“The teacher identity developed beside the researcher identity” — The Coolest Teacher Ever 2022 Jukka-Pekka Ranta highlights the importance of motivation

A lecturer of mineralogy and geology, Jukka-Pekka Ranta, was chosen to be The Coolest Teacher Ever of 2022 by the Student Union of University of Oulu (OYY). Ranta focuses on the role of motivation and interesting education methods in his teaching. Jukka-Pekka Ranta’s badminton games for the evening almost went off the rails when he heard […]

A lecturer of mineralogy and geology, Jukka-Pekka Ranta, was chosen to be The Coolest Teacher Ever of 2022 by the Student Union of University of Oulu (OYY). Ranta focuses on the role of motivation and interesting education methods in his teaching.

Jukka-Pekka Ranta’s badminton games for the evening almost went off the rails when he heard of being chosen as The Coolest Teacher Ever. He was primarily grateful for students’ support which he also has earned previously via geosciences’ student organization as well as the An Apple for a Teacher -event.

“Geology is, all things considered, quite a small field of study in the university, but it is great that students are active on that level”, Ranta thanks.

Ranta’s career to become a researcher and a university lecturer was still hazy before he started his studies. First working as a bartender, he intended to study psychology but ended up studying geology in the end. Ranta started his studies in 2008 and graduated with a Master’s degree in geosciences in 2012.

“Since the first lecture, I realized that this was for me”, Ranta reflects.

After his university studies, Ranta worked in Lapland roughly for a year in ore excavation. Afterwards, he started his work on a doctoral thesis in 2014. Since that point, teaching has been a part of his career. The doctoral thesis was finished in 2018 after which various postdoctoral research work led him to become a university lecturer in 2021.

Even when working on the doctoral thesis, Ranta did not think of himself as a teacher. The teacher identity developed stronger only during the past few years on the university’s pedagogical studies. Ranta thinks that people come to work at the university primarily as a researcher.

“The development of the teacher identity in the university is a bit different compared to basic studies since most people do not work here primarily as a teacher. Teaching is the small print in the job agreement.”

Practicality and students’ responsibility are vital

In teaching, Ranta highlights practicality and student’s own responsibility in how effectively a student learns something.

“New tools and more student-centered teaching and learning have just during the last few years emerged stronger.”

“Teaching is the small print in the job agreement.”

New teaching methods have helped Ranta to become more practical. For instance, digital workspaces, gamification and inspecting rocks via 3D models have provided new perspectives on standard lectures and study diaries. However, their use has to be relevant for learning.

“One must pay attention to not use them just for the sake of their tools. There must be a purpose for using a specific one.”

In his courses, Ranta emphasizes his background as a researcher and teacher as an influence on what courses he has enough substance knowledge to organize. While pondering their structure, Ranta especially wonders about the responsibility of the teacher.

“During the courses, I started to think about the responsibility that we teachers have. We train such people that have sufficient skills and expertise in work life.”

Nevertheless, the student’s own responsibility is an especially important aspect that the teacher can influence only by so much. Therefore, Ranta thinks it’s important to get the student excited early about their studies so that their hunger for knowledge stays in Master’s studies and long after that.

“I hope my own inner motivation and excitement also reaches the students. It is especially important to get the basic course students new to geology interested in it.”

Approachability and understandability benefit

The voters described Ranta as an easy person to approach and understand and for having great expertise. Ranta recalls his own studies when he felt tense to approach a professor’s or a teacher’s office.

Ranta thinks that his flexibility in courses is a reason for being seen as easy to understand. For example, he may spend some time revising basics if the students have forgotten something essential. Additionally, listening to the students and utilizing various education styles play an important part.

In addition to other researchers, Ranta has also embraced several traits from his own teachers and tutors in his teaching. Each of them have left their mark on Ranta.

“In my courses, I often exhibit similar traits, expressions or maneuvers from my old teachers which is amusing to notice.”

Regarding his expertise, Ranta deliberates whether he can evaluate it alone on a larger scale. He thinks that people in professional work often encounter an impostor syndrome: the difficulty to realize one’s own achievements to be fully earned. Despite this, Ranta’s motivation and passion differentiate him with his studying methods to be a unique teacher.

“The courses where one sees a lightbulb lit above the students’ heads are the best.”

Students’ realization rewards the most

The courses that combine practicality and theory are Ranta’s favourites. He mentions an example, Petrology, in which students explore the characteristics of stones and their formation processes on a macro- and microlevel. In these types of courses, Ranta finds the students’ realization of the discussed topic to provide the best feeling.

“The courses where one sees a lightbulb lit above the students’ heads are the best.”

Ranta faces many kinds of students in his courses. Some students are more motivated than others. Even in difficult cases, he strives to motivate the students’ course work via his own excitement. An important point is to find the core idea and to reflect the course work on geology and as training for the real world.

In the future, Ranta wants to continue his current work in the academic world as a researcher and a teacher as well as to develop his own substance knowledge in mineralogy and ore geology.

“Regarding the education and the development of geosciences, there is still a lot to be done.”

Who?

  • Jukka-Pekka Ranta
  • University lecturer since 2021
  • Responsible for Oulu Mining School’s degree programme 2019-2022
  • Doctor of Philosophy 2018

What?

  • The Coolest Teacher Ever 2022 was awarded in Annos 63 annual celebration 25.2.2023
  • Any student at the University of Oulu was able to suggest any university teacher in any educational field to receive the award for The Coolest Teacher Ever.
  • Selection criteria included the ability to inspire, professionality, being easy to understand, explanation of course goals, paying attention to students’ needs, flexibility and a versatile use of grading methods
  • The award was given for the seventh time. Previously the award was given to Elina Niemitalo-Haapola, Katja Sutela, Vesa-Matti Pohjanen, Oliver Jarde, Matti Niemelä and Matti Kangaspuoskari
  • The decision was done by the board of the Student Union of University of Oulu on 26.1.2023

Jere Laitinen

Oulun ylioppilaslehden toimitusharjoittelija. Opiskelutaustaltaan kokenut ainejärjestöaktiivi ja opiskelijavaikuttaja sekä innokas pelaaja ja kokkailija. 

Lue lisää:

OYY’s new community specialist Viljami Viinikka wants to unify the university community

Student Union of University of Oulu (OYY)  selected Viljami Viinikka as their new community specialist. During his two-year long post Viinikka hopes to be a specialist for the entire university community. Viljami Viinikka, 25, started as OYY’s community specialist in the beginning of 2023. However, Viinikka is not a tenderfoot at the OYY office. He […]

TEKSTI Tuuli Heikura

KUVAT Tuuli Heikura

Student Union of University of Oulu (OYY)  selected Viljami Viinikka as their new community specialist. During his two-year long post Viinikka hopes to be a specialist for the entire university community.

Viljami Viinikka, 25, started as OYY’s community specialist in the beginning of 2023. However, Viinikka is not a tenderfoot at the OYY office. He acted as vice president in OYY’s board during 2022 and was in charge of the community sector. “Work environment and assignments were quite familiar already, which aided in orientation”, Viinikka mentions. “Last year as the previous community specialist Eetu Leinonen’s journeyman he accustomed me to many tasks, but still the transition gets confusing from time to time”, he adds.

Fresh specialist instantly got off the deep end of work when he was assigned two major events both taking place in the first month of his employment. 

The Student Union educates its societies’ active members in Active Clubs February 1st and 2nd. Since the community specialist acts as a link between OYY and societies, organizing the Active Clubs is his responsibility. 

The second event, Löyly, targets the other significant stakeholder group on community specialist’s job description – international students. Löyly is a working life event held 25th and 26th of January aimed primarily towards international degree students, but open for everyone. The aim of the event is to offer practical guidance and tips in seeking a job in the Oulu area, and to provide information about Finnish working life. Another aim is to bring together employers in Oulu and international degree students. The event is fully in English. The program consists of keynote-speeches, workshops, panel discussions and cv-photography. OYY organizes Löyly in collaboration with OSAKO.

Viinikka ended up as community specialist after a deliberation of his own strengths. “Reasons for applying were quite the same as why I ended up applying to study chemistry back in the day: I considered how I could help people and what were my personal strengths. Naturally, societies and advocacy work are close to my heart as well.”

Societies really are familiar to Viinikka. Since moving to Oulu from Lumijoki to study chemistry in the summer of 2017, Viinikka has been a familiar sight not only in his subject organizations’ board presidiums but also in recreational associations’ boards. “Recretional associations luckily have a good footing in Oulu University, you can really witness the communality spirit here.”

Easy to approach yet easily approaching

Viinikka portrays himself as a project-person who enjoys learning new skills. “Continuous development is fun and so are new skills”. When he’s not playing karelian gorodki (kyykkä), he might be doing crafts or exploring new recipes in the kitchen. He tells a story about a time he made appleless apple pie. Reportedly people eating it had a really hard time believing it really didn’t contain any apples, so much it tasted like a real apple pie. “Baking links up with my interest in chemistry”, he says. 

Viinikka also plays the accordion, and sometimes visits to play for albums for various projects. “Recently, I was even asked to go sing for one!”, he laughs. 

Community specialist meets various, colorful people in his line of duty. Viinikka hopes to be the whole university community’s community specialist. For student organizations, a community specialist is a pillar, someone to ask guidance from and seek positive reinforcement. “I’m here to tell that very few things are the end of the world”. 

Community specialist’s job description is divided roughly into two sectors: societies and international affairs. Social work demands for an easy to approach -kind of person, and exactly that Viinikka hopes for himself to be. Not only wishes he to be easy to approach, but has already instigated an ‘easily approaching’ -method for conducting business. “During my brief career I’ve already managed to personally walk straight to a guild room to solve one organization’s problem. I don’t know if previous society specialists have been so forward in their actions”, he laughs. 

As one of the biggest challenges in the University community, Viinikka mentions the divide between international and other students. “The integration of international students to the rest of the student community is an on-going challenge that we must work on”. Especially Covid-19 put a set back to this work, according to Viinikka, and now extra attention must be paid to it. 

As greetings Viinikka urges students to go to exchange. “It is a fine opportunity that vexatiously few students exploit”.

WHO’S THIS?

NAME Viljami Viinikka

AGE 25

STUDIES Chemistry

FROM Lumijoki

Tuuli Heikura

Oulun ylioppilaslehden päätoimittaja ja kauppatieteiden maisteri, joka nauttii syväluotaavista ilmiöjutuista, kuluttaa lenkkipolkuja kahden koiransa kanssa ja haaveilee mankelin omistamisesta.

Lue lisää:

Defining Academic Excellence: Six Different Exchange Perspectives

The University of Oulu has hundreds of exchange students, but have you ever stopped to think about how all of our education systems compare? Lindsay Jamerson got the idea for this story after playing a round of card games with a group of exchange student friends. "We were all talking about our exchange and the ways it was different than we expected. First it started with the weather, the brave ones wishing it was colder and the romantics hoping for snow, but slowly, our conversation shifted gears and we drifted to the land of academia", she describes. In this article, six students with different studies, backgrounds, and home countries answer a couple of questions about academics and how education in Finland stacks up against their own experiences and expectations.

TEKSTI Lindsay Jamerson

KUVAT Anni Hyypiö

Juan Judel Palazón, 22, Spain
Home University: Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Major: History

What does academic excellence mean to you?

That probably means getting the highest grades in a career, but I think that’s without taking in account whether you enjoy your studies or not, so it’s a superficial view focused on competition only. A University student shouldn’t only focus on getting the best grades but also getting competences and enjoying what he/she is doing.

What are some of the differences between your home institution and the University of Oulu?

There are differences. Here I have less assignments compared to my home University. In Spain we have more hours of lectures and practically I almost have no exams. This means for me a huge contrast between my life as a student here in Oulu and in Madrid. Also, I have noticed this University is more focused in sciences which is good, but maybe there could be more humanities related events or seminars. Another very positive aspect of the University of Oulu is the easy access to those who want to practice some sports. The infrastructure of this University is really good (like buildings, libraries), and of course the restaurants of the University with its special prices for students.

What about the University of Oulu was the most appealing to you?

In this case I would say the place, also some of the international history related subjects were interesting for me as in my home University we really focus only in Europe. But in this case a great part of my interest was in the country and the environment themselves. I have always been curious about the northern countries and I wanted to see what living here is like.

 

 

Cedric Freisenhausen, 24, Germany
Home University: Ulm University
Major: Molecular Medicine Double Degree (Ulm/Oulu)

 

Why did you choose to study abroad at the University of Oulu?

I was offered two Double Degree programs in cooperation with Padua (a university in Italy) and Oulu Universities. I wanted to be among the first students going to Oulu University, as Northern Finland seemed more interesting to me. I was excited about a real winter, scandinavian forests and northern lights. Also the first students going to Padua a year before me weren’t too happy about the teaching there.

What are some of the differences between your home institution and the University of Oulu? Specifically the classroom environment.

I have chosen a six week and a three week course and practical work. The six week course was really different from the teaching from my home university, as the teacher was adjusting the course’s contents according to our previous knowledge. Both courses were quite interactive and students were encouraged to ask questions and to discuss the content.

In my home university, I cannot do practical work for credits. I am really glad that I can do it here.

Another difference is the approachability of teachers. Here, they wanted to be called by their first names and you could see them in their office when the door is open. In Germany, you call the teachers Prof. and by their second name and seeing them can be quite difficult.

If you could change one thing about your academic experience here, what would it be?

I wouldn’t change a lot in my experience here. There was a practical part of one course in which the instructions were rather bad, but apart from that, the experience here is wonderful.

 

 

Morgan Neering, 19, United States of America
Home University: University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Major: Elementary Education

 

Did Finland’s reputation in education influence your decision to study here? If not, has that changed after a quarter?

Yes, Finland’s reputation in education was the number one reason that I chose to study at the University of Oulu. As an education major in the U.S., I have constantly heard about the Finnish education system, and how they consistently score high in international tests, such as PISA. Many of my professors in America have talked about Finland as being a model of education, and have shown us documentaries about Finnish teachers and classrooms. Coming here has been an amazing opportunity to expand my knowledge as a future teacher, and learn from the Finnish school system.

How different is Linnanmaa campus from your home University?

The Linnanmaa campus is very different from my home University. For one, everything is connected, which is so great. I’m not really a fan of the cold, so I really appreciate the layout of the Linnanmaa campus. At my home University, all of the buildings are separated. This is ok, since North Carolina doesn’t really get that cold, and the farthest you would have to walk is 10 minutes if you live on campus, so that’s not too bad.

Here in Oulu, there are a lot of cafes, and places for students to gather together on campus. This is something I really wish my home University had more of. I feel like it’s a great way to connect with people in your classes, as you can quickly grab a coffee or pastry with them after class. I also really enjoy the inexpensive coffee, that’s definitely a plus. At my home University we have a Starbucks on campus, where you’d pay anywhere from 2 to 5 euros for a coffee. So, the 30 cent coffee is great.

Another big difference between the two universities is the fact that there are no dorm buildings or student housing options on campus here in Oulu. There are also no athletic fields on campus.

Overall, many of the differences between the two campuses are purely aesthetic. Students in both countries spend a lot of time drinking coffee, studying in the library, and spending time in class. So, while there are differences, I’d say there are more similarities.

What modes of education from the University of Oulu would you like to see your university at home adopt?

One of my favorite things about the University of Oulu is the laid-back teaching style of the professors. You often call them by their first name, and have the chance to have meaningful conversations with them inside and outside of class. I have had amazing professors back home as well, but I think that the laissez-faire style of teaching is so great, and something I would like to take back home. I also wouldn’t mind if our classes started 15 minutes past the hour, that’s something I could get used to.

 

 

 

Clara Ducatillon, 21, France
Home University: Ecole de Commerce à Paris et Lille
Major: Business with a focus on Finance and Purchasing

 

What are some of the differences between your home institution and the University of Oulu? For example, are there any differences regarding the professors?

There is no particular differences regarding professors: they provide good feedback and are very available to support our personal learning. More based on personal and individual learning than face-to-face courses.

One thing that is different for me is that here, professors are really, really demanding regarding articles, reading and theoretical aspects of the learning. Here, there is no written exam, evaluation consists on learning diaries and group works only. The semester is split in two periods and we have different courses in which one. Courses planning is provided at the beginning if the year

How does your home curriculum differ from what you are studying in Oulu?

Well, I am interested in purchasing and finance. I chose my courses before coming so that it fit with my personal curriculum as well as the global goals I have. However, some courses here overlap with what I have already learned in my home university, which is fine, but it can be quite boring to review so much. Also, the University of Oulu’s business school doesn’t offer a lot of purchasing and negotiation courses and they are less abstract and more and analytical, mainly oriented on theory and highly demanding regarding theory. There are lots of articles to read.

What’s your opinion on the campus facilities?

There are a lot of positives about the Uni’s facilities. The campus is really nice and there are lots of restaurants with various cheap food options. ESN is one of the best aspects of campus life as they have affordable trips and events for exchange students. It has been really great to have a kummi student because she introduced me to all the hot spots on campus, the library facilities, and the city.

One thing that I haven’t enjoyed about campus is the sports center, I live in Tirolintie and if I want to do sports, I have to come to campus by walking or bike. Besides, I feel facilities offered there are not great and the courses of fitness are taught in and geared towards Finns, which is not really efficient for me, as an exchange student. I had to sign up at another gym.

 

 

Luiz “Dudu” Veriato da Silva Junior, 21, Brazil
Home University: Pontifical Catholic University from São Paulo
Major: International Relations

 

What does academic excellence mean to you?

For me, academic excellence means getting prepared enough to participate in the market. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I know a lot about my area but that I’m going to know enough to work well and to be a good professional. Additionally, the name of the institution that I choose will open some doors for me just for the fact that I studied at a prestigious university.

How has study abroad changed the way your interpret academic excellence, if at all?

It makes me realize that the university is not all about learning properly. It is more related to learning how to work. I was expecting that my study abroad courses would challenge me to think and that I would learn things and not just reproduce knowledge in tests, but I realize that all around the world, the exact meaning of academic excellence is about preparing us to participate in the market. They teach you the basics so you can just work and learn more when you are working.

What are some of the differences between your home institution and the University of Oulu? Specifically regarding the testing or finals.

There is few differences. For me, the learning methods (classes and texts) are the same. The length of the classes is different which is good. In Brazil we have 4 hours of class every day and tons of texts. Here is a little bit easier, which is really good to have more time to do other stuff.

The testing is more chill here and you write essays more than do tests, which is awesome. In Brazil we have tests as our finals in almost all the subjects. The structure of the university is great, which is the most impressing thing, and i loved the fact that the field trips are free. Besides that, everything is mostly the same.

 

Maithé Lievens, 20, Belgium
Home University: University of Ghent
Major: Linguistics & Literature: English-Swedish

 

What was the thing that shocked you most about the school system here?

The exams in the middle of the semester shocked me: it is so fundamentally different from what I am used to. We are used to having a designated time period in which we have nothing but exams, with a period of 2 weeks to a month between our courses and the exams. These big exams are also usually the only factor that makes up your final grade. This results in these exams being really hyped up and big, while in Finland, the opposite seems to be true. They are rather normal things that just happen in the middle of the week, on any time of the day. Most of them are only one small part of your final grade. It suffices to say that this really shocked me in the beginning: suddenly I had to focus more on tasks and assignments instead of the exams. It is such a completely different system that I really had to get used to.

What are some things you like or don’t like about your studies at Oulu?

I generally really like the school system here, since it divides up work/exam time very well. The tasks are great substitutes for exams, and I feel that they evaluate better than an actual exam. That said, I personally don’t like the how the semester fluctuates in how many courses you have and how every week’s schedule is so different. Maybe I just like a fixed schedule, but it makes for situations where one week you have nothing to do and another week you are drowning in work.

If you could change one thing about your academic experience here, what would it be?

I wish I had known something that many Finnish students have now told me about: the workload in the month of November (or just the middle of the semester in general). Since I am used to only having to study and meet deadlines at the very end of the semester, the amount of presentations and group works caught me off guard. I wish I had anticipated this, so I could balance it out better.

 

Read more: University in the USA vs University in Finland: An Honest Comparison, Student Culture, Four Seasons, Fantastic Finnish People, & Sauna: Life in Oulu as an International Student.

 

Lindsay Jamerson

A 20-year-old exchange student studying Peace and Conflict Studies and History. She can be found blessing her friends with fun facts and random knowledge, and spreading the love with no-bake cookies. Live your best life, her common catch phrase and the panacea of all impossible questions, includes activities like baking, hugs, psychology, and Netflix.

Lue lisää:

Student Culture, Four Seasons, Fantastic Finnish People, & Sauna: Life in Oulu as an International Student

This autumn, hundreds of international students from countries around the world came to study at the University of Oulu. For many, adjusting to life in a new country has brought about many challenges, surprises, and memorable moments. With the first month of classes drawing to an end, Morgan Neering interviewed some fellow international students, to get their honest opinion on life here in Oulu.

Rika Nakano, 22
Exchange Student for One Semester
Studying Primary Education & Japanese as a Second Language
Japan

I think the University of Oulu has more liveliness and eagerness for learning or research compared to my home university.”

Why did you choose to come to Oulu?

What brought me to Finland and Oulu is its education system. I want to be a primary school teacher to be able to make a positive difference on the future of children. Studying in an environment so different from Japan helps me to expand my thinking and change my fixed beliefs that I have created throughout my own educational background. For me, this exchange study is a great challenge.

Has your view of Oulu changed during your time here?

Yes! People say that Finns are calm, polite and rarely enter into the conversation. But, people that I met in Oulu are friendly and helpful to foreigners. I’ve stayed in Oulu for just a month, but I already love the city and the Finnish people.

Do you feel welcome here? Do you find it easy to get to know local students?

I made friends easier than I imagined because there were a variety of welcome events for the exchange student. They were very nice. I have some local student friends like my Kummi and students coming to cafe lingua. But I want more opportunities to get to know local students and people in Oulu.

How does the University of Oulu compare to your home University?

I think the University of Oulu has more liveliness and eagerness for learning or research compared to my home university. Also, the systems like the student app and learning management system are well organized and easy to use, even for the exchange students.

What would you like to change in the University of Oulu?

The procedures were complicated so I wish there was a To-Do list for the exchange student.

 

Britta Bornhorn, 24
Exchange Student for One Semester
Studying Education with a focus on Math & Biology
Germany

In terms of the people living in Finland, I am surprised over and over again with their unique peculiarities, such as visiting the sauna often or feeling comfortable when no one is talking.”

What was your first impression of Oulu?

My first impression of Oulu was – funnily enough – sun! I arrived at the end of August, and it was warm! You could sit in the sun, showing off your nice t-shirts and sunglasses. Well… if you had any. I had packed for four months of deep, dark cold winter. As if it was -35°C and zero hours of sun here in August. I should have had a closer look at the climate graphs.

Has your view of Finland changed during your time here?

Yes! So far the weather is better than I thought. I have also learned a lot about Finnish history and politics in some of my classes. Whereas I didn’t really have much of an opinion (to be honest, not even a lot of knowledge) about Finland before I came here, now I am impressed by how Finland has developed so differently after WWI than any other country I know. Even if I cannot really say what opinion of Finland I had before I came here, I can now say that I am impressed with the Finnish welfare state. I’m also impressed by the equality and high standards of living it has accomplished. In terms of the people living in Finland, I am surprised over and over again with their unique peculiarities, such as visiting the sauna often or feeling comfortable when no one is talking.

What has helped you adjust to your new life abroad?

Learning Finnish! … kidding. Finnish is just the hardest language. Eight, acht, huit, ocho … kahdeksan?! This project is going to cost some time. However, everyone speaks very good English. So that helps. In the short term (for which I am here) that’s more effective than me learning Finnish, I guess.

What has been your favorite memory so far?

Biking to Hailuoto. At this point, I do not want to brag about myself. I am aware that this must sound quite impressive. Chris Froom? Amateur. Also I don’t want to complain about how sore my legs were, or that the seat of the bike ripped a hole into my pants. I am a person that likes to keep this for themselves.

That said: it was a really great day! We went with a couple of exchange students, we had amazing weather and the Marjaniemi Lighthouse and the beach were just stunning.

 

Lindsay Jamerson, 20
Exchange Student for One Semester
Studying Peace & Conflict Studies and History, with a minor in Women & Gender Studies
USA

All exchange students are coming in with the same open-mindedness, so take advantage of that during the first few weeks.”

What have been the challenges of living in Oulu?

One challenge I have found myself facing is the language barrier as I have dietary restrictions. Thankfully, I have been able to pick up on certain keywords that have allowed me to identify the foods that I can and cannot eat.

Another thing that has been difficult is acclimating to the new cultural norms. For example, one of my friends is from Germany, and I made the mistake of not taking my shoes off when I entered her apartment. She politely informed that what I was doing could come off as disrespectful, although she knew that that was not my intention. Since then, I have tried to pay more attention to other people’s behavior so that I can do my best to respect their cultural values. There are a lot of things that I never realized would be different between cultures.

How does the University of Oulu compare to your home university?

Demographically, they are the same, which is one of the reasons why I picked the University of Oulu. One thing I really like about Oulu is that the entire campus is connected, whereas at my home university, the buildings are all separate and house different departments. I also enjoy the food selection on campus in Oulu, because it is cheaper and tastier than that at my home institution.

What piece of advice would you give to new exchange students?

All exchange students are coming in with the same open-mindedness, so take advantage of that during the first few weeks. Everyone is in the same position and trying to make friends. Also, try to make friends with people who aren’t from your home country. It’s a lot easier to be with people who are familiar with your culture, but the purpose of studying abroad is to push yourself and experience new things.

What are some things in Oulu you’d like to take home with you?

Bio-waste. One of the things I appreciate most about Finland as a whole is their attitude towards environmental issues. I think that my home institution would not only be open to the idea of incorporating bio-waste facilities, they would wholeheartedly support it. ‘

 

Helerin Raikkerus, 30
Studying Medicine
Exchange Student
Estonia

“There is no such thing as bad weather, if you have the correct clothing.”

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

It is sometimes difficult to accept that everybody dies at some point. A doctor always wants to help his or her patients, but, for example, sometimes the patients have many diseases. When they get an acute, for example surgical problem, and might otherwise be saved by surgery, sometimes it can be even more risky to operate. As a student it is difficult to watch others making these kind of decisions, and it is probably harder for the real doctors to make them.

What are you most looking forward to during your time in Finland?

Hmm… I’ll answer about Oulu. I’m here for an internship at the University Hospital. I hope to learn a lot.

If you could give someone one tip before visiting Finland, what would it be?

Before coming, take a quick look at the weather forecast. The nature in Finland is beautiful and we have four seasons. There is no such thing as bad weather, if you have the correct clothing. Be prepared for hot sunny days during the summer, some rainy days and extremely cold weather during the winter months. Be prepared and have fun.

 

Zsuzsi Máthé, 31
Studying for a PhD in Cognitive Linguistics
Visiting Student doing research
Transilvania

“One aspect that stands out in Finland is the support that you get as a student or researcher, both from teachers and the system.”

Why did you choose to come to Oulu?

When I was in high school, one of my dreams was to go to Finland. In fact, I wanted to experience the real north, which is why I chose Oulu.

In Oulu, I feel like I am literally and metaphorically on the top of the world! Before coming to Finland I have travelled extensively. I’ve experienced different cultures and lands, mostly by doing volunteer work, which gives me a frame of reference and a sense of appreciation towards the unique traits of each culture and country. It also gives me the ability to see how Finland stands out.

What was your first impression of Oulu?

It was love at first sight. It is not easy to put into words the experiences of four months here, but at first I thought Oulu was special for three reasons: the people, the nature and the culture/education.

Nature here has many faces, and each can be enjoyed to the fullest; you just need a bit of courage. Whether it is summer and the sun never sets, or it is winter and dark and freezing, there is plenty to do and see around Oulu.  

The University building, although in some areas it reminds me of an airport, is cozy, well equipped and has a good vibe. There are people of all kinds and a variety that is really enjoyable. You can find everything you need, from numerous student restaurants and cafes to hangout rooms and even dark corners if you want to hang out alone.

In addition to all this, Finnish people are fantastic. Don’t believe the rumors that they are shy and cold. They make incredibly caring, thoughtful, helpful and loyal friends. I am forever grateful for the friendships I have formed here and the people that I met. They are truly special and more than I ever could have hoped for. I am looking forward to making new friends at the Festival of Cultures.

How does student life in Oulu compare to your home University or country?

I don’t really like making such comparisons; each country has its own charms. One aspect that stands out in Finland is the support that you get as a student or researcher, both from teachers and the system. It is a huge privilege and more than I could have hoped for. This is the type of support, which is much harder to come by at my home university.

What has been your favorite memory you’ve made so far in Oulu?

It’s hard to pick just one! So far I have enjoyed reindeer racing (although I only won second place), ice swimming on Valentines Day with sauna, seeing the northern lights on Toppilansaari, ice cycling, adventurous backcountry skiing in Lapland, snowmobiling, and meeting Santa Claus (the real one!). I strongly recommend everyone to try all of these.

What advice would you give to someone coming to Oulu?

My advice to Oulu students and visitors is not to stay inside. Go outside, even though it is dark and cold in the winter, and definitely enjoy the long summer days. Take advantage and enjoy to the fullest all that nature has to give up here in the north, which is really special and unique. Don’t be afraid to dive into the ice cold water in the winter and if the light is not letting you sleep on summer nights, go outside and watch how beautiful the sky is with the longest sunset you have ever seen. Get a bike and get lost on the city at least once, it’s the best way to find some of the most beautiful parks, lakes and neighborhoods that you wouldn’t come across otherwise. Help others if you can if they cannot adjust well to the darkness, get them outside into the awakening bright snow. Your time here is not only a great opportunity to get a good education; the experiences that you make here will always be with you and will shape you into your future self.

 

Interested in getting to know some exchange students? Meet some of these students, as well as other exchange students at the University of Oulu’s Festival of Cultures on October 3rd.

Read more: University in the USA vs University in Finland: An Honest Comparison

Morgan Neering

An American exchange student trying to navigate a world in which buses are silent and where McDonald's offers a vegan burger. A firm believer in the idea that "we cannot become what we want by remaining what we are."

Lue lisää: