Learning Beyond Borders

Learning Beyond Borders: My Finnish Summer School Memoir

Finland is globally renowned for having a world-class education system. And what better way to learn about business and technology than from the pioneers of education themselves? Moreover, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to make new friends from around the globe while also satisfying their wanderlust in the enchanting landscapes of Europe?

Application Process and Preparations

The summer school program was an enriching 18-day experience organized by Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences (Jamk) in the quaint city of Jyväskylä,Finland. Themed around “Leadership, Communication, and Responsible Tourism,” we were offered a choice of ten diverse courses, including Global Team Leadership, Psychology for Business Leadership and Responsible Torurism, to name just a few. I was inspired to apply for this program for two reasons: the chance to experience Finland’s world-renowned education system and my desire to travel to Europe for a second time.

The application process was surprisingly straightforward, thanks to the clarity of information provided on the summer program website and the informative virtual gatherings hosted by the organizers to answer any questions. Upon receiving my acceptance, I was overwhelmed with excitement and began preparing for the trip.

King’s College provided excellent support in preparing for the trip. They helped me navigate visa-related matters and informed me about Finnish culture. In terms of my personal preparations, I researched the weather and climate in Finland, secured accommodation, planned my itinerary, underwent a health check-up, and took care of official procedures such as visa preparation and obtaining a travel card. It was a comprehensive process that ultimately made my experience in Finland more enjoyable.

Arrival and First Impressions

As soon as we arrived in Helsinki, I was struck by the beauty of my surroundings. The clear blue skies, lush greenery, and the crisp air were a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu city. The climate was relatively cool, but not too cold. It felt really odd seeing the sun up in the night sky, even during midnight!

Arrival and First Impressions

On the morning after, I decided to go for a run around the Tokoinranta park. It was a refreshing start to my day and a great way to explore the beautiful Finnish scenery. The cool breeze and serene atmosphere made for a peaceful and invigorating experience. I was surprised to find that there were so few people living in Helsinki, but it made sense given Finland’s low population density and spread-out geography. Afterwards, we went on a bus tour around Helsinki, which was a great way to explore the city and experience Finnish architecture. I noticed that the architecture was relatively similar to other European architecture, with a mix of modern and traditional styles.

modern and traditional styles

During our tour, we visited several landmarks such as the Market Square, Helsinki Cathedral, and the Sibelius Monument. However, my personal highlight was the visit to Oodi Helsinki Central Library, a public library and cultural hub that opened in 2018. The library boasts stunning modern architecture and a warm, inviting ambiance, making it the perfect place to relax, read a book, or engage in other creative activities. If I had more time to spend in Helsinki, that’s where I would definitely be.

The next day, we began our journey to Jyväskylä, but not without stopping at the charming little town of Porvoo. We spent a few hours walking around the old city, soaking in the serene atmosphere. We also had the opportunity to try the traditional Finnish candy called Salmiak liquorice. I found it unusual, but not entirely unpleasant. After our brief stop in Porvoo, we continued our journey and reached Jyväskylä in the evening. We settled into our hostel and prepared ourselves for the exciting weeks that lay ahead.

Daily Routine and Lifestyle in Jyväskylä

Jyväskylä is a city whose heart beats to the rhythm of education, a place where every corner feels like an extension of an expansive campus. I made my temporary home at Forenom Hostel, nestled in the bustling downtown area, just a short walk away from the Dynamo campus at the Lutakko area.

Lutakko area

My day typically started at 8 a.m. with a simple, healthy breakfast of fruits, sandwiches, and a cup of tea. Classes were punctual, with each session lasting about 75 minutes. The first on my daily schedule was Psychology for Business Leadership, led by the inspiring Dr. Natalia Ceruti. Her lessons were eye-openers, drawing back the curtains on the intricacies of human psychology and equipping us with practical tools to understand the same. Assignments in this course were more hands-on and engaging than conventional assignments. We were required to maintain a daily diary and answer questions related to what we studied in class. Furthermore, we had a group assignment that required us to post content on Instagram regarding the practical group activities we participated in. You can find our group at the following link: https://www.instagram.com/msg_psy/.

Conference

Between my Psychology class and lunch, I would make a start on my assignments over a cup of Finnish coffee in the campus cafeteria. Lunch comprised of a buffet of various items like noodles, rice, salmon, chicken breast, meatball, mashed potato, and vegetables. Although the flavors were not what I was accustomed to back home, the meals were wholesome and satisfying.

Post lunch, I would rush to my second class on Advanced Engineering Technologies and Robotics at the Rajakatu campus. Led by Ms. Anneli Kakko and a team of distinguished lecturers, the course proved to be an exciting blend of theory and hands-on experience, from 3D printing to programming self-driving vehicles and robotic arms. This deep dive into the world of cutting-edge technology concluded with an awe-inspiring tour of the Nanoscience center at the University of Jyvaskyla and the Harvia manufacturing plant, a leading manufacturer of sauna and spa in Finland.

Harvia manufacturing plant

Then it was time to dash back to the Lutakko campus for my third class on Global Team Leadership, taught by the insightful health economist, Dr. Jari Kempers. In this class, we were sorted into groups to work on engaging activities such as group presentations and making an online mock interview video based on a case study on conflict management. The lessons provided a new perspective on conflict management and performance evaluation, unraveling the complexities of managing a diverse global team.

Meeting

My final class for the day, Dynamic Creativity Management, brought a refreshing change of pace. Taught by the vibrant Dr. Blair Baldwin, his unique approach of using music and speech to encourage creativity inspired us to think beyond the conventional. Our class was a mixture of brainstorming sessions and tackling real-world problems. On the last day, we delivered a creative pitch. We were assigned to groups to work on engaging activities, group discussions, and brainstorm ideas for solving real-world problems. Our team came up with a hypothetical solution to clean water pollution from the rivers of Nepal using robotic fish-like devices. We presented our solution through a poorly acted theater, but at least we got some laughs.

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Once my classes wrapped up around 5 p.m., I’d either head back to the hostel or join in on activities arranged by the summer program coordinators. Dinner was usually a simple homemade affair of rice and chicken. Occasionally, we would eat out, which provided the perfect fuel for relaxation and preparation for another day of learning and social engagement.

Looking back, my academic experience in Jyvaskyla was intense but incredibly rewarding. IIt was a whirlwind of lectures, group discussions, and field trips, all within a culture that emphasized collaboration and interaction over competition. This makes it a stark contrast from traditional study at home. The entire experience felt like a journey into a different world of education, and every single day brought with it something new to learn and to experience.

Cultural Immersion and Personal Growth

The Summer School Program in Jyväskylä was a vibrant blend of cultures, bringing together the experiences and perspectives of 200 students from over 20 different nations. The group included individuals from the USA, Canada, France, Nigeria, Hong Kong, Germany, and a strong contingent of over 100 students from Argentina. This diverse community of young people created a melting pot that fostered learning from each other’s cultures and personal growth.

Summer School Program

While communication was relatively smooth with students from English-speaking nations like the USA and Singapore, it was a different ball game with the Argentinians, whose first language was Spanish. However, language barriers soon dissolved in the face of the universal language of kindness and the shared goal of learning. Intriguingly, our diverse backgrounds led to many points of similarity despite our different cultural upbringing. An invisible thread of shared human experience, it seems, bound us all together.

In addition to academic activities, the program also offered a variety of cultural immersion opportunities. Among them was a walking tour around Lake Jyväsjärvi, where we marvelled at the floating saunas, a classic Finnish tradition. Then there was an art session outdoors at Kirkkopuisto Park, allowing us to express our creativity on canvas in the heart of nature.

creativity

A highlight of the program was a football tournament where my team emerged victorious. The Argentinian passion for football is not just a stereotype but a palpable force. Teaming up with the Argentinians, I learned firsthand the value of teamwork and perseverance. Our hard-earned victory was rewarded with medals and a box of chocolates.

football tournament

We also had a unique opportunity to experience a traditional Finnish sauna by a picturesque lake. Even though I didn’t partake in the sauna activity, I had a memorable evening playing “Burning Questions” with friends from Singapore by a roaring fire in a cosy hut.

The final week brought a serene boat ride with students and professors. As the breathtaking scenery of the lake unfolded before us, I found myself engaged in insightful conversations with our professors.

Engaging with this culturally diverse group was not without challenges, primarily revolving around communication and cultural barriers. However, each challenge was an opportunity in disguise, presenting the chance to improve my skills in communicating with a globally diverse group and understanding different cultural backgrounds.

Looking back, I feel that I have undergone a transformation. Through these experiences, I have become more adaptable and globally aware. It was like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope, where each cultural interaction turned the dial, revealing a unique perspective and a fresh layer of understanding.

The Jyvaskyla Summer School Program was more than just an academic journey; it was a crucible for personal growth. Throughout the journey, I was able to expand my cultural horizons and find common ground in the rich diversity of global companionship.

personal growth

Concluding Thoughts

Embarking on this journey to Jyväskylä has fundamentally reshaped my perspective on studying abroad. While I once saw it merely as an opportunity for academic enrichment, I now see it as a doorway to a transformative personal journey, extending beyond textbooks and into the realm of global citizenship.

This experience has given me a more global worldview. Interacting and engaging with students from a plethora of nations has nurtured a broader understanding of the world and an appreciation for the multitude of perspectives it holds. I found myself continuously pushed out of my comfort zone, immersed in a vibrant palette of cultural nuances, linguistic diversity, and unique viewpoints. The breadth of this experience has been both eye-opening and thought-provoking.

Reflecting on this unforgettable journey, I wholeheartedly recommend the International Summer School Program in Finland to any student seeking a learning experience beyond the conventional. The academic standard of education in Finland is extraordinarily high, bolstered by innovative teaching methods, engaging coursework, and passionate educators. However, the program offers more than just academic excellence. It provides a rare opportunity to immerse oneself in a truly global environment, rich in cultural diversity and teeming with potential for personal growth.

potential for personal growth.

As for advice to prospective students considering this program, I say this: prepare to escape your comfort zone. Immerse yourself fully in the wealth of global perspectives on offer. Learn the best things from each cultural group, and be open to the life lessons that come with such engagement. It might be daunting at first, but it’s through this immersion that you’ll not only enrich your knowledge base but also shape yourself into a globally aware individual. As Augustine of Hippo famously said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” Take the chances you get, turn the page, and discover the fascinating chapters that await in the narrative of global education.

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