George - Aalto University School of Business

B Commerce / B Laws
Semester 1, 2015

Academic experience

I studied Finance major courses only. The Finnish university system is significantly different to ours. 

In their semester, they study 2 to 3 courses for 6 weeks and then do exams for these courses, and then repeat this block another two times.  This made it quite challenging to keep up with the workload, especially studying only finance courses. However, Aalto allows students to retake exams up to 3 times which is a really cool idea and allowed me to survive the semester.

Personal experience

I could write a 12 part series answering this question. The exchange adventure has simply been the most rewarding and enjoyable personal experience of my life. As clichéd as it sounds, it's true.  Specifically, I now have my 'exchange family' from all over the world.  These are friends who I simply cannot forget.  Even now, as I write this, I feel that horrible feeling of sadness in my gut to think that I won't see most of these beautiful people again. 

I was lucky enough to explore a simply stunning part of the world in Scandinavia.  Although I believe it is quite often the people you travel with that make a trip enjoyable, it helps when you're visiting ridiculously beautiful places like Lapland or Stockholm. 

The main personal skills I developed were social ones and also being independent.  I've genuinely met thousands of new faces the last half a year and each one of these faces has an interesting story to tell; something which I've loved learning about.


I lived off-campus with 2 flatmates.  The area we lived in was considered the 'ghetto of Helsinki' but this was by Finnish standards.  In reality, it was truly the perfect set up.  The majority of the other exchange students were living there too so it became such a warm and welcoming environment.  Living with 2 flatmates was perfect, I never felt lonely but also never felt cramped up. 

My main piece of advice would be to check if your accommodation is close to public transport for accessing the university, the city, and the bar district. Cabs suck!


Finland is expensive and there's no real way to get around it. At the start, I was pretty average with my budgeting, but you work it out after a bit. 

  • A good way to do it is to have weekly and monthly expenditure amounts. 
  • Rent was just over 400 euro/month. 
  • Food was an arm and a leg. 
  • Transport was relatively cheap actually - buying the 5-month transport card is a must (only costs around 100 euro). 
  • Entertainment is generally expensive, but once you work out where the good places are, you'll be right. 
  • Travel is a big expense. 
  • You can grab a cheap flight through Norwegian Air, but accommodation is expensive. 

Overall, if you're planning on travelling during the exchange semester, I'd recommend bringing at least 7000 euro for the trip, but perhaps you may not have the same drinking patterns as me!

Professional development and employability

It has greatly enhanced these two things! 

I discovered a different style of learning (heavily focused on group-based projects) and the skills learned from this will, hopefully, be attractive to prospective employers, and hopefully, it gives me something to make me a little different.


The day we got the sauna to over 100 degrees. 
We had heard tales of this being done by locals, but it was yet to be achieved by a foreigner.  We were warned of the old wives' tale that a Russian tried it once and was burned alive in the sauna. It took hours of preparation to get the wood fire burning just right. 
We showered. 
We filled our water bottles. 
We entered the sauna. 
One bucket. 
Two buckets.
Three buckets...we watched the thermostat teasingly creep closer and closer to the elusive 100 degrees. 
Then, with a great arching throw, our ears and hair on fire, our backs burning, unable to breathe, the last cup was thrown and the thermostat hit 100 degrees! 
We all tried to scream but we physically couldn't from the steam so we rushed outside, blasted by the cool air, we embraced each other with elation and relief! 
This is the story of the Sauna Kings of Kannelmaki. 
King Luis | King Roy | King Brahm | King Francis | King Pere | King Christoph | King Jose | King Yueling | King Young | King Matthieu

Top tips

  • Be single 
  • Use websites such as;;; when travelling to save money
  • Go with the flow, be a 'yes person'
  • Any doubts you have now are ridiculous
  • I guarantee it will be the best time of your life, don't waste time contemplating, just do it!
  • Befriend the locals
  • Befriend everyone
  • Keep a travel diary
  • Skype your mum more often while you're away.
George - Aalto University School of Business