My collegue Dejan Štefančič – Štef and I are on a two month Leonardo da Vinci mobility in Finland. We are guest students at MediaLab at School of Art, Design and Architecture at Aalto University, Helsinki.
Our trip didn’t start very pleseant: more then twelve hours on the planes and airports only to realise upon our arrival in Helsinki that our luggage was lost somewhere between Zürich and Copenhagen. Then the busdriver threw us out on our way to the city center because we didn’t have change to pay the tickets, my debit card didn’t work on the ticket machine, but luckily I had a credit card as well so we patiently waited another 50 minutes for the next bus on +5 degrees, which seemed cold at that time, considering out caps and gloves were in our lost luggage.
However, our hosts kindly waited for our late arrival to the appartment which was warm and cosy, they gave us tips on how to use public transport: 50 euros is a “no-go” for buying tickets on the bus, a 20 would be alright. So, we went to sleep hungry and exhausted, but prepared for new adventours the next day: it was a school-day!
Finding the right bus was not that much of a problem, but getting out on the right stop was. It was dark as if it was 3 am not 8 in the morning! And the shocking 10 euros for two tickets made us realise that Helsinki metropolis is not the same as Helsinky city. There are quite a few cities around Helsinki which have grown together and eventhough we took a bus ride only a few stops, our school was actually in another city called Espoo! Our first calcualtion was that we will spend half of our budget on the transport, but it turned out there are ways to go around it, even in Finland.
Our first class of Software Studies for Media Designers course with Nuno Correia was very welcoming. It was a step by step introduction into programming with Java in Processing. Nuno was very kind to take us around to find student places to eat on the first day as well. During lunch we heard about some of the students deciding to walk the last bus stop, since it is still Helsinki. We immediatelly adopted the idea and are since walking the bridge from Espoo to Helsinki with a beautiful landscape view as well.
After three weeks here, I can say that FInns are very open and sociable people, also very kind and helpful – the rude bus-driver at the airport was a big exception. MediaLab (and I think the whole Aalto University) is very open to foreigners. There is a lot of international teachers and exchange students, so we don’t feel cut-out from discutions, school or social posts since almost everything is in three-lingual: Finnish, Swedish and English. Even people on the streets and in shops speak English. There was only one case where a guy we asked for directions on the metro station “didn’t want” to answer us, but he came out running after us a few moments later bringing another guy with him who could speak English and showed us where the Cable factory is 😉