IFTM Around the World

Life lessons in Finnish

中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese

Finland may seldom be the first choice of country for students contemplating doing a foreign exchange. But undergraduate Erato Li, who is in Year 3 of the IFT Heritage Management programme, says Finland should be near the top of the list.

Erato spent the second semester of academic year 2015/16 as an exchange student at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki. Her choice surprised some people. “I wanted to pick a place with a culture that was not easily accessible,” she says.

In Finland, she found a culture that is rooted in its natural surroundings and that blooms in its architecture – and those aspects of the country overwhelmed her. Her experiences there included taking a traditional Finnish sauna bath and visiting national parks.

Finland also served as a convenient base for her exploration of other parts of Europe. “I was able to travel to more than 10 European countries during my time as an exchange student,” she says.

Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences offers no courses directly relevant to Erato’s study of heritage management. “But I could learn languages,” she says. “I chose Finnish and French.”

The teaching methods surprised her. Among the surprises was an aspect of the course the university offers on international human resource management. “There is a student presentation every week based on a case study,” she says. “Following the presentation, there is a peer review of it, and industry representatives also came to offer lectures to students.”

Viking life

One of the most rewarding experiences Erato had in Europe was not in Finland but in neighbouring Sweden. There she volunteered to work in the Foteviken Museum, an open-air museum of archeology which conveys how life may have been in a Scandinavian town toward the end of Europe’s Viking Age. Along with the usual sorts of exhibit, the museum has a replica of a Viking settlement consisting of 23 buildings and the performers that populate it. The museum also has a replica of a Viking ship.

Erato volunteered to be a performer. “As a volunteer, you could work as a blacksmith, baker or seamstress. I worked as a baker, and I helped with welcoming tourists and telling them about Viking culture,” she says. She was the only Chinese among the volunteers at the museum. It was an edifying experience for a student of heritage management, giving plenty of opportunities to learn more about Viking culture and Norse myths.

She recommends that IFT undergraduates consider Finland as a place to do an exchange and not simply because of what they can learn there. “The most impressive part about the programme was that I made many friends there. Every day I had to speak in English, as I had roommates from the Netherlands and Mexico,” she says. “I’ve become more independent and I got bolder in reaching out to people.”