1) How far in advance did you have to apply for housing? (I will probably be in Helsinki, I know you were in Tampere but I just want a rough idea)
I insisted on having some prior arrangements for housing so that I knew what I would be paying, and I wanted to set up address cards before I got to Finland. I was told by the univerity that it was not necessary to make pre-arrangement because there is housing set aside for exchange students. In Helsinki, this will also be the case. You will probably be able to reserve a place through the central agency that rents to students. In Tampere it is called TOAS (probably the same in Helsinki.) You will want to reserve in advance, or at least before the semester starts so that you can get an apartment closer to the campus. I understand that some of the housing in Helsinki is more than half an hour by transit to the university. (Housing in the centre is very expensive.) TOAS housing in Tampere was about $300/mo. private bedroom, sharing washroom and kitchen with two others. A private (non-TOAS) apartment is $800-1200/mo. I had a private apartment in Tampere for $625. TOAS apartments have a bed, desk and chair, stove fridge, etc. The student union in Tampere helped collect blankets, towels, pots, and dishes for the students who were ill-prepared.
2) From one native english speaker to another: How difficult was it to learn the (basics) of the Finnish language? Eeva says "oh it's easy" but she is a biased judge:)
I wouldn't say that it is easy. The grammar is very different from English, but the rules are precise. (And there are hundreds of exceptions that you have to memorise.) You have to learn every word because they don't have any English or French type or like works in the language. Pronounciation is easy and predictable once you get used to the sounds. I met many students who were able to carry on a reasonable conversation after about 5 months of studying an daily practise. The problem for me was I only spent about one half hours a day on the language and had difficulty getting native speakers to speak in Finnish to me since they wanted to practise English (with a native speaker.) My friend Gabriel from Cuba was about the best Finnish speaker I know, and I think he spent about 3 hours a day and sots of conversational time. He had a very outgoing personality and would force the Finns to speak Finnish (or make a game of it, "how do you say...?" As for studying and living in Finland, you can get by very well (especially in Helsinki) without knowing the language well enough to carry a conversation, but you will of course learn a huge vocabulary just by reading signs, directions, food packaging, etc.
3) Did you get any funding from either the Canadian government or the Finnish government? If so how did you get it and how much did you get?
No, I didn't get any funding, however, as a registered student in Finland you are entitled to certain benefits. Healthcare is paid by the student union, you will get 50% discount on air, train, bus travel within Finland, free admission to some museums, special pricing for noon meal at the university (last year was $2.80 for hot meal and salad bar in the cafeteria.) You can borrow all books you need from the library so no need to buy any. When I was in Tampere, I had only to pay for my housing, transportation and food. Check with your university exchange office about study grants. There are some available for students with exceptional marks (and or impoverished) to study overseas. There are special grants and scholarships available for graduate degree students. Total living costs per month, about $800, plus transportation out of the city, trips to neighbouring countries, etc. As a native speaker of English, it is very easy to get private teaching jobs. Your student visa allows you to be gainfully employed for a maximum of 20 hours per week. (Watch out for taxes though, they run a minumum of about 20%.) I had two jobs, one paying 120mks for one hour per week private tutoring a doctor, and another paying 300 mks for 3 hours per week working for a translation company that placed me into a importing business. This was enough to pay my housing costs.
4) Did you transfer credits from the university there to the university here? If so was it difficult?
Before going to Tampere, I applied to York for a "Letter of Permission" to take courses outside the university. I was grante permission to take 5 full courses (or equivilant) during the year. York has granted my conditional credit for these, but I am still waiting for a final decision on what courses at York I will be exempted from. (My degree has a lot of required courses to graduate.) The exchange office at Trent can advise you. I would suggest you meet with the dean of your college/or department head and explain what your intention is. They have the power to approve things beyond administrative clerks.
5) What kind of schedule of classes do they have there (ie two semester, something else?), how does the semester work?
Each department within the university has their own schedule. (I think there are also special provisions for courses taught in English.) I took mostly courses taught in English, but also two courses taught in Finnish, with English refernce materials (the professor customised the course requirements for me with an English exam, or major paper.) Most of the courses in Tampere were equivelent to one quarter of a full course at Trent, so you might have to take as many as 20 courses during the year to get the 5 courses at Trent. Some courses were held for two hours per week for 12 weeks, some 4 hours per week for 6 weeks, tow I took were twelve hours per week for two weeks (i.e. two 6-hour days for four days.) Some courses started in the first week, some in the 4th week, some in the 7 week of the semester. If you miss an exam, or get a poor mark, you have the possiblity to write again, twice! (The philosophy here is that you actually learn the material.)
I hope this will give you start, I have more time now, so I can write more answers if you need.
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