Albana and Tajla started this semester quite differently. In a new school, in a different country. Thanks to IBCM’s partnership with HAMK and Erasmus+ program, our students are spending this semester as exchange students in Finland and we wish them a lot of fun during their studies and their life there. IBCM’s international partnerships make it possible for our students to spend a semester abroad in one of our partner institutions.
Student exchanges are much more than just a semester abroad: ‘It’s not a year in life, it’s a life in a year’ they say. Although for Albana and Tajla it’s only the first few weeks, we wanted to hear from them and see how was the exchange experience for them so far. We send them quite some questions and we have listed all their answers in the interview section below. They also sent us many pictures from their experience so far, that you can see by swiping horizontally the photos below.
1) Finland in one word?
Tajla: Breathtaking nature; Amazing! 🙂 Albana: Peaceful; Fabulous nature;
2) HAMK in one word?
Tajla: International; Albana: Unique environment; International
3) Your new friends in one word?
Tajla: So diverse; Interesting! Albana: Super friendly;
4) Your experience so far in one word?
Tajla: Perfect; Albana: ‘a lifetime of stories’
5) What were your first impressions of Finland and the people there when you arrived?
I haven’t had a big of a cultural shock and I already had some ideas about Finland and Finns, as I already made some Finnish friends when living in the US and in the Netherlands. I would say that people are very quiet and reserved, unlike us- Balkans :D: but as long as need some assistance they are willing to help, so I really have a positive overall experience with people. International students are a bit different, but also very helpful and nice.
Most of the Finns speak English, that’s one of the things I like mostly here. They are not big small talkers, and the quiet moments are not considered awkward, but this makes me think that they place great values on words, which reflects in the tendency to say little. As a coffee lover I think I have chosen the best country for an exchange semester due to the fact that Finns drink the most coffee in the world, which is quite awesome :D.
6) What are some similarities and differences between HAMK and IBCM?
HAMK and IBCM are very similar schools I would say because of how classes are delivered to students and it’s international environment; in both schools, students are encouraged to take participation in classes and openly express their opinions. The difference is grading system, here at HAMK grades go from 1 to 5. Moreover, the difference is that here group work is highly encouraged and students working in groups, if they have assignments during the lectures, can go to the library, terrace if it’s warm for outside or cafeteria and work there freely and the teacher comes to students to answer their questions and offer assistance. At IBCM this is balanced between individual work and group work, but usually, individual work is more encouraged at IBCM.HAMK also has a cafeteria/canteen and the lunch is very affordable for students who have so-called ”KELA” cards who are used for food. The library here has lesser books than IBCM, but the system of lending and returning books is automatized. Students who want to go to the library can get a key from the student services and work and study at the library at all time so in that simple, it is more organized here.
I think there are a lot of similarities between IBCM and HAMK because of the international environment, and both work hard to ensure the best for their students. The grading system is a difference between IBCM and HAMK, having access to library books and using library space at HAMK is different from IBCM, but I really like it. Some of similarities between IBCM and HAMK is that plagiarism is also prohibited and personally it helped me to always generate and develop something unique and original. Other similarity is that here also a lot of lesson time is devoted to students sharing experiences and ideas.
7) How did you guys decide to apply, what were the criterias?
I decided to apply for Erasmus + as some of my fellow friends and colleagues from IBCM have done their exchange semester abroad and had great experiences. This is what encouraged me to pursue with my application. Moreover, gaining international experience in a changing market labor made me realized that this is another step in the right direction of growing professionally and personally. So far this has been a positive choice and I am really satisfied that I am here at HAMK, but mostly because I have made a right choice and choose IBCM as a school. Most educational institutions in the Balkans are so out-dated and uninspiring and IBCM is opposite of that.
One of the reasons why I decided to apply for this exchange semester is that I think this semester abroad can be a huge source of inspiration for my future career because many companies look for international experiences, learning a new language, becoming more responsible and independent, traveling and visiting neighboring countries of Finland, etc. There were some criteria we had to meet before applying for the exchange semester such as : having good grades, having cumulative attendance of at least 60 %, demonstrating cross cultural competencies and of course having knowledge of English language.
8) What was IBCM’s role during application process?
IBCM was intermediary in this process and the role of international coordinators was very important. We were able to call them and e-mail them at any times, and we often caught them at their family dinner time, personal free time, or even their summer holidays, and they always answered our questions. Mirjana has been so helpful really, as well as professor Gabrijela, head of our study program. Student services were available to at all times to provide us with all necessary documents. Some international students had issues with their learning agreements and many other issues when arriving here, but for us everything was alright. So thank you, IBCM team! You are amazing! I am so happy that you will be there when we come back!!
I want to thank IBCM staff especially Gabrijela and Mirjana for being always available to help us with anything. I really love everything about IBCM and I can’t wait to come and to finish my last semester there. I already started missing classes at IBCM especially Naill’s classes haha but that’s okay. So thank you all for being such an amazing staff and I miss you guys.
9) What is your message to students who plan to go on exchanges abroad?
Please do it! It is a great experience. Remember to work hard and set some goals in front of you, success doesn’t happen overnight. I am pretty sure that you already have heard all of this, but the reason why it is so repetitive is that it is true. If you have any questions (IBCM students) please get in touch with me and don’t be shy. Facebook me, email me, Instagram me, everything works. You are even welcome to visit us, our doors are always open here (Albana’s and mine because we live together :D).
Definitely you should do it. It will be a rewarding and unique experience for all of us, but of course you have to be adaptable, self-reliant, patient and open-minded person.
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