The capital of Finland, Helsinki is also known as the Daughter of the Baltic. Helsinki’s appeal is its combination as a large city while keeping its quaint, small town ambiance. Dotted with bays, harbors and islands, Helsinki is a place where you simply enjoy what the city has to offer. Whether you’re spending a day by the large harbor, relaxing in cafes, or eating at restaurants, Helsinki is certainly a memorable experience. Though Helsinki may seem a bit empty during the wintertime (as all of Finland is), summer brings sunshine, green grass and a sudden appearance of many of the locals. Ready to study abroad in Helsinki? Explore our expert guide and read reviews of study abroad programs in Helsinki below!Photo credit: hile.
Culture and Immersion
The charm of Helsinki is its small town atmosphere, but large city size. People in Helsinki enjoy the activities and tasks of the day greatly, and you’ll find yourself doing the same.
- Suomenlinna – Once the greatest sea fortress in the Baltic, Suomenlinna seems to be surrounded in its own bubble of time. With timeworn buildings lining the city, very few cars running about and many of the fortifications still intact, Suomenlinna makes for a fantastic visit (a must-visit in fact). With cafes, restaurants, museums and theaters, you may find yourself visiting here more than once. Your obligatory museum visit can take place here at the Suomenlinna Museum. (The actual mainland Helsinki has a ton of museums to visit as well). Guided tours are available of the fortress, and though entry to the island is free, you’ll have to pay for the ferry to the fortress.
- Esplanadi Park – At the very heart of the city, Esplanadi Park is filled with people having a merry time conversing with one another. In addition, the local artists will sometimes hold free concerts near the Kaupptori (Market Square), which is nice to listen to. They’ll be held facing the restaurant Kapelli, which is a nice one as well.
- The Church in the Rock – Dug out of actual, solid rock, this church sort of resembles a crashed UFO from the top. This has become one of Helsinki’s most popular tourist attractions as of late, so it is definitely worth a visit (though there will be throngs of people here). The great acoustics in the church make it a regular host of concerts that are free! If you want to attend and English service, they’re generally held on Sunday at 2PM.
- Festivals – Helsinki hosts a great number of festivals, so though it has the small town feel, you’ll still have a great time as its still a rather large metropolis. Here are a few festivals: Lux Helsinki, Vappu (students and lots of drinking), Helsinki-paiva, Juhannus, Taiteiden Yo, Joulu, Flow Festival (urban & electronic music), Helsinki International Film Festival and Tuska Open Air.
Culture Shock and Support
Helsinki is quite a bit away from the US, so you can expect to have a very different and memorable experience. However, the changes can be quite daunting to think about and experience at first, so you may feel a bit out of place and homesick at the beginning. As such, be sure to pick a problem that caters to American students, so that you can be well informed of the cultural differences and avoid making a faux pas.
However, remember that you have your fellow students! If you’re missing the long hours of studying and the obnoxiously loud people back in the US, well, then you’re weird. On a more serious note, talk to your fellow peers! If you’re experiencing some homesickness, there is every chance that they are as well. Don’t be embarrassed if you need to talk to someone about home, it is completely normal and who knows, you may become even closer friends!
Helpful Hints/Insider Tips
In general, you’ll probably be taking a combination of the buses and the trams. The trams operate extensively throughout the city center and are quite convenient. They are a great way to see the sights the city has to offer. As for the rest of the city, the buses have that covered. Etiquette on the bus is entrance through the front door and exit through the middle and back doors.
With part of its city trapped in the binds of time, and the other part moving along quite nicely with the rest of the world, Helsinki gives you a little bit of everything! So, Helsinki awaits you, get going already!
Helsinki is already relatively expensive, so get your scholarship on! Here are a few:
- The American-Scandinavian Foundation offers a number of different scholarships for those traveling to Finland.
- Fulbright also has a bunch of scholarships as well
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships
Helsinki is on the Euro, so it will be a bit pricier than what you’re used to. In general, Helsinki is a rather expensive place to live in, but most of western Europe is like this, so don’t let this deter you from studying in Helsinki. Grocery stores can be found all over the city, so cooking (to save money) won’t be a problem. ATMs can be found all over the city as well, so you won’t have a problem drawing money.