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I went abroad!Erasmus exchange testimonial from Finland

Welcome to our series of interviews with UA students and staff on their international adventures. This time, Audrey shares her study-abroad story after having spent a semester in Finland.

Can you introduce yourself?

Hi! My name is Audrey Villes and I’m 23 years old. I’m in my third year of a bachelor’s degree in English (English language, literature, and civilisation) at the Faculty of Languages, Humanities and Social Sciences. I went on an Erasmus+ exchange to the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) in Joensuu in September, and I came back in December 2023. 

Why did you choose Finland?

I applied for an Erasmus+ mobility scheme in Finland because it was an English-speaking country I liked more than the others we could choose from. Even if English is not an official language in Finland, people there speak it quite fluently. As I was already interested in the country, I wanted to know more about its culture. 

What courses did you take there?

I took American and French literature & history classes, as well as grammar lessons. I also studied Finnish and Japanese!

How did you adapt to your new environment?

It went really well because when I arrived, my "buddy" took me to my flat. Erasmus students have an assigned mentor or "buddy" in the receiving country. As I arrived a bit before the others, my buddy helped me discover the city of Joensuu, the city centre and the itinerary to the campus from my flat. I also met my roommate right from the start. We were on the same campus so she showed me how to get there. We spent the whole day together, so the integration was very easy. On campus there were orientation days too, so we were straight away with the other students, local and foreigners. During these days, we discovered the campus and the city, the culture, and the student associations specific to the campus. Actually, each course programme has a student association.

Do you have any tips for Erasmus students? 

In Finland, I’d say: don’t be afraid to talk to people. They tend to be in groups but don’t hesitate to go over and talk to them to ask a question if you are lost in the city or on campus. Don’t hesitate to ask them anything even when they are with their groups of friends - they are open to talking and happy to talk. And most of them speak English so the language won’t be an issue. Even in general, people are willing to help. It really helped me, at the beginning I was a little bit scared to ask for help, but there will always be someone ready to help. I made many friends by doing so.

What did you gain from this experience?

I’m more confident when I speak English. In France, it is difficult to find someone with whom you can only speak English. In Finland, I had no other choice but to speak English. When you travel you become more and more confident when you speak English, you discover new ways of talking and saying things as you go along.

When I go abroad, I always want to learn the local language to be more familiar with the culture and to fit in more easily. That’s why I took Finnish classes. It helps you communicate with locals and gives you an insight into the culture and cultural differences. So I think I’ve gained more general knowledge about other countries and Finland in particular.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I want to share that Finland welcomes many foreign students, so you get to meet people from all around the world and you discover new experiences and life choices. It is so interesting and enriching. 
At UEF, students have created a "safe place" to learn how to interact with other people. They choose a day of the week to gather and it doesn’t matter who comes. It is open to everyone. There are planned activities, but you can choose not to do them. People can just talk or be on their own and be there, but not lonely. I think this "safe place" system is very efficient for meeting new people, for fitting in… and if you are homesick and feeling lonely, you can meet fellow citizens who will make you feel less lonely.

If you still hesitate after this testimonial, it might help to know that the hardest thing is not to leave, but to come back…

Further reading

Discover more study-abroad destinations and testimonials through our interactive map (in French).

Discover our "Meet ..." series of interviews:

Meet Lucie!

Meet Lynda Lecaudey!

Meet Seren Davis!

Meet Abigail Whyte!

Meet Richard Palmer!

Meet Wesley Watkins!