Last spring Yugra State University signed a cooperation agreement with Laurea University of Applied Sciences (Finland). This university is considered to be the best university of applied sciences in the country and is known for its innovative approach to education. An opportunity to witness this special approach and to take part in the exchange program in the fall semester 2014/2015 was given to second-year twin students Galina and Elena Kurbatova. Girls shared some information about their experience of studying abroad.

Please tell us why you decided to become exchange students and what you should do to make it happen.

For as long as we can remember ourselves we always dreamt of travelling. Having entered the university we felt for student exchange and visited exchange programs presentations where we got familiar with Laurea University. It was not hard to qualify for the program as there were not many interested students and the nomination pack had to include just a couple of certificates, a resume and a letter of intent. We applied for visa in the Embassy of Finland in Moscow.

Were you afraid of coming abroad?

No, we weren’t. As soon as we arrived to Finland our tutors met us in the Helsinki airport and drove us to Hyvinkaa (Helsinki suburbs) the place where we lived and studied for the next 4 months. We were welcome to ask our tutors any questions 24 hours a day.

The language was not a big problem as well, though we felt uncomfortable to speak English all the time. But thanks to that we managed to level up our language knowledge since it was among the main goals of the trip.

Tell us about the P2P program that you took part in.

We studied on the Faculty of Business Management within the P2P (peer2peer) program which was not supposed to include any particular lessons and seminars. Studying at Laurea University is aimed at obtaining practical skills while the theory is a self-organized section. Right from the start we were split into groups of 5-6 students and given specific projects and assignments from companies for which we were to conduct marketing researches. Basically working for start-up companies we were taking part in business conferences with CEOs discussing their further goals and strategies.

It is worth noticing that students from all over the world come to Laurea: Germany, Spain, France, Netherlands, Italy, China, Japan, Korea, etc. So our groups were really multinational ones.

By the end of the semester apart from final tests we were preparing for our projects’ in-site defense at companies we worked for and if the results satisfied the customers we would get excellent marks. It was very interesting to have real work experience and to get achievements which might be helpful to those companies in their further development. This is a precious experience because you can show yourself in the best way, become confident and take responsibility for your actions.

What did you do in your free time?

We spent almost every weekend in Helsinki, we also had some trips arranged by the university, for example, we really enjoyed the cruise to Stockholm, the trip to Lapland and to Norway, to the coast of the Arctic Ocean. Together with other students we visited Budapest and Tallin. So, it was fun, we did not have time to get bored at all! And by the way to travel along Europe is not very expensive.

In general, how much were you charged for this program?

Since this was the exchange program we did not have to pay for it. Major expenses are food and housing. The dormitory cost us around 250 euros a month and we paid for food something about 30-40 euros a week. The university has the student restaurant with 3 euro lunches. No doubt the biggest part is our personal expenses, from shopping to abroad trips.

Did you face any problems with your winter term exams upon arrival to the home university?

Not many. Some courses were the same and we had got credits for them here, but we asked to prolong our exam terms to pass the rest of the disciplines. We were pleased to know that all the teachers had positive attitude to exchange programs like that. No one ever told us something in the way like: «I don’t have time for you now», «I don’t care where you have been to» or «Go through all of the seminars you missed». Concerning this matter Yugra State University is doing really well and we are happy the university gives opportunities to study in different counties.

And here is the last question for you girls. What is your personal advice for other student who is willing to apply for exchange programs?

1. Do not be afraid of anything. Motivation is the first thing.

2. You should make a decision and just jump right into it. It is possible to learn and pass everything. Both professional and life experience is invaluable.

3. Learn as much as you can about the program you have chosen, be prepared. That will be very helpful.

4. Do not be afraid of leaving your comfort zone. Nothing bad is going to happen to you if you leave the house for a few months! It is quite the reverse, you will experience the best time in your life!

The good news is that our university signs new cooperation agreement with more universities every year. So there are many ways you are eligible to fulfill yourselves. As for us and our plans, we definitely want to go and study in other places, have new unique experience that we would never get anywhere else.