Last December Ran Goren returned to Jerusalem after spending the autumn term as an exchange student at the University of Helsinki. He had enjoyed his experience so much that he immediately began to explore new opportunities to study abroad. Although Ran was admitted to pursue Master’s studies at several British universities, he eventually decided to return to Helsinki, which he already knew and liked.
“I like that it’s quiet here and everything works well. My family was also pleased that I decided to return to the safety of Finland. I will also be able to continue my Bachelor’s studies in Comparative democracy within the Master’s Degree Programme in Democracy and Global Transformations,” Ran explains.
Intensive Finnish studies
Before his Master’s studies begin, Ran has been delving into the intricacies of the Finnish language during a three-week course at the Helsinki Summer School.
“I’ll be spending at least the next two years in Finland, so learning basic Finnish will be useful. Many of the other course participants will also begin their Master’s studies, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them before the hectic term begins,” Ran says.
The Finnish course progresses at a fast pace. Although the language seems a bit difficult to Ran, he has one advantage over many of his fellow students.
“My grandfather comes from Hungary and I know some Hungarian, so I was familiar with adding suffixes at the end of words,” he says.
This is the 14th year of the Helsinki Summer School. The organisers are the University of Helsinki, Aalto University and the Hanken School of Economics, and close to 400 students from more than 60 countries are attending this year. The course themes range from international communication, education and bioethics, to multidisciplinary product development and cognitive neuroscience.
Only two out of five applicants are admitted. The pace is intense: students complete courses worth five or six credits in just three weeks. But what makes students from across the world apply to study in Helsinki at a time when the vacation season is still in full swing in many countries?
“Lots of students cite Finland’s excellent academic reputation as one of the reasons for applying. They want to get acquainted with another way of learning. Here we favour learning journals and essays over traditional lectures,” notes Larissa Vanamo, Student Adviser at the Helsinki Summer School.
The reputation of the Helsinki Summer School has spread around the world. Many participants say that they heard about the school from their friends, and the hope is that this year’s participants will continue to transmit the message of Finland as a provider of world-class education. Ran has already done so.
“My knowledge of Finland used to be the same as that of most Israelis – non-existent. But these days I’m a sort of walking ambassador for Finland in my home country,” Ran laughs.