An insight into Oyelowo's new start in Helsinki – and his thoughts on our education system.

Oyelowo uprooted his entire life on a quest for a better education and left behind his home country Nigeria to study Geographic Information Systems & Remote Sensing in Finland (The department of Geography and Geosciences at the University of Helsinki). Find out just why he chose The University of Helsinki over the breathtaking landscapes of both Canada and Australia.

Why did you decide to come to Helsinki?

That’s the biggest question for me! There are so many reasons that lead me to choose Helsinki:  the reputation of the country itself and not just the university.  Of course, I did look at other options too, like Canada and Australia. I applied for a lot of places and I received a lot of admissions, but I kept being drawn back to Finland.

I had heard that Finland has the best education system in the world, but apart from Nokia, I knew nothing else about this country! I didn’t even know where it was on a map! Asia? But I knew I wanted to pursue and explore new horizons, a new environment and new people.

At the end of the day, Finland has been consistent in all indexes and development in education, there was no other choice for me and so the decision was easy.

What is the best thing about studying at the University of Helsinki?

For me, here are just a few things; the university environment is not only relaxing, but there are many places you can hang out with your friends and of course also study. The university has the most ideal system, it’s not over simplified nor is it too difficult. The teachers are practically friends, which leads to real conversations and the ability to express our thoughts without fear.

But the best thing is the modern approach to education, we are not memorising the content, but actually understanding what we are studying. The focus here is on collaboration with students and teachers, rather than competition. This approach should be adopted everywhere.

What do you want to do when you graduate?

I know what I want to do but I am flexible in my approach. I strongly believe that opportunities are abound and of course it’s good to have focus, but if I set my mind to something too strongly then I may lose out on some opportunities. I certainly want to continue to do PHD. I want to continue with GIS (geographic information system) and remote sensing, the ‘behind the scenes’ of how an address is put on a map etc. - the real techie side. Maybe I could do something in development too. See, there are just so many opportunities!

Last week I attended London International Model United Nations conference and I'm very motivated and determined from all that I learned & for sure will want to work in the United Nations after I graduate.

Have you learnt any Finnish?

Does ‘miten menee’ count? During my first year I have been focusing on other things but of course I would like to learn more of the language. In my second year I plan to take some courses, but for now I am learning from my Finnish friends, after all, immersing yourself in the country is the best way to learn a new language!

What surprised you most about Finland?

Honestly, I did so much research, I was even walking down the street using Google Maps whilst I was back in Nigeria, so, it was almost like coming home. Everything I expected was exactly what I encountered.

But what really amazes me is what a country of just 5 million people can do for themselves, and how you really can trust people. Someone told me that Finnish people are shy, and sure, they are a little and I totally respect that, but I still get to speak with everyone, as they are just so friendly!

What would you say is the funniest thing about our culture?

I still haven’t been to a sauna; I find the whole idea really funny! But I will definitely give it a try soon!

What is your favourite Finnish food?

Reindeer, with potatoes of course! I also really like porridge, which I had for the first time at a friend’s house topped with berries and bananas!

Have you visited elsewhere? Which city do you like the most?

I visited Tallinn in December, I ventured to the old city and everything! I thought it was pretty cool. In Finland, I’ve yet only been to Vantaa and Espoo, and Suomenlinna is also really nice!

Now I just came back from Denmark, Norway and London – and I really missed my new home, Finland!

What is one thing you miss from home?

Hmm, I don’t miss that much, but definitely the food! And of course my family, I hope they will visit in the winter, but in the meantime there is always Skype!

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking of studying at Helsinki University?

I would tell them to just go for it! I came all the way from Africa without hesitation! Don’t even give it a second thought because they would never regret it. Yes, it is so different but it’s amazing! There is so much you can do here, with the opportunity to study at different campuses, there is so much flexibility and the facilities are the best!

Helsinki University can help you to reach any of your goals in all aspects of life!