By Ajaya Kumar Vemulapati
When Indian students plan to study abroad, the universities they consider are usually in the UK, US, or Canada. In the last few years, however, applicants have seriously started exploring more offbeat destinations as an option for higher education — with Scandinavian countries coming to the fore.
With its beautiful natural sights and state-of-the-art universities, Finland is fast becoming a popular choice for Indian students. While they will have to contend with cold climate and plenty of snow, the cultural experiences and access to high-quality education are more than worth it.
Established in 2010, Aalto University is one of the leading public research universities in Finland, offering a variety of Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes in the fields of technology, design and business administration. The university has more than 12,000 students across its six schools and has an impeccable reputation in the country.
Its campus is located in Otaniemi, Espoo, roughly 10 km away from the centre of Helsinki — a city, not far from the Finnish countryside, that has become a tech hub. Helsinki is an exciting place to live in today, with an increasing number of expats and a vibrant start-up scene, international students will fit right in. The best part is the incredible architectural delights: there’s everything from contemporary art museums to a newly opened cultural library.
The institution was a merger of three major Finnish universities: the Helsinki University of Technology, the Helsinki School of Economics and the University of Art and Design Helsinki. With a QS World University Ranking of 112 — 9th in the category of universities founded less than 50 years ago — Aalto is celebrated globally for its unique curriculum.
The Aalto School of Arts, Design and Architecture is one of the most prestigious design schools in the world and the School of Business. There is a combined focus on both theoretical knowledge and real-world experience.
Most programmes at Aalto are in English and classes have a student-faculty ratio of 9:1. Students are encouraged to tailor their modules and engage in multidisciplinary projects. The faculty is top-notch and focused on producing cutting-edge research, a rigour that is transferred onto the classroom atmosphere.
Campus life is extremely dynamic, with numerous events and clubs on topics such as heavy metal, extreme sports, the Japanese language, or bird watching. Students are invited to become volunteers for SLUSH, one of the leading entrepreneurship events in the world; Aalto also hosts Europe’s largest hackathon.
The tuition fee ranges from 12,000-15,000 euros per academic year and living costs are about 800 euros a month. The university, however, offers merit-based scholarships for international students that have either a 50 per cent or 100 per cent fee waiver. Interestingly, programs taught in Finnish or Swedish are free even for non-EU citizens. With their residence permit, students can also work up to 25 hours a week during term time.
International students thrive at Aalto, making up more than 45 per cent of the student demographic. The university offers courses in Finnish to help them settle in and even has counselling facilities available to deal with any cultural shock. The Indian student community is probably the largest foreign student community in Finland, especially after the memorandum signed between Aalto and IITs in India to encourage more education collaboration.
After one completes their degree, Finland allows one to extend their student permit by one year to look for jobs or start a business. The job market is much more accessible to those who speak the local language, so Aalto students are heavily encouraged to become proficient in Finnish. The Aalto Career Service centre helps students find employment opportunities or plan their career trajectory. Over 94 per cent of graduates have a job within a year or become entrepreneurs, and the rest usually find themselves in another academic programme.
Students who love the outdoors will have an incredible time in Finland. In the summer, one can hike around the lush forests and lakes — the country is often called the Land of a Thousand Lakes. The rest of the year, Finland is a winter wonderland with a plethora of activities including cross-country skiing, scouting for the Northern Lights, snowshoeing, and sled dog touring. Of course, you can also take the ferry to places like Latvia, Estonia, and Stockholm. Finland’s geographic location and stunning landscape make it an ideal location for students wanting to explore.
The Finnish government aimed to create a new kind of university in Aalto, where innovation is given foremost importance and students come together from various disciplines to solve large-scale global issues. Aalto definite succeeds in providing that collaborative atmosphere. Studying there would be an enriching experience for youngsters in India looking to experience a different culture.
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