Ines @ Helsinki

Host University:
Aalto University (AALTO), Helsinki, Finland
Spring 2018

Prior to arrival:

  • Insurance: No special insurance is needed; the majority is covered by the European or Student Union Insurance.
  • Application Process: Each student will automatically receive the letter of acceptance via E-Mail. If you have not received the E-Mail, just message the International Office at Aalto and they will immediately send it again.
  • Course selection: The semester is split into 2 (fall semester) or 3 (spring semester) periods. Courses will just last for 1 period. Hence, it is extremely convenient to plan accordingly and to avoid extreme peaks of workload. So: plan smart.

Since the new Aalto Campus is now located in Otaniemi (approx. 15 mins by metro from the city center Kamppi), I would recommend looking for a housing there. It is still affordable and has a good connection to the city center.

Aalto and Helsinki’s student unions offer several opportunities to live in:

  • HOAS housing
    The majority of exchange students will live in these student dorms. They are well equipped, moderately clean, in good conditions and well located.
    So I recommend applying for those in any case, but you can always decline
    Cheapest option (in Pasila around 420€)
  • AYY housing
    Those are mainly reserved for local students. However, you may have the chance to get a room there, but this is extremely unlikely – special application needed together with an AYY membership
  • Private housing
    On Helsinki’s housing market it is hard to find an affordable accommodation. Prices start from 500€ for a shared flat or a small studio, depending on the location.
    In case you want to find a perfectly suited accommodation for Aalto business students, join the “BIZ – Please!” – Facebook Page:

Good thing about Finland: You do not need to register your residence unless you stay more than 5-6 months. You just need to visit another country at least once within the first 3 months (perfect destination: Tallinn by ferry) – further information will be provided by Aalto’s International Office

Good areas to live in:

  • Otaniemi
  • Töölö
  • Kallio (lively hipster area)
  • Ruoholahti
  • Lauttasaari
  • Kamppi (attention: expensive)
  • Pasila (most exchangies will stay there)


Main expenses:

  • Rent (private housing)
  • Sweets
  • Alcohol


  • Twice per day you can get a huge meal at Aalto’s canteens for 2,70€!
    Canteens are all around Helsinki and almost in each Aalto building.
  • Restaurants are slightly expensive, but weekly offers can be frequently found
  • Supermarket food super fresh and similar to Austrian/German offers (always fresh fruits, vegetables, etc.)
  • Coffee can be found almost everywhere for free – explains the world’s highest coffee consumption with 12kg per capita per year!


Unfortunately, in all Nordic countries alcohol is highly taxed. A small beer on average in the city center is around 7€. However, in the supermarket you can find cheaper ones and Tallinn is close by 😉 Moreover, already start adjusting your taste buds to the cheap liquors … but on the upside: most are highly concentrated, so please take care

Everyday life:
In Helsinki everything is centrally located within the Kamppi, Kallio and the Harbour area. They are currently investing a lot in leisure time activities and the government tries to arrange many open-air events (concerts, fairs, etc.). On top of that, the student union KY is organizing a bunch of activities, so you will never get bored!


  • Gyms: UniSports – Aalto’s gyms – are really cheap. The University offers at the 2 universities’ six gyms (Otaniemi, Töölö, Helsinki City Centre, Meilahti, Kumpula and Viikki) with a semesterly membership fee of around 86€ (half price 61€)
  • Outdoors: Running next to the sea is incredibly nice (also during winter). Many tennis courts, bouldering areas, cross fit areas, etc. are available

Going out:

  • There are just a few clubs around Helsinki. The most popular ones may be:
  • Kaiku
  • Ääniwalli
  • Appollo
  • Dtm
  • Maxine
  • Milliklubi
  • Teatteri
  • VAPPU: The student festival of the year! It is the biggest party in whole Finland and every single person will be on the streets. It will take place on the 1st May, but people start celebrating already weeks before. You CANNOT miss it!

Most clubs close around 4AM (except DTM) and are moderately exciting. However, many parties are organised by KY-Sub for exchange students as well as locals, which are fun.

Definitely try to get an overall at the beginning of the semester – you’ll need it, because it is a typical Finnish tradition!

Hanging out:

  • Helsinki offers a number of outside areas to hang around and enjoy the sunset, picknick or some drinks – even a beach!
  • Bars are usually relatively expensive
  • Unfortunately, there is no “true” spot to hang out


  • This is the thing in Finland. Each house has its own sauna and you will visit it at least once per week



Student/Social Life:

  • Was chill and easy going. The CEMS Club is rather small due to the size of the cohort and it really depends what you make out of it. We organized a bunch of events and had a lot of fun together.
  • You will spend a lot of your time also with exchange students, but also with locals – that’s the beauty of a small cohort 😊


  • Difficulty: Medium
  • CEMS courses as well as electives involve a lot of group projects
  • Highly academic
  • Business projects were easy going and fun
    (of course depending on group and company)

Top 3 CEMS moments:

  1. Nordic Forum
    Together we organized the Nordic Forum in Helsinki with locals and 80 CEMSies from all around Europe participated
  2. Cottage Trip
    We drove 4 hours north to a private cottage next to a lake. The trip included all classic Finnish traditions
  3. Party Tram
    Having rented our own private tram, which drove us around the whole city
  4. Trip to Stockholm
    Visited the CCS and slept on a sailing boat. Visited the city, markets and went out with locals.

I had the most heart-warming time of my life! Be prepared for extraordinary experiences, crazy fun people and establishing friendships for life! At the beginning, it was tricky to adapt to the cultural differences and to bond with Finnish people. Once overcome, I had the most heart-warming time of my life. Be prepared for little sunshine and low degrees, especially during winter, but also for awesome outdoor weather during summer. Try to figure out the local insider spots as soon as possible and make the most out of your time! There are millions of hidden secret spots and the nature out of Helsinki is just insane. Rent a car and just go north! Try to hunt the northern lights in Kittila or Levi (Rovaniemi is almost too South to catch them), go ice swimming and enjoy the different kind of exchange.

Everything is completely up to you – be active and try out as much as possible and then you will love your experience!


Best thing about host school:

  • Facilities
    • Food at canteen for 2,70 €
    • UniSports – Gym
  • Student Life
    • Trips and Events organized by KY
    • New campus

What’s better than WU? (Well, nothing is better than WU!)

  • Courses
    You can take courses also from other degrees (engineering, art, etc.)

Secret tips:

  • Take on more responsibilities in the CCH to organize more trips
  • Check out local insider tips earlier on
  • Join KY’s Lapland and Russia trip
  • Do a road trip through Finland’s nature
  • Take the ferry to St. Petersburg to enter Russia visa-free
  • Not missing the Northern Lights due to Sauna

If you go during the Spring term try to avoid classes during the 3rd period.

Anything else you would like to share? Anything you wish someone would have told you before you went on exchange?
Be prepared for the Finnish culture and how they communicate. It sounds easy, but it was a true challenge and once overcome, you have the best time of your life there.
No need to study Finnish. Everybody speaks English fluently and the basics are easy.

Would you be okay with being contacted by future outgoings if they have questions?
Ines Weise
[email protected]