Are you afraid of studying abroad? Do you want to get a foreign degree but don’t have enough confidence? Are you interested in Finnish student life but feel nervous? Then, this article is for you!
Who am I?
If I describe myself, I am a person who loves new challenges and different cultures, but at the same time is an introvert, overthinker, and worrier with low self-confidence. I had missed too many opportunities and made bad choices in the past because of fear.
However, now I can say that having chosen Turku as my study destination was the best choice I have ever made, and I feel more confident than ever. So, I don’t want you, someone like me, to miss the opportunity to study at the University of Turku. I hope to encourage you to study here by sharing what I had been worrying about and terrified of before coming here, and how the reality turned out to be.
Fear for English
The first thing that I had to overcome was English. Apart from the Finnish language, English mattered a lot to me because I did not have confidence in my academic English, nor had I ever studied something IN English in Japan. I got a sufficient English score by cramming up, but if I imagine dealing with academic writing, discussions, and presentations, I felt terrified. I remember I had nightmares almost every night before my departure to Finland, and even after the first semester had started!
However, after having talked with many international students, I realized that it was not just my worry but a lot of them had and struggled in common. After knowing this fact, I remember I started to feel less nervous. Different from English-speaking countries, most students use English as a second language at the University of Turku, and no one is interested in how native your English is. Also, the University provides English-supporting lectures for developing your skills. Yes, it may need a lot of effort, but please do not be afraid and do not give up studying in Finland merely because of English!
Am I good enough?
Another thing that made me worried is the question “Am I good enough?” Because of a lack of confidence, I had been cursed by some negative thoughts like “I will be the worst student in the classroom!” or “I am too stupid to catch up on the classes!”
Well, it is not necessarily bad to have some pressure on your study, but someone who is reading this article might be overwhelmed by the thoughts as I did. What I want to say here is that the Finnish academic culture will help you get over them. I would say the characteristics of Finnish higher education lay in its student-friendliness and non-hierarchical students-teachers relationship. It was at first very surprising for me because I am from a country with competitive and rigorous academic culture. In contrast at the University of Turku, I can study in a more comfortable setting, and that eventually help me perform well and develop my confidence.
In case you are extremely nervous about your study (this can happen to anyone at any time), there are study counsellors available at the University of Turku, or you can just talk to academic- and administrative staff. If you ask for help, they will listen to you and think of solutions together. I did not know that environment matters a lot but being in a suitable environment for you is one of the best remedies to feel confident.
I am an introvert, but I need friends.
Socializing. A horrific word that can terrify introverts. I was a big concern about how I can make friends. It is always problematic for me because I love talking and hanging out with people although I am shy.
I am a bit careful to generalize cultural things as a social science student, however, I think the beautiful part of Finnish culture is that no one forces you to be an extrovert. People respect the way you are and keep a comfortable distance from each other.
Also, each programme has a relatively small number of yearly-intaking students at the University of Turku, so it is very easy to get to know coursemates and teachers. On top of that, the University of Turku has many student organizations from which you can find a suitable one for you according to your interest. Or beautiful Finnish nature might help you be a bit open about yourself to others (believe me, it really helps:).
What if I am discriminated?
Now I am half admiring myself for having had endless worries, but it still goes on! Living in foreign countries always entails exposure to discrimination. Unfortunately, you cannot be free from someone who always wants to discriminate for how you look, and Turku is not an exception although it is quite rare.
I have to admit that I sometimes encounter both explicit and implicit discrimination because of my “Asian” look. However, It is always encouraging that the University of Turku, the City of Turku, and other organizations officially express anti-racist attitudes and emphasise diversity through various media. This makes me feel “it is okay to be here.” What I want to let you know is that there are far more people that will be angry with you together than those who discriminate against you in Turku and Finland.
Is it ok to choose a minor destination?
Some people care university’s prestige and competitiveness. When you search study destinations on the internet, you cannot avoid seeing words like “the world’s best universities” or “prestigious universities”. I also considered whether I have to pursue one of them or not. However, especially for someone like me, it is great to consider destinations that you may have never thought of.
Finland is a minor destination compared to some major study-abroad destinations, but this is a great benefit for you because universities give compassionate attention to each international student. I can always feel that the university cares about each one of us and that makes me very secure. Of course, the criterion for choosing a university differs depending on individuals. But I recommend you to also consider the overall scale and atmosphere of the university and surroundings because it is where you will spend a semester or a few years. If you love a warm, friendly, and peaceful atmosphere, the University of Turku might be the best option for you.
After writing this blog post, I cannot really believe how I travelled from Japan to Finland and survived for one and a half years! But somehow, I did, and now I feel much more confident than before. And I think it is thanks to the University of Turku’s environment and the kindest people in the community.
I don’t really like the words like “don’t worry” because it is very natural to be worried, terrified, and overwhelmed in front of a new journey. Rather, I want you to disentangle the vague anxiousness and think about what you need to lessen them. If you think the University of Turku has something that can make you feel better, then, don’t hesitate to apply! The best environment is waiting for you.
Do you feel less afraid of studying abroad? If you have other concerns, feel free to reach student ambassadors anytime on Unibuddy. We are always willing to help you.