Hei from Helsinki! This January I travelled to Helsinki Finland with another BCIT BBA student to study for a semester abroad. I’ll be here until the end of May and you can follow along here at the Link where I’ll be posting weekly updates about my experience abroad.
A lot has already happened in the first week, it feels as though we’ve been here for a month already –but in the best possible way! We arrived in Helsinki late on the night of January 7th after a few flight delays. We flew via Icelandair through Reykjavik but a storm over Iceland closed the Keflavik airport for 5 hours and diverted all air traffic. This added an extra 11 hours to our travel time and an additional stopover in Copenhagen. We both made it to Finland but unfortunately both our bags didn’t; my flat mates bag was lost in the fray for 4 days, which added an extra touch of difficulty to settling in.
The night we arrived in Helsinki it was -27 degrees not including wind chill, the coldest temperatures the capital region has seen all winter. We had packed extra layers in our carry-on bags but even that didn’t quite cut it on our long search for our apartment in the, cold, dark, deserted downtown core of Helsinki. As lifelong residents of lower British Columba we have been spoiled with temperate winters, choosing to go up to the mountains to enjoy winter at our leisure and return to the city when we have had our fill. That is not a luxury here in Finland; winter is everywhere, and it is persistent. We both feel like frauds in a sense, because most everyone who discovers we are Canadian immediately follows up with an assertion that we are used to the cold. It can be difficult to explain to most people how temperate Vancouver really is. I just nod, smile, and try not to shiver.
Our apartment is in a building owned and operated by HOAS, a student founded housing association that provides affordable accommodations for students all across the city. We were fortunate to be placed in a building located right in the heart of downtown in an area called Kamppi, giving us ample opportunity to explore the city. The place was in a pretty grim state when we finally found it at 1:30 am the night we arrived. We were left wondering how anyone could possibly live in that condition let alone leave it that way for the incoming tenants. It took us a full day of cleaning to get it livable again, but we are proud now to say we have a nice little home here in Helsinki. And we promise to do the Canadian thing and leave it nice and clean for the next people after us.
With the exception of a day spent cleaning, our first few days in Helsinki were spent exploring the city. It is absolutely beautiful both during the day and at night. Check out the video below for the highlights of our first couple of days exploring.
We also gathered the things we needed to make our apartment a home and got new SIM cards for our phones. I was shocked at how much cheaper data plans in Finland are compared to Canada. I also had to buy a new wireless router for our apartment because I created a smoke and light show with mine on the first night. Apparently it was made before they put universal voltage in the power cords for small electronic appliances. Whoops.
This past week was spent getting fully oriented at school. We are studying at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland’s largest polytechnic institute. It currently has 17 campuses around the Capital region, ours is the business campus in Myyrmäki, just past the border of Helsinki and Vantaa, very similar to Burnaby and Vancouver back home. It’s a small campus, comparable to just the buildings of SE2 and SE6 at BCIT. It houses only the business and select technology students. Classes officially start next week and I’m excited to get into the rhythm of things here. Moi Moi until next week BCIT.
James is a recent graduate of the Marketing Communications program at BCIT, and is extending his time at the institute to earn his BBA. He currently lives in Helsinki, Finland where he is studying for a semester at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.