmus?
Wait… ANOTHER Erasmus?

Though youth and a university environment might facilitate entrepreneurship, in this case the new (or aspiring) entrepreneur does not actually have to be a student; he or she does not even have to be that young. But, importantly, his or her business should be less than 3 years old. And the principle is similar to Erasmus for students: a few months (one to 6) in another EU country, learning and networking. According to a survey by the programme office, personal skills like determination and confidence, as well as language skills and management skills are most acquired by the majority of participants in the programme, followed by marketing skills (boosted for half of the participants).

Specific objectives of Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs include:

  • facilitating business exchanges
  • opening market access internationally
  • for the new entrepreneur: refining a business plan, discovering cultural differences in organisations and business practices and improving chances of success during the start-up phase
  • for the host entrepreneur: improving the growth potential of a potential business partner, possibly, or just getting insights from a motivated third party, and gaining visibility.

Financial support for the new entrepreneur is available in the form of subsistence costs  which vary depending on the host country, and the reimbursement of travel costs. Selection and implementation of the programme are made possible at the local level via so-called IOs, intermediary organisations.

61% of new entrepreneurs increased their turnover after participating in the programme.
61% of new entrepreneurs increased their turnover after participating in the programme.

You can hear some testimonies on the programme’s Youtube channels or this promotional video.

You can also read more about the programme’s official pages (in all EU languages) and apply.  Clearly expressing your motivations and expectations from the programme will make your application stand out, as well as a thought-out business plan with a description of your product or service, a market analysis including the target market and a benchmark analysis, and financial plan for the next two years.  Read this guide if you are a new entrepreneur.

While preferred sectors to start a company are advertising, architecture and engineering, and tourism and wellness, most host entrepreneurs work in advertising and… training services. And you, which sector would you like to explore to refine your start-up idea?

Clearly expressing your motivations and expectations from the programme will make your application stand out. Then you can find yourself moving from dream to mentorship!
You can find yourself moving quickly from dreaming to  being mentored in another country!

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,

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 supported/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 and are key to tomorrow’s society, such as Alzheimer disease and agricultural productivity.

zebrafish
Zebrafish properties were presented during the 3 minute PhD in Morocco

For Rachida Brahim from Aix-Marseille University in France who presented her sociological research on racist crime, this 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.