William - Aalto University School of Business

M Economics
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience 

I saved most of my elective options for my exchange semester, allowing me wide variety of course choices in Finland. Aalto offers a great number of very interesting courses (Video Game Industry, Doing Business in Russia for instance) that are not readily found elsewhere.

Each course runs for 6 weeks, with two lectures per week, and generally no tutorials. With the relatively compact schedule the courses really hit the ground running - expect to have assessment tasks right away!. I found the style of lecturing to be much more discussion based, involving case analysis scenarios and business simulation games. This attitude carried over to exam questions which are more long answer discussion based. On the topic of exams, every exam has 4 hours time allotted (regardless of the length of the exam paper) and you will have three opportunities at each exam, with the best grade overall taken. To do well in courses, you need to participate, discuss and challenge the ideas and concepts from the lectures and readings. The assessment does not simply seek for you to rehearse and recite the information given to you.

Personal experience

From the exchange period, I gained numerous good friends from both Finland and the rest of the world. The exchange period allowed me to visit a country that would otherwise not been on my agenda. It was also a great base to see other parts of Europe, and I took the opportunity to explore Sweden, France and Italy. Helsinki and Finland exist in a number of seemingly contradictory states - It is simultaneously both vibrant yet relaxed, unique yet familiar, proud yet understated.


As early as you can, register with the student housing authority (HOAS) which will give you some of the cheapest options for accommodation ($400-$600 per month). I lived a short walk away from the business school campus close to the centre of Helsinki, in a studio apartment in a student accommodation building that was mostly filled with exchange students. The building and apartments had very recently been renovated and were clean and modern overall.

Get to know your neighbours, there will always be events happening nearby!


Finland, like many Nordic countries, is more expensive than others, however, they have a large number of services and discounts available to students. Food prices at the supermarket are comparable to Australia, but most students will eat at the student cafeterias which are heavily discounted ($3 per day!).

Public transport is similarly heavily discounted, with unlimited transport costing around $30 per month. Unfortunately, travel outside of Finland is not so cheap with few discount airlines, but once you can make the 1-hour hop to Germany you'll have a much greater selection of destinations and fares. The one sting to be aware of is alcohol - expect to pay 3euro per beer at the supermarket, and 5-10 euro for a beer at a bar.

Professional development and employability 

Finnish culture and society has a significantly different outlook with regards to both business and personal success compared to the anglo-western view commonly held in Australia. Hoping to build a career in policy and governance, my time in Finland gave me a much deeper understanding and a broader perspective of policy opportunities and challenges, and the role of government in contemporary society. Through a number of the courses and other activities undertaken, I was able to further expand my skills at critical thinking and issue analysis, and improve my soft skills in networking and presenting.


I volunteered to go with a group of environmental science researchers on a field trip to the far north of Finland to measure ice thickness of the frozen rivers. Getting to walk over the ice separating Finland from Norway, 500 miles inside the arctic circle, in -20 with the northern lights flickering above is something I will never forget.

Top tips

Take the opportunity to travel within the country and region you are based, either before or after the study period. Save up your electives for the exchange semester so you can make the most of the unique offerings at each university. Make friends with the environment faculty - they are always looking for extra hands for fieldwork - you'll get a free trip to some amazing and remote parts of the country!

William - Aalto University School of Business