Hemsida / sv / Om oss / Nyheter / Academic year in an “exchange student bubble” – foreign students refuse to let the corona bring them down
22.3.2021 9:00

Academic year in an “exchange student bubble” – foreign students refuse to let the corona bring them down

Lapland University of Applied Sciences has a group of 20 foreign students who study in Kemi. These young people live responsibly in their corona bubble, but they have still managed to get a lot out of their exchange study period.

Markus Sieberer, Markus Mayer and Nicole Körner from Austria and Hansi Strobel from Germany came to Finland and Kemi in August as part of the double degree programme in mechanical engineering. This programme is based on an agreement between Lapland University of Applied Sciences and Technicum Wien, in which selected mechanical engineering students can study at another partner institution for one academic year.

Finland still has relatively few corona restrictions in August compared with Central Europe, which further lowered the threshold for Hans, Markus, Nicole and Markus to accept an exchange opportunity from Finland.
Things were much stricter even in Finland in the early part of the year when the exchange study period of Zsolt Lieszkofszki from Hungary and Franziska Letterer from Germany began in Kemi.

Making the most out of the exchange student bubble

Foreign students have lived virtually isolated from other students and other people in general. Members of the group are in close contact with each other, and the young people feel like a family.

The exchange students have made the most out of their time in Finland, boldly experimenting with arctic hobbies that even many Finns give a miss.

The group has gone hiking in Norway and downhill skiing in Saariselkä and Ruka. They have also been able to ride snowmobiles, play ice hockey, and go on a Husky safari. The list goes on: fat bike trips, cross-country skiing, ice fishing trips, and ice swimming.

- The first time we cut the hole in the ice ourselves, Hansi points out, and Zsolt pantomimes how they broke the ice.

No wonder, then, that everyone eagerly nods their heads when the talk changes to getting a taste of sauna.

- And we learned the numbers in Finnish by going to play the bingo! Yksi, kaksi, kolme, Zsolt reiterates.

As their most recent stunt, the group participated in the LumiVisio snow sculpture competition organised by the City of Kemi. This was another first for everyone, but the chemistry of the tightly knit group worked well, and their sculpture titled “Kemi Ark” took first place in the public vote.

The students give generous thanks to the school’s international coordinator Sanna Moisanen and leisure counsellor Jukka "Jupe" Ikäläinen for guiding them to such activities.

Kuusi opiskelijaa seisoo koulun pääaulassa rivissä. Keskimmäinen kannattelee sertifikaattia.

The students received a certificate in recognition for the public vote in the City of Kemi’s LumiVisio competition. In the photo, the students from the left: Markus Mayer, Nicole Körner, Franziska Letterer, Markus Sieberer and Hansi Strobel.

Memories to bring back home

The exchange study period of these six people took place at a strange time in history. Still, the active and curious group has experienced a great deal. When asked what kinds of memories they will take with them from this period, Markus Mayer from Austria is the first to respond:

- I have learned how to study independently. Here a teacher does not carry a pile of books in front of you, instead you must search for and weigh up information yourself.

- And that everyone in the group helps one another, Zsolt adds.

Nicole and Franziska believe that they will never lose memory of the northern lights, how beautiful and impressive they were, as was the nature of Lapland as a whole. They all agree that they have improved their courage, proactiveness and especially their skills in English by leaps and bounds.

Markus Sieberer was impressed by the memorable freezing temperatures and also by a Finnish phenomenon he calls a “circle of trust”. People and friendly and can trust each other. For instance, international students are able to use the school’s valuable pieces of equipment. Teachers trust them. He recalls another example when they rented fat bikes in Keminmaa.

- We had prepared to pay a rent security deposit of hundreds of euros and to show our identity cards, but the entrepreneur simply handed us the keys to the bikes and asked if we would pay now or upon our return, Markus explains in wonder. Trust generates the desire to act in a way that is worthy of trust. That is how the circle is created.

The miserable side of the bubble

The “exchange student bubble” has worked. So far, none of the students contracted the coronavirus while their stay in Finland.

Following the early autumn, the students arranged their evening parties and sauna nights amongst themselves. The students are most annoyed that they did not make a single Finnish friend during the whole academic year.

- We had heard that becoming friends with Finns is slow, you always keep a social distance, but the corona made even all our attempts impossible, Markus Sieberer laments.

Time for a final push in studies

Hansi, Markus, Nicole, Markus, Zsolt and Franziska are all studying to become engineers. They have their own study plan for the exchange period in Kemi, which includes plenty of independent work in groups.
For many days the exchange students have been almost the only students in the Kosmos building. They strictly adhere to corona instructions. Masks stay on their faces, and they enter the facilities in groups of up to six.

Luckily for the students, the restaurant lockdown in March did not apply to staff or student restaurants, and the Sun restaurant in Kosmos has been open as usual.

- It would have been horrible if it had been closed as well! A ready lunch is one of the high points of the day. Besides, the food here is cheap and really good, Markus Sieberer lauds, and the others nod again in unison.

No further outings or road trips are planned for this spring, instead the last two months will be spent strictly on studies.

The exchange students will return to their respective home countries in May. They all are due to graduate this spring.

There are still another 20 foreign students in Kemi. The University of Applied Sciences will not have any new exchange students during the rest of the year due to the corona lockdown. The exception to this rule are double degree students in mechanical engineering, with another four students arriving in Kemi next autumn.

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