Schools of the World
All about student life in Finland!

Let me start by quickly explaining about the structure of Finnish education:

AGES 4-6 = Kindergarten and preschool. You learn about colors, shapes and other important stuff.
AGES 7-12 = Elementary school. Now you know how to read and hopefully how to defend yourself in playground fights.
AGES 13-15 = Middle school. You pretty much learn that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of a cell.
AGES 16-18 = High school OR vocational school. You choose either the theoretical option (="lukio") or if you already have your future plans clear and your dream job won't require high education, you choose the more practical school, vocational school (="amis"). I believe the American high school is a mixture of these two.
AGES 18 -> = You do whatever you like! You can for example continue the vocational school at high-amis or you can go to university.

My choices were: lukio and university. I will explain more about these two since I have personal experience of them.


#LUKIOLIFE

Studies:

Lukio lasts 3 years (ideally). During this time you need to accomplish 75 courses and the final exams. The studies consist of compulsory (basic stuff), advanced (hard stuff for those who interested in the subject) and applied (extra hard or sometimes just irrelevant stuff for those who interested in the subject) studies. Everybody has to study 1-2 courses of chemistry, philosophy, music, art, psychology, religion, PE, health studies, physics and history. Then there are some subjects with more compulsory courses such as Finnish, English, Swedish and math. Depending of individual's choice of either basic math or advanced math, there are 5-14 courses of it. My lukio was very basic and small so we had very few alternative courses. I chose German language and I'm so happy with it. Some other lukios have practical courses like acting or something other media/art related.

The final exams you need to take in order to graduate consist of min. 4 subjects of which 1 is Finnish and 1 is either Swedish or advanced math. You can spread your final exams so that you can start doing them in the spring of your second year. Then you can so them in fall of your third year and the last exams in the spring of your third year. I really like this system because it lessens the stress that the exams cause.


Free time / how to survive:

Since I hadn't discovered the lovely saviour or all students, coffee, I made it through the power of Pepsi Max and candy! Student parties were pretty rare at my lukio age because I lived in the countryside and everyone were still underage. OR I WASN'T JUST AWARE OF THEM LOL! I know that some parties were held but they weren't a thing like in cities or like in universities. At my lukio, people would get their older siblings to get their friend group 1 bottle of wine or some super sweet and fruity liqueur and gather up at someone's cottage. What I prefered: INTERNET CHATS. No, I'm not saying this to shame party people or to say that introverted people are better people. It was actually pretty sad ":D".


When you graduate from lukio, you'll get a graduation cap that looks a little bit like Donald Duck's sailor hat.
Many foreign people have said that it is an ugly cap but I have never thought it was ugly because it was always something that I dreamed of having.




Pic 1: When you are sitting at school at 8 - and you wonder if this all is worth some hat
Pic 2: Me and my graduation cap





Wanhat:


Wanhat (tanssit) is a tradition at finnish lukios where 2nd year students dance rehearsed old fashioned dances to a crowd to celebrate being the oldest ones at school (I'll explain why the 3rd year students don't count later on). Originally this was supposed to be a day of old dresses and old habits but since we don't have prom in Finland and American traditions have brainwashed us via TV, we too want to wear princess-like gowns and not just some old rags!! Wanhat is the reason some people school to go to lukio and it's one of the highlights of the three years along with Penkkarit.



Pictures of me at wanhat. I had to crop other people out because I don't know if they want their faces shown here.



Penkkarit:



Okay now to the good stuff. Penkkarit or Penkinpainajaiset (straightly translated: the event of pressing seats) is an event for 3rd year students. It takes its place on the day before of wanhat in February. Penkkarit is held as an "goodbye party" to the 3rd year students (= abit) because from this day forward they will have no lukio lectures or teaching anymore, they are going on a "reading holiday" where they study for the final exams they have *krhm or just f**k around and stress about future*. Therefore the second year students become the oldest one at school because the 3rd year students only go there to take the exams.

So, what is penkkarit actually about? It's about drinking, wearing a costume, throwing candy, feeling superior because of the admiration of younger students and spending some time with your classmates! In the bigger cities the class will rent truck(s) and drive around the city and throw candy at people who are watching them. In my case, trucks would have been a waste of money since I pretty much lived in the middle of nowhere so we drove to the nearby elementary schools where all of the kids were waiting for us and threw candy at them (and also spraying some water from water guns belong to the tradition). All in all it was a fun day and penkkarit it usually something every finnish kid wants to experience since from the 1st grade they have seen other people doing it.





Me at penkkarit super exited and mouth full of the penkkarit-candy.
That red thing behind me is my friend in a crab-suit (:D).





#UNIVERSITYLIFE

My experience in student life at university is going to need a lot of more cells so I'll use this one for a quick explanation of universities in Finland in general.

There are 14 universities in Finland and on top of that there are universities of applied sciences. They aren't real universities. I'm not saying this to diss them, just clarifying this because they have such a confusing name. One exchange student once told me at a party that he wanted to go to university and ended up at university of applied sciences and it wasn't until he was in Finland that he realised that it is not a real university. It's like when I explained of lukio and amis. After lukio you can pick either university or university of applied sciences, but after amis (vocational school) it is more likely that you'll go to university of applied sciences. I know a few exceptions of this too but usually this is how it goes.

So since I study at university, we'll focus on them! You can either choose a regular university or a university of technology. At regular universities you study things such as different languages, medicine, law, history, psychology, religion and so on. I study at Tampere university of Technology (TUT) and we have 12 fields of studies such as industrial engineering and management, electrical engineering, biotechnology, architecture and construction engineering. So just to make sure, I will be talking about this other big institution (university) and one specific type of it (of technology) in one specific city in Finland (Tampere). Everything is obliviously not the same in other places!!



M. Sc

At the moment I am studying my way to be a master of science at the field of electrical engineering. In Finland, you'll become a bachelor of science after 3 (or more) years, with 180 credits (each course equals 3-7 credits). You'll have to do a bachelor's thesis too. After this, it takes 2 (or more) years to be a master of science. This 2 year period will include studies worth 120 credits and a master's thesis.

Most of the people, if I'm not wrong the percentage is about 75, will not graduate in time. I feel like I have no hurry to graduate, so my studies might end up getting delayed. But after graduating, the odds of getting a job look relatively good in Finland.
What is included to a course

This depends on the course but usually we have lectures on which a professor is talking and we're only listening. On some other courses with fewer students we may have lukio-like teaching too that includes students talking to each other, doing tasks and participating more.

On top of lectures, we have calculation excercised during which we go and solve math problems that are related to the course. These really help out with the final exam. The more problems you solve, the more points you get and if you have solved 80% or more of the total problems, you'll get extra points to the exam!

Sometimes we do practical works but they are usually voluntary. Doing them you'll get extra points too. The courses include a lot of independent studying too, especially programming. But this isn't always so time-consuming and boring. For example for my German class, it is enough if we watch a few German movies or read German books.


Free time and events

Because of the hard work, we also need a lot of fun too. Luckily Tampere is a great city for students, there is always something happening in here. Now I will introduce some of the events I've been to. As you will discover, many of the events include drinking alcohol and it is a huge part of student culture. Some of you may already know this but Finnish people are pretty shy and few worded so people will need to drink before getting comfortable around people. (Of course there are exceptions)

I have also participated in being a tutor for younger students and will do that next year too. Tutoring means helping freshmen with their integration in Tampere and our student culture. It is fun and I recommend it to everyone who'll have a chace of doing it.


Freshman tour

Each freshman get to experience this once during the fall they enter our university. They get up on a bus that is decorated and will hear fun dialogue from a guide (older student at our school) as the bus drives all around Tampere. Every person who asks a question will get a free beer. Nobody knows the final destination until the bus arrives there: it's Särkänniemi, the amusement park in Tampere. Särkänniemi is closed from everybody else that evening and freshmen can enjoy the rides and eat traditional sausage of Tampere (Mustamakkara) there for free! Afterwards there is a pub crawl in the center. This was so fun because the bus was decorated, there was loud music and we heard super fun stories as we got to know our new home town. And it was a total surprise that we would end up in Särkänniemi!! I got to go to my favorite ride, Tornado:


Pub Crawls

Especially during the fall there are held a lot of pub crawls. Each year you can participate in a different "degree", so if it's your first year to participate in a certain pub crawl, you will start at the easiest degree, usually like 5 drinks for a woman and 7 for a man. Next year your amount could be like 7 for a woman and 9 for a man and so on. You'll have a map and you start touring the area's pubs with it, getting a stamp from the pub when you order something. When your map is full, you'll return your flag to the place where you got it and you'll get a badge to your overalls. Pub Crawls are fun but they are sooo expensive : (

There's also a crawl that is not about pubs but cafe's and candy shops. I've participated in that for 2 times and each time I've gotten a nice ice cream badge from it:

This is the badge I got in my freshman year. You'll get the cone and the first scoop from going to 6 different cafes and ordering something. You'll get the cone, scoop and an extra scoop if you go to 9 cafes and the complete badge (cone + 2 scoops + the cherry) for going to 14 different cafes. It was a lot of work and I felt terrible afterwards but hey, at least I have this cool badge. And now that I did that once, much like in pokemon, I'll have to catch them all and I "have to" do this every year :D

HerkkuWiiniFestarit
(DeliWineFest)

HerkkuWiiniFestarit is a yearly fest that is held at my campus. Every guild/club/person can make their own "wine" there. Wine is in quotation marks because usually what the wines are made of are just random ingredients and they end up tasting like bad hooch. The groups come up with a name and label for their wine and a winner is picked out by a jury. Everyone else can purchase a plastic mug for 1€ and they can taste every wine as much as they want. There are usually like 20 participants and the risk of getting drunk in the middle of the day at our school yard is HIGH. My freshman year I went there, got unintentionally drunk and then went to a sushi bar just to notice how drunk 1 euro got me. Money well spent I thought. The next day wasn't so fun because the wines and their manufacture processes were pretty suspicious :D Below you can see my rating of some of last years wines:




3rd pic: "I am too scared to try it"

2nd pic: "Minus points from the smell"
4th pic: "Is there even alcohol in this?"


Every field of study at TUT has a guild. Guild's meaning is to bring the students of a certain subject closer together via guild room and common activities. There are guilds in every university of technology and "subject associations" in regular universities. They are pretty much alike. In the guild room you can for example get help for studies, play video games, drink coffee or even play beer pong! Despite that, I don't use our guild room that often. My favorite part of the guilds are the events that they arrange. Because of that, we have fun things to do in our free time.

Each member of a guild has a certain color overalls that they use to student events. For example I study electrical engineering so my overalls are blue. This way I will know immediately what subject somebody studies. Overalls are usually worn only as pants, so the upper part of them gets tied to the waste and the logo of your guild can be seen on your lower back now. Our overalls were free for us because volunteering students, the overall-team, gather up the money that's needed for the overalls by calling big firms and sell advert places from the overalls. Now some firm from our field of study gets adverting from us by having their logo on our overalls.

Overalls are usually decorated and made special. One, the most common way to decorate overalls are badges. We get badges from some events, for example pub crawls and excursions (more about that later). You can also order funny badges online. Some people put stuff like bottle openers, flashlights, plastic flowers or even plastic handcuffs (law students) to hang from their overalls. Some people cut parts like sleeves or pockets from their friend's overalls, if they are different color. Then they switch parts, sew them back on and have a colorful detail on their overalls! I love overalls because they make me feel united, they are really comfy and the pockets carry a lot of stuff.





Some badges on my overalls

Excursions


Excursion basically means a trip to somewhere. There are two types of excursions: serious ones and the "fun" ones.
The duration of an excursion can also vary from hours to days. Excursions are an important part of a TUT-student.

srs xcrsns:


The more serious excursions are usually experienced at different firms. For example I've been on a excursion at a Nokia factory. Students go to a firm to hear stories of the workers and see what the job is like in reality. Sometimes we get a sightseeing tour at factory. The thing I like to hear most is the (short) life stories of some of the employees there. I think it is interesting to hear what they have studied and where they have worked before, because there workers will always have so different stories of how they ended up working at the same place.


fn xcrsns:

The fun excursions (seriously I just couldn't come up with a better term) usually last longer than the serious ones. They could be made to different parts of Finland or even abroad. I've been on two of these longer excursions. One was to Helsinki and the other one was to Oulu and they both lasted 4 days. During this time we got to know the local students, their school and free time, had sitsit, we visited local firms (so had these "little excursions" inside of our excursion) and just had fun! Next fall I'm going on an excursion to Uppsala, Sweden! That is surely going to be interesting.



A flag of Aalto university (Helsinki) we stole during an excursion in 2016, now being used as a tablecloth at our hangouts.
(At least the universities of technology in Finland have a friendly love-hate rivalry kind of relationship.)



Sauna

Sauna evenings are the best. THE BEST! When I was in lukio, I was very shy and thought that I would never go to sauna evenings. After my first day of orientation week at TUT, we had a sauna evening and I got to know people and had so much fun there. We have multiple saunas here, for example there are 2 (?) saunas at our university. (Our school is a big building that includes yes, all of the classrooms but also guild rooms, club rooms, sport spaces, SAUNAS, rooms for many companies etcetc). There is also a small portable sauna called Tarzan that one guild owns. They bring it to some events and it is in a big use for example during winter events. But the best sauna of all is Mörrimöykky or better known Teekkarisauna. I shall explain more of it:

Teekkarisauna consists of a hanging our space, shower area, the sauna itself and a terrace. In the hanging out space, people can talk to each other, drink beverages, play beer pong, card games or HERWANTAPELI (ask me about it if you're interested), listen to music and just enjoy their time. There are usually turns for men and women that if you wanna go to the sauna just among your own gender, you can totally do it. The turns are very early in the evening (like 18-20), though. After that, the sauna is open for anybody. You can go to the sauna naked, with swimsuit or with clothes (this doesn't happen usually but I've done it a few times), all kinds of clothing have been seen and nobody will be judged or stared (it's a silent rule). In the sauna, we usually just discuss about stuff, sing songs from the song book (I'll explain the song book in the next cell "sitsit") and drink. After being a while in the sauna, it is refreshing to step outside to the terrace. There is a hot tub on the terrace, or two if there are a lot of people there. The hot tub is sometimes so full that people will be sitting on each others laps in piles of 4 or so. I drew an illustrating picture:






The sauna evenings last usually until 2 am. That's the time I usually go grab a pizza and go home. And the thing about sauna evenings and other student events, they take their place during the week! So school day tomorrow and all. But I like it this way. I like how the whole week isn't boring and that now we don't just live for the weekends.

Sitsit

Sitsit is pretty much an event that has to be experienced, not explained. They are one of my favorite things about studying at a university! Shortly explained sitsit is a place where we sit around (a) long table(s), drink alcohol, sing songs and if we're lucky, eat food. There are different kinds of sitsit, the formal ones where everyone dresses up nicely and follow the sitsi-rules and party etiquette strictly and then there are the not-so-sophisticated sitsis where we walk in in overalls or costumes and in the late evening the whole place looks like a zoo.


Here's the whole thing more detailed:
You sign up for sitsit and pay the 13-20 euro fee. Then you start to plan what you're going to wear. There is usually a theme or other dress code. Some sitsis that I have been to has had themes like: space, jungle, "horrible teenage year outfit choices", your alter ego. So you can definitely use imagination and come up with ridiculous costumes. You'll pack with you: ALCOHOL (it's necessary, believe me) and song book. Our university has a own song book full of sitsi-songs. They usually have funny lyrics that are about studying, beer, Tampere etc... BUT THEN... there is a part of the book called "not publishable songs" that have outrageous lyrics that are about violence and sex. Usually they are sung towards the end of sitsit when people aren't too shy to sing them anymore.

Okay, now that you have your costume, beverages and the song book, you are ready for sitsit! You go to the sitsi-place and check from a paper on the wall, where you are going to sit. Sometimes the sitting order is randomized and sometimes you can ask for a certain person to sit as your avec when you are signing up for the sitsit. Usually the seats are organised in girl-boy-girl-boy order. So you walk up to your seat and if your table avec (sitting next to you) is there, he will greet you and offer you your seat. In other case you have to stand up and wait for him. If you are male, you will have to stand up until the whole table has arrived.

On the table, there are drinks (usually cider/beer, a shot and wine) and the glasses are fulled throughout the sitsit. The venue looks usually something like this:





And the fanciness of the sitsit could vary like this:





The sitsit will begin when the master of ceremony hits a big cane to the ground. They will explain the rules of the sitsit and tell where the bathroom is. I will not get to this so detailed because there are rules for each knock on the ground, for example 3 knocks mean that the ceremony master is thirsty and she/he have something to say. This means that their avec will pour them a shot and after that the ceremony master will say something to the crowd.

During the sitsit, anyone can get up, cling their class, introduce themselves and have a small "speech". They are usually super short and informal and they end up with a song that everybody will sing. The songs sometimes include games and after each song, you will take a sip of your drink. There is a song that goes like :"whoever is a freshman of year X, get up. whoever is a freshman of year X, get up. Take a glass to your hand and rise it to your lips. Drink away drink away drink away for god's sake!". The song begins from the current year and every participan who has started university that year will get up and stand on their chair, choose a drink from the table and drink it completely empty while others sing. As a sign that you have drunk it, you'll have to turn your glass/can upside down on your head so that if you were to cheat, all of it would fall on your head. The song will be sung until the last one of that year's freshman has drunk their drink and then it goes to the earlier year. This is one of my favorite sitsi songs.

During sitsit, usually two speeches are held. During speeches, everybody will listen and stop drinking/eating to respect the speaker.
The sitsit will end at master of ceremony's note and after that usually a band comes to play and after a while the after party begins at a different place (usually a bar). Those who are not drunk enough, will make it through there. I usually just go (= crawl) home at this point.




Wappu

Wappu is a celebration that at my uni lasts 2 weeks. It begins in the middle of April and ends on 1st of May (Labour day, "Vappu" in Finnish). For us wappu means two weeks full of fun events and having fun until the final exams of the year. Our school year ends in the beginning on May, depening on how many exams one has. And when I say full of events I mean FULL OF THEM. There is no way you can attend them all, because during these ~14 days there are going to be up to 80 events from saunas to sitsis to movie nights to different kinds of contests and and and... The best days of wappu are the last ones and I will explain more about them down below.

Some examples of wappu events are: climbing down from our schools roof, room escape type of game, SIMA-contest (Sima is a traditional wappu drink in Finland. It has little alcohol and it tastes like lemon), academic beer pong world championship and a concert at our school's yard. During wappu, the freshmen of each guild gather up two teams: one for making a freshman-prank and one for making a freshman-gimmick. The freshman-prank is made by the team, and done somewhere in Tampere. They goal is to come up with a (technology related) prank and film it. Then a jury will rank the pranks from best to worst and this will decide the line up order to the DIPPING. (more about this later because it's the best thing ever!!). The gimmick-team will build a huge gimmick. And with gimmick I mean something big that is made of anything :D I'll put illustrating pictures to the "Fuksikulkue" cell.


Capping

Teekkari cap is among with the overalls a crucial part of our "uniform". Every teekkari (= student at a university of technology, excluding first year students) can wear a teekkari cap during the time there is a right (from wappu to October). Capping is an event during wappu which takes its place at midnight, between April 30th and May 1st. We gather up and put a giant teekkari cap on a sculpture and sing our teekkari hymn. During the song, the freshmen have the right to put teekkari cap on their heads and everyone else can just wear it for the first time in a long time. This is one of my dearest memories at TUT. I was so hyped and the atmosphere was unbelievable. Everyone was so happy and sprayed champagne everywhere.



Afterwards we drank champagne, sang songs, took photos and just enjoyed life that night. Some of the people stayed there the whole night, but I went home for a few hours sleep because the next day was the day freshmen wait for the whole year...




Fuksikulkue

This is the part where the gimmicks I wrote about get important. So, each guild has their own gimmick. Every freshmen gather up to one place and the start the marching towards the river where they will get dipped. Everyone has their overalls on and they represent their own guild. The order of guilds is decided by the prank they do. So the guild who made the best prank gets to go first and so on. The freshmen march in a long line to the river with the overalls all while singing marching songs and other "go team" - type of yells. A lot of people are watching because the gimmicks are often worth seeing. As the destination is reached, the real queuing begins and the athmosphere is incredibly good. Everyone waits for the moment they are real teekkaris!


The dipping


The dipping.. Oh, where to begin. This is absolutely THE GREATEST MOMENT OF THE WHOLE FRESHMAN YEAR. Hell, this was probably the best moment in my entire life. The feeling was just so incredible. In my freshmen year our prank was pretty bad so we were almost last in the line to get to the river. We waited for about 5 hours and all of this time the adrenaline just rose and rose. We drank champagne and waited impatiently with friends by the river. There were so many corks on the water from the people who were already dipped.

Okay so the freshmen stand in the line with their brand new caps like this:



They sing songs, eat food and do everything to wait for the time to pass by. Then.. the moment comes... They climb up to a giant basket and the crane lifts them high. And as you can see, a lot of people are watching. This is a huge thing in Tampere.



The floor of the basket isn't waterproof, it has holes so that the water will fill the basket eventually. AND AS YOU TAKE A DIP YOU WILL BE A REAL TEEKKARI!!! I am about to cry as I reminisce this moment.


After this, we put our overalls back on and go to sauna and enjoy the last day of wappu <3





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