Intern Abroad

Kategorie: ‘Helsinki’

Helsinki – A truly livable, diverse and exciting city

August 10th, 2022 | by
  • Materials Engineering, PhD
  • Helsinki, Finland
  • Aalto University
  • April 2022 – July 2022


At the end of 2021, I have decided to spend three months on a research stay at Aalto University in the Finnish capital. Finland has attracted me for quite some time. It appealed to me to learn how people live in the northern countries of Europe, how the much-praised education and social system works, and what it’s like to live with 20 hours of sunshine a day. The opportunity for the research stay came about through a long-term collaboration with Aalto University.

I found out more about Helsinki through former student colleagues and friends. They suggested me to apply for a room in one of the many student dormitories. Everyone recommended the student agency HOAS. Through HOAS I got a cheap room in a 6-person shared flat. Only exchange students that studied in Helsinki for a semester were accommodated in my apartment building. This meant that we always spent a lot of time together. Whether it was going to the sauna, having dinner together or kayaking in the early evening, there was always something going on. However, it takes much more effort to get in closer contact with Finnish people than with internationals. Therefore, I joined a soccer club at the beginning of my stay and thus came into exchange with the locals. It is also possible to meet the locals in everyday university life, but you should be aware that building a friendship is not as easy as in other cultures. Nevertheless, you can learn a lot from the Finns. I found it impressive with which composure things were accepted and how pragmatically solutions were found. Moreover, I had the feeling that Helsinki is a city for all people. A very good public transport network, a developed bicycle path system, clean barbecue areas and public saunas. In addition, the low crime rate makes Helsinki a very livable city.

In particular, the public library Oodi, where, in addition to the possibility of borrowing books, there are also offers for young children, video games, workstations, sound studios, 3D printers and much more. A place for young and old; rich, and poor. A place for exchange across social classes and age boundaries. Very impressive!

From Helsinki you can also visit the Estonian capital Tallinn. The crossing by boat takes just 2.5 hours and costs less than 10 euros per trip. There you can see the influence of the European Union: Neighborhoods are being modernized, digitalization is being pushed hard, infrastructure is being expanded. For me, the contrast between the old Soviet structures and the influence of European ideas was very exciting to observe. While older people spoke Russian and Estonian in the markets of the Estonian capital, English was clearly heard more often among the younger generation. Young people wanted to belong to the EU and be a part of the idea of a common Europe.

Finns like distance and in this case, it has nothing to do with the pandemic, but it is a good habit not to get too close. There is one exception, however: the sauna. In saunas, Finns are very talkative, moving close together to make room for everyone. It’s a place for socializing and sharing, and I’ve spent a few evenings there with colleagues, roommates, and new friends.

In summary, I can say that the Finnish capital is truly livable, diverse, and exciting. I am glad and grateful to have been given this opportunity for a research stay. Finally, my personal advices for staying in Helsinki as a student: live in HOAS dormitory, buy HSL-City Bike subscription (35 euros for 6 months), visit the beach on Pihlajasaari, go kayaking, go to Tallinn, eat cheap sushi, spend time in Oodi, discuss with Finns in the sauna, spend long summer nights at public barbecue places, drink cheap beer in Kallio district and try Finnish salmon soup.