The first few days in Turku can be overwhelming, least not due to the lack of sleep you might have experienced in the process of getting here. Getting your apartment furnished, buying groceries (and not paying a fortune to do so), getting around, and knowing where to get medical care are the first few steps to getting settled in. Here, I have tried to provide you with a handle on the first few days in Turku, with a map to make things just a little bit easier!
Getting about and getting around in Turku!
Getting about and getting things done!
Finally, you have made it to Finland (perhaps first to Helsinki, and then still another leg)! Months of preparation, documents of all kinds, getting ready for studying and living in Turku, and numerous goodbyes. First and foremost, take a deep breath and let me tell you “well done”. It does not happen by chance that you are where you are, in fact, it requires a lot of courage and determination.
There are bound to be moments in the next few months when you might feel overwhelmed and underprepared, but you will get through those too. At this moment, you have done well to keep your wits and I commend you for that!
Settling in the first few days in Turku
With everything that has taken place, and if you are anything like me, it is highly likely that you have not given two thoughts about how to get the first few days’ practicalities done in the shortest time period possible, so that you can start enjoying being in Finland. That is why I have decided to help you where I fell short – a relatively short, practical list on what to do and where to go to do that, saving you time and (this is crucial) money.
This list will focus on the first three or four days, getting you settled in, by getting a bed and furniture (and other nice things) for your apartment, giving you some advice on where to buy food that won’t break the bank, as well as highlighting where you could get medication, or immediate medical care, should you need it.
You don’t want to do it the way I did, researching and researching and researching to find the best possible deals, walking my feet to stumps to figure it all out, the whole process taking considerably longer than it needs to. Please note, these suggestions were collated from various student experiences, including my own, and I am not promoting any store for any other reason than to get you started in settling in Turku. You will likely find other stores of note as you become more comfortable and familiar with your surroundings in Turku. So, without further ado, let’s get you started (go make a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate, because this post will save you the time lost in doing so) to settling in Turku!
Getting your house (let’s be realistic, apartment) in order
One of the (less convenient) surprises in Turku is the fact that you usually have to furnish your own apartment from scratch. This can be quite challenging and costly if you don’t keep a close eye on your finances.
There are numerous Facebook groups, especially those that focus on the different student villages, where you can buy anything second hand. It can be a challenge, however, as these items get picked up quickly. Do a Facebook search for these groups (e.g. Roskalava TURKU) and keep an eye on them, especially in the week or two before you arrive in Finland.
IKEA would certainly have been mentioned by now in conversation about setting up your apartment. It is a very convenient, one-stop shop for everything, from furniture to everyday needs. It is certainly quite reasonably priced for buying smaller items to finish the look and feel of your apartment. However, I would not recommend buying your large furniture pieces here, at least not at first. If price is not a concern at all, you can just go ahead and do it, and save yourself some time, else Ekotori is the place for you.
Ekotori is a one-stop shop like none other in Finland. It is a great second-hand shopping experience, and you can find almost anything here. There are two Ekotoris in Turku. The furthest Ekotori is located close to IKEA. This Ekotori usually has more in store when it comes to furniture, so it might be a good idea to check it out first, then visit the other Ekotori store in Itäharju. My suggestion? Go visit both Ekotori’s first before you venture to IKEA. You might just get a great deal and, if not, you will know what you are able to find at these stores, should you need items later. And ask for student discount, it is part of their policy!
Getting food in your stomach – grocery shopping
If you are like me, it is usually the last thing I take care of, and by that time I am ravenous! And then I make less-than-ideal food choices (unhealthy take-aways…). I ended up buying groceries at K-market in Student Village for the first few days. Whilst it is convenient for items you might need on a whim, it is not the most cost-effective grocery store in the long run. The first time I walked in and calculated the cost of my food choices (for a meagre basket), my heart started palpating! Thankfully, there are more cost-effective solutions and options to cater for culture-specific meal preparation. Let’s have a look!
Prisma, a Finnish chain of hypermarkets, provides great value-for-money when it comes to grocery shopping. Not only does it offer food and drinks, but it also has sections of clothing, sporting goods, books and homeware. It is a great one-stop shop. The closest stores for students are in the areas of Räntämäki (close to TYS Pilvilinna) and Itäharju.
Lidl is a German discount retailer store. I wish I knew of Lidl within the first weeks, it would have saved me a considerable amount of money. It provides a hassle-free shopping experience. The closest stores for students are in the city centre and in Itäharju, in the vicinity of Kupittaa train station.
S-market is a Finnish retail store, and provides you with groceries that could be slightly more expensive than Lidl, but a little cheaper than K-market. It is convenient and won’t break the bank. The closest stores for students are in the city centre and the areas of Halinen and Räntämäki (close to TYS Häliskylä and Pilvilinna).
K-market is a choice you would tend to make out of convenience. It is not exceptionally pricey, but in the long run you would save money by buying bulk items elsewhere. Closest stores for students are on Yo-kylä Länsi (at the TYS Office) and between Student Village and the hospital.
Culture-specific grocery stores
There are numerous culture-specific grocery stores, many of them situated in the city centre. There are numerous culture-specific stores in Turku, so I have not tried to populate a comprehensive or representative list. Halaal meats can be found in Asian markets such as Deli Market and Beno. These stores offer a wide range of African, South-Asian and Middle Eastern spices. Nurmi Daqo Oriental Foods, the Japanese Korean Shop and Thai Deli also sell East and South East Asian ingredients. The Google Maps link will help get you started, and you are bound to find more places as time goes by!
And do not forget to sign up for all possible loyalty-cards at these stores, you will swipe your way towards a free grocery basket in due time!
As soon as the academic year officially starts, Unica will be your go-to for nutritional, value-for-money meals. A blog post on navigating your way through the Unica experience has been written by UTU Ambassador Kristyna Hrivnacova. For now, happy grocery shopping!
Medical care and pharmacies, for emergencies
In case of emergency, you check in at the Emergency Room at the Turku University Hospital. It is situated in the Nummi district, close to the Kupittaa train station. It is also worthwhile knowing where the closest pharmacy is. Many of them have been indicated on the Google Map populated for this blog post. YTHS, the Finnish Student Health Service (for university students), are also good to know of. They are located in Nummi, close to the Student Village.
The last thing I would like to touch on is how to get around Turku to get your admin done. It is a very brief summary, helping you to get from Point A to B (and C, and D, and E…). Transport is easy in Turku and there are numerous ways to get about, here are a few options:
Föli buses get you across the city in the most convenient way. Buses are especially convenient when you have bought things for your apartment or groceries. A very useful blog about the Föli experience has been written by UTUAmbassador, Esther Oluwawemimo.
Föllari city bicycles
The yellow Fölläri city bicycles are available from spring till late autumn, and they are simple and easy to use. Download the Donkey Republic app, add your credit card, then find the nearest bike to use! Remember to look on the app where you can leave the bikes without a penalty. There are numerous spots all over the city! Föli’s föllärit (season ticket), available from spring to autumn, allows you unlimited travel on Föli buses and Fölläri city bicycles, well worth the effort to use!
Scooters all around the city: you would have seen many of these when you arrive. They are convenient, and they are used in a similar matter to the yellow city bicycles. You just need to download the relevant scooter app and add your credit card details. I have it on good authority that the cost might add up, though, if compared to a Föli bus ticket.
Then there is the most value-for-money way (in the long run)! Read UTUambassador Mostafa’s blog post on why buying your own bicycle (and then reselling it) is the way to go. Ekotori sells second-hand bikes, as well as Pyöräkirppis Maailmanpyörä Koroinen (close to TYS Yo-kylä Itä and TYS Häliskylä). Cycling in the summer and autumn will be very enjoyable, but it will become more slippery as winter approaches. A bus ticket might then come in handy.
Taking it step-by-step on the first few days in Turku
Addressing the above-mentioned items within the first three or four days after arrival in Turku will clear your head for the myriad of other things that you will still need to do, like registering at DVV, opening a bank account, etc. These things will be covered in-depth during the Orientation Week, so no need to worry about it now. There are also numerous helpful blogs written by UTU Ambassadors that will give you the practicalities around these things if you need to refresh your memory after Orientation Week. For now, get your apartment sorted out, find your way to the grocery shops that fit your palate (and budget), and know where to find medicines or medical care. Once you have done that, the rest will be easy.
And may I be so bold as to say “well done” again? You have come this far, and the journey is only about to start! As Raymond Linquist has said, “courage is the power to let go of the familiar”. Well done to you!