For Whom and Our Testimonials

Helsinki Summer School is perfect for you who have completed at least 2 years of university-level studies and wish to

  • earn credits during the summer
  • learn more about an interesting topic
  • freshen up your professional skills
  • carry out a short study period abroad
  • try out studying at the University of Helsinki

Helsinki Summer School is open to applicants from all over the world and courses are fully credited in your own university.

All courses are taught in English; therefore you need to be fluent in English. Please see also the Target Students section on each course page.

Helsinki Summer school picture of student by a river side

 

Read our testimonials, to find out what our students think about us:

Céline is an ambitious young woman from France who came to Helsinki Summer School because she gets “bored very easily in the summer”. After surfing the web and finding that Helsinki Summer School offered an Introduction to Bioethics, she was hooked. “Instead of doing nothing between the semesters I’d have the occasion to go and meet all these people and of course discover interesting research material and get to know other teachers in my own field.”

Céline has completed her first year of PhD studies in Biolaw and Medical Law at the University of Lille 2 in Northern France. She found the Finnish way of academic thinking very different from that in France. “I realised that in the University of Helsinki critical views are accepted, and Thinking is Allowed just like the HSS slogan says. The courses are very interesting and people share very different views on the same topics. It helps me to understand things in another way but it also makes me insecure sometimes because I’m not used to giving my opinion on every topic. This is really new but that’s exactly what I’m enjoying.”

The open-minded staff and a lack of strict hierarchy also appealed to Céline. “I was expecting to go to a traditional university where people would be working individually and only focus on their own research without showing any interest in what others are doing. But here people can talk to everyone, even to teachers and professors. This, I think, is very democratic and a part of the University of Helsinki’s policy and target. But I’ve found it’s also related to Finnish culture.”

Céline has appreciated the range of different learning methods such as workshops, because the students have to cope with each other’s views and visions. “Another thing is that we are obliged to speak in public and speak in English. This is a kind of challenge. Some are more comfortable in English, but for us French speakers it is a good exercise.”

In addition to her course, Céline picks the first day of the Summer School and the beautiful opening ceremonies as the highlight of the HSS experience. “Seeing all these people coming from sooo many countries and listening to the song All you need is love was so sweet.” Céline found the welcoming exceptionally warm and it made her feel relaxed and happy since the beginning. “I felt that the energy and the people, including the organisers, were very positive about the whole project.”

This was Céline’s first time in Finland, but she has already created a plan for her future. “My dream is to come back and stay. I’d like to do research here so I‘m trying to find a second supervisor for my PhD. The resources here are fascinating and I really like the way people think here so I hope it’ll work out.” She also says that her big dream in the longer run would be to teach in Finland, or to find a job as a lawyer. She hesitates here and smiles: “Then I’d have to learn Finnish but it’s not a problem because I’m so motivated.”

Céline, who teaches in two different universities in Lille, is ready to promote HSS to her students when the new semester starts. “It’ll be such a positive and valuable experience, there’s no excuse for them not to apply. Meeting people from all over the world and taking care of yourself in a foreign environment makes you grow. Back home, the HSS alumni will be seen as students who achieve their projects.”

Text by: Lotta Wilkman
Photo by: Helena Hämäläinen

Farah took a leap of faith and applied to the Helsinki Summer School. Coming to Finland alone from Indonesia took some courage, but the effort was all worth it. Farah studies philosophy in her home university and here she is taking part in Intercultural Communication and Education.
 

“It’s mind-opening. The people, the course, this study and even the professors, lecturers, they’ve exceeded my expectations. I can honestly say that I’ve gained a lot from what I’ve experienced so far, and this was my main goal, to come here and experience Finnish education.”

Farah had already set her mind on Finland, so she was looking for an opportunity to study here. She clicked on a link on the website of the Embassy of Finland in Indonesia with a mention of HSS. The programme sounded like a lot of fun and a great opportunity! The length of the programme, three weeks, looked good, too: not too long, not too short. Farah found out more about the HSS programme through the website and decided to apply, even though she did not have a chance to consult anyone who had already taken part. “I thought, I’m just going to try, it’s a long shot, I might not be accepted, but at least I tried, that’s what I said to myself.”

Farah knew that many HSS courses are taken by Master’s degree or even doctoral students, but she has felt totally at ease with the more advanced HSS students. Everyone is equal; she can fit in just as easily. “My best experience is that I was really challenged by the course. I got so excited because you set another bar for yourself and then after three weeks there’s only one option, you have to be better than before you came to Finland. Another thing is that it was hard in the beginning, being in Finland, it’s very quiet here and I was wondering why there is no traffic and so on. So yes, academic challenges and cultural challenges. You need to adapt to a very different environment, and you need to adapt soon.”

Farah is so happy with her time in the Summer School that she is hoping to continue her studies in Helsinki. HSS convinced her she would be able to do a two-year Master’s programme here. A PhD degree in Finland is also on her mind. There was another factor, too, that convinced her that she was in the right place: “I did not expect that there’d be a lot of people from different countries. I thought that it was going to be mainly European countries. It’s a summer school in Finland, but there are also students from the United States, from America and other Asian countries, and they’re all here. I’ve met all these people; this must be right, I must’ve made a good decision coming here.”

Farah’s message to prospective HSS students is very clear: “Do it! At least for me this may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance because I used all my savings just to come here. But everything was worth it. There is something that you can only gain if you’re far away from home. You get more perspective, gain more knowledge. If you’re lucky enough, like me, you might have an epiphany.”

Text by: Larissa Vanamo
Photo by: Helena Hämäläinen

 

Kanyu had a good year in 2013. While she was not able to attend the Helsinki Summer School in 2012, her wish was fulfilled in 2013. Before the Summer School, Kanyu also participated in the Finnish Science Fiction convention Finncon and travelled around Europe: “First I knew about Finncon, the Finnish science fiction convention. And then Finland became like a dream place for me. But I thought I should also do an exchange programme. It’d be great to put these two things together!

I was considering coming here already last year, but I found out about the Helsinki Summer School a bit too late, so I postponed it to the next year.” Kanyu is a Drama student at home, at the University of Fudan in China. In Helsinki, she wanted to do Emotions and Interculturality, which was a newcomer in the course programme.

“I chose this course because it sounded interesting – even if I haven’t done anything related to interculturality before. But I’ve always had a keen interest in the topic because Fudan is a very international university and you get to know a great deal of international students and teachers there. Also I’ve been teaching foreigners Chinese so it’s very interesting and useful to know what may happen in an intercultural environment, how people’s emotions can affect the situation. Furthermore, between Finncon and the Summer School I did a grand trip around Europe, mostly to the Nordic countries. So I was aware of the intercultural environment and I could observe some emotions during my trip, but the course has put my experiences into theory.”

When Kanyu is asked about her best experiences in the Summer School, she says that many things have been great, but the academic part has been especially enriching:“Our course contains a lot of group work; we don’t have individual tasks so everything we do is with other students. It gives you the chance to really know how things can work in an international environment. It’s really nice we spend so much time in groups. And also the social programme; the Finnish Oddities in the botanical garden was great! It’s a shame I missed the Baltic Dinner Cruise. It was fully booked very quickly.”

Kanyu found the academic part the most rewarding also because her course did actual research. There’s even a chance to publish a paper later on. Some things have taken Kanyu by surprise. On her course she was taught that Finnish culture is very individualistic and that people are raised to help themselves first, not necessarily others. However, this is not what Kanyu has found herself. “Finnish people are very friendly and although they’re not used to being active in talking or helping, once you get to know them better it turns out they’re very nice.”

Kanyu wanted to become an ambassador for the Helsinki Summer School because she thought it would be a great opportunity to promote not only the Summer School but also Finland. Before coming to Finland she took part in a Finnish day at her home university in Fudan. The University of Helsinki was there but there was no special HSS desk. Kanyu thinks that she could do the promoting for HSS at the Finnish day. Kanyu will also tell all her friends about the Helsinki Summer School. And spread the word in the Chinese social media!

 “Doing a semester-long exchange is not possible for everyone, but Helsinki Summer School is different, everyone can apply to it and have a chance to study abroad. It’d be great if more people knew about this and had the opportunity to be here and enjoy the life. Kanyu’s experience here was so good that she is now planning on staying longer: “I’d love to pursue my studies in Finland. But I think I should earn some money first because I can only ask my parents for help. So I think that if I choose to study that’s my freedom but it’s also my responsibility. I’ll try to find some work in the cultural industry, maybe also in an intercultural environment. And then, I can be here again, perhaps doing a PhD.”

Text by: Larissa Vanamo
Photo by: Helena Hämäläinen
 

 

Pierre comes from Stellenbosch, South Africa. He is currently doing Theatre and Drama at the University of Stellenbosch, which is one of the partner schools of Helsinki Summer School. In Helsinki, he participated in Intercultural Education and Communication, Moving on.

Pierre had been looking into different summer schools but chose to come to Helsinki, because this was the only one to offer a course of education and communication. His own university does not do courses of intercultural communication. The Helsinki Summer School course is also relevant for his thesis on festivals. “The course has discussed certain theories and methods that were new to me and has identified some researchers that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.”

“The best part has been working and interacting with the people, being able to talk with the course mates and teachers, and meeting people. This wouldn’t have been possible without the Summer School. For example, there was an interview with one lecturer by Skype, and one of the teachers was actually a teacher of Mathematics. The course has broadened my field of study and that’s why it would’ve been nice if the Summer School had been a bit longer.” Pierre finds that the most rewarding thing about the course is that he has been able to expand his knowledge, broaden his educational horizons and learn things that he could not learn in South Africa.

Besides the course, the best experience of Pierre’s stay has been living in Eurohostel, meeting and spending time with new people from different countries. He has also made the most of the Summer School’s social programme: during the Baltic Dinner Sea Cruise, for example, the students made a stop at Kaunissaari, and on the Wildlife trip, they had a chance to go to the sauna and swim. “Actually the best part of the whole Helsinki Summer School has been the balance between education and the social programme.”

Pierre has been surprised to find that he loves the sauna. Another surprise is that Helsinki reminds him of Cape Town! “I thought that Finnish people would be more conservative but I’ve seen a lot of diversity among the people.” There are also similarities between the University of Helsinki and Stellenbosch: “they are working in the same way and the people are partying also in Helsinki”.

Pierre wanted to become a Helsinki Summer School Ambassador because he wants to share his experience with fellow students. “I’d like to show them what it’s like to study and live here and I want them to be prepared for Helsinki Summer School and know more about it.” When he gets back to his own university, he will post a blog and help the students with questions about the Summer School. “I will talk with them, give them more information and hands-on examples about how things work here in Helsinki, where to buy things, how much they cost, what to bring with you, which things are accessible, how to travel in Finland and so on.”

The big reason for Pierre to become an Ambassador was also that he wants to return to Helsinki. “I’d like to come back to Helsinki to do another Master’s degree and then postdoctoral studies.” He explains that South Africa has few festivals and that during his stay in Helsinki he has already been part of many. He would like to work for festivals in Finland and to pick up the experience and bring ideas to South Africa. He wants to come back to Finland also because of the high level of education. And perhaps to do some teaching of his own.

Pierre encourages students to take part in the Helsinki Summer School: “You’ll never regret coming here, because you’ll have an experience of your life. You’ll get friends to last your whole life if you just keep in touch. You can never forget this experience that you will get educationally, culturally and socially.”

 

Text by: Martta Haveri
Photo by: Helena Hämäläinen