Once you decide to go abroad to attain a university degree, you do not only go for the piece of paper, but for the whole experience of living in and adjusting to a new country and culture far away from your original roots.
When taking your first steps in the new country, you are in an unfamiliar environment and surrounded by total strangers. This can be both challenging and exciting at the same time. Yet living and studying abroad will change you and your life probably more than you can anticipate.
Mr Aarne Puisto (24), a Finnish law student, has studied in Tallinn (Estonia) and Lund (Sweden). Here he shares his observations and views on what it means to be running a life as a student abroad and how that influences you as an individual.
We should avoid cultural stereotypes and generalisations
“I have gained my international experience in two very different locations in northern parts of Europe. Tallinn and Lund are two medieval cities, both with their own unique flair. Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and – in that regard – the place where all the magic, the important things happen in the country. Lund, situated in the region of Scania in Southern Sweden, is a smaller university town characterized by students constantly buzzing around the medieval streets”, says Aarne.
“As a Finn it is pretty uncomplicated to move to Estonia or Sweden. After all, these two countries are our dear neighbours and historically we have close ties with them. Also, we follow what is happening there in the media and we travel to these two countries on a regular basis. There are many similarities between them and Finland, but one should not be surprised by the differences either.”
“Only quite recently Estonia regained its independence (1991), and although the country is developing fast, there is still some of the Soviet-time burden left in the society. Occasionally this can be seen, for example, as a lack of client-orientation and service-mindedness in the shops, restaurants and even at the university, but luckily things are quickly improving there as well,” Aarne highlights his impressions.
“And to our great irritation in Finland, the Swedes again are just slightly better than we are in every possible area of life. This causes us an inferiority complex, a lack of self-worth and uncertainty, unpleasant feelings of not measuring up to their standards. We Finns just need to be a little self-ironic to cope with this and learn to laugh at ourselves!”
Aarne admits that we should avoid using such stereotyped thinking, when we talk about our neighbouring countries, even if there eventually is a kernel of truth in such generalisations.
You gain more self-awareness and self-confidence
“This may sound as a cliché, but indeed living abroad shapes you as a human being. Basically, if you voluntarily have taken the step to move to another country, it shows that you are a curious type of a person and not afraid of unknown things. Instead you are pretty much open to the world, eager to expand your horizons, to take some risks and to learn about the country you are residing in”, Aarne expresses his thoughts.
“I have definitely become more self-aware and gained more self-confidence during my studies abroad. Of course, this is part of the process of growing up as well. Yet when in another country you have to learn to be more self-reliant and self-sufficient to cope with the challenges of your everyday life. You do not necessarily have such a support network around you as you would back home, and that means that you have to take more action and responsibility on your own. You become more independent, more autonomous, which is a very positive result!”
Self-discipline and goal-orientation
In today’s competitive world you are expected to perform well and deliver high-quality results already during your studies. A high degree of self-determination, goal-orientation and persistence is exactly what is needed to do well in your studies, but also what employers are increasingly looking for among university graduates when recruiting them for junior level posts.
Heavy partying, irregular daily rhythm and an attitude marked by a lack of responsibility are often associated to student life by many. But of course this does not apply to all students.
“I consider myself being highly self-disciplined … I even tend to think that this personal quality of mine has got stronger while I have been living abroad. I also have the habit of being very organized with a pretty strict time schedule and always respecting the given deadlines. Although I am not that much of a party animal myself, I still like to go out and have fun with my friends every now and then. But generally speaking, I tend to go to bed early for getting up early the next day. I need this fixed rhythm for my work-outs and jogging rounds before I attend the university classes in the morning.”
“I feel like being … or becoming a cosmopolitan, a citizen of the world, after all these years abroad. Europe is now my home-base, it is very easy to travel around and move to another European country. Being well networked, knowing several foreign languages, having good social skills and possessing a good qualification will open the doors for me in the future.”
READ also the first part of Aarne’s interview through this link.
VISIT Aarne’s LinkedIn profile through this link.
SEE also this academic article by Puisto, A. & Alavi, H. (2016) Abuse of Dominant Market Position by Predatory Pricing - The Valio Case
Text: Mika Launikari based on an interview with Aarne Puisto (Löyly, Helsinki, on 10 July 2016)
Photo: Aarne Puisto