Exchange study in Ghent, Belgium [Part I]

Belgium was not my first choice

Exchange study is a precious opportunity to explore a new country as you will spend several months living in that new place. In reality, at first, I got accepted to be an exchange student for a university in the UK. Many people asked me, why the UK ? It’s very simple, I have never been there and I love hearing their accent which is really sexy in my opinion.

View of Gent from Het Belfort

Long story short, I had some issues with documents so in the end, I had to choose another place to go. It was pretty sad, but everything happens for a reason and I am glad that my second decision is even better. I paid more attention to the courses that those partners offered instead of the country itself. Since I was interested in digital marketing field, HoGent provided many courses that support my major and without hesitation, Belgium was on my list.


HoGent is awesome

View from my window in the winter

I had some friends studying in the Netherlands, which is next to Belgium and all of them were struggling with housing. The accommodation was quite expensive and not so many options for short-term tenants which made me really worried in the beginning. Fortunately, HoGent arranged a furnished single room for exchange students with a reasonable price so that I could enjoy my semester in Gent at its best.


The courses were very diverse, I can get to know about creating a website, doing basic design tasks, learning about Belgian culture and practicing marketing projects. I could work with students from many countries, understand their mindsets and deal with conflicts caused by cultural differences. Honestly, the workload for exchange students was plausible, you do not need to be under pressure all the time because HoGent wants you to enjoy Belgian beers as well 😉 Some parties were organized at school or in the dormitory to engage students from all over the world coming to Belgium to study. If you concern about anything, the student counsellor will reply your email promptly so do not hesitate to tell them your issues.


[To be continued]

Chi Nguyen


When you are getting familiar with something, you will love and appreciate it more.

My first year student in Karelia university of Applied Sciences was an amazing experience because I had a chance to approach new subjects and new teaching methods. University is the best opportunity for me to improve and develop my business knowledge and skills. University life teaches me how to self-study by reading textbook, concentrate on what teacher said and take notes all important things. The interesting thing I like about International Business program in Karelia is that all the courses are closely linked together and supported each other so I not only study in one – side of business but also in many aspects related to economic.

At university, if a student has any problems, about anything, there’s student counselling who are very kind and thoughtful to help out and give advises as much as possible. University life also connects me with other students through class, group meeting and other activities, I have a chance to socialize and make new friends from different nationality.  The more I study at Karelia, the more I like the university.

Phuong Nguyen, 2nd year in International Business


When you are getting familiar with something, you will love and appreciate it more.

Referring to Finland, I have to mention the people here. I have a chance to join in the “Friends and Family’s activities’ which is operated by my school, this meaningful activity is a connection between me – Vietnamese girl and one Finnish family. My Finnish family is passionate in cultures, cuisines and stories. We decided to meet at the weekend when we have spare time and always kept in touch by social media. Sometimes, they took me to local restaurants to experience local food and sometime we would like to prepare foods at their house. Only be with this Finnish family, I have a chance to bake some Finnish sweet things, cook Finnish cuisines and travel to famous places in Joensuu. My Finnish family likes spending times together, they love to share their own stories in life, vice versa, and they like to hear my own stories too. We always keep our best moments together in a small diary which is belonged to that Finnish family. In the diary, we share our feeling, our thoughts and our stories when we are together. Being with them, I can feel the family atmosphere and I can experience the Finnish culture.

We baked Munkki for Vappu

Our first trip to Koli

In my mind, Finnish are the nicest people I have ever known. They help me without any condition, they encourage me when I am in trouble, they show me something new that I have never known, they let me feel the closeness, they make a memorable moment when we are together. That Finnish family also helps me to get through those bad – dark days of winter, gives me a different way of thinking about winter here by taking me to the skiing place, doing winter activities together and going the ice swimming. Thanks to them for making my time in Joensuu more beautiful and meaningful ever.



When you are getting familiar with something, you will love and appreciate it more.

It was a beautiful day in August.

It was in the middle of August, I still remembered the first day when my first steps landed on Joensuu, I was surprised by the beautiful environment here, lots of trees, clean air, and a clear atmosphere. I kept thinking of a “summertime” that wouldn’t want to leave, but to stay longer to let me enjoy its warmth and greenness in Joensuu.

During this transitional time, when autumn seemed to be around the corner and summer to linger on, the sky became brightened with spectacular, colorful leaves. Joensuu – Finland did a great job to attract my first impression. The more you live, the more you love the place. I had a chance to experience the autumn here; as the weather started to rain a lot, trees were wearing a new coat yellow and orange colors. The autumn here reminded me of the cold and rainy of my hometown so much.

Winter came, Joensuu wore new clothes – new color

In Finland, the autumn lasted for few months then winter came. When coming to Finland, I packed with me a lot of warm clothes, winter boots and some stuffs for winter. In the beginning of winter, I was so excited and joyful because of beautiful snow. I spent all my time staying outside to enjoy snow, build snowman and do winter’s activities.  When the temperature dropped lower and lower and it became darker and darker my mood started to came down too. The harder the climate is, the stronger I become – I believe so. Winter lasted almost a half of year in Finland, I still had a long distance to walk but if I gave up so early, I would be a loser to the weather. Those thoughts made me feel stronger, I accepted the reality and responded positively because I believed once the winter passed, spring and summer would come again.




A touch to Finnish culture- part 2

Are you an international student studying abroad for the first time? Are you curious about the culture of the country you are studying in? The best way to understand about it is to make friend with local people, and thanks for the Friends Family Activity, I had such a good time hanging out with my beloved Finnish friend and getting to know the beautiful Finnish culture.

My “partner” is Liisa, who is at the same age as me. She is a kind person who passionately loves horses and doing outdoor activities. We became friends in an awkward way because of pre-arranged relationship from Karelia UAS. BUT… guess what, we are close friends since then. She is the one who let me try to ride a horse for the first time, ski like a Finn, join with me in some crazy parties.


My first-time skiing was not difficult as I expected. We had lots of fun practicing in the  “super slow” race, we fell and we laughed. What a lovely and warm memory in a cold winter day!


OMG I am riding a horse!!

Another experience I cannot forget is riding a horse. She took me to her favorite place where she often goes for horse-riding few times a week. Honestly, this is one of the scariest things I have ever tried. Getting used to this horse was not easy, but Liisa was there and controlled the horse, made her walk around calmly so I could enjoy the moment.  After 10 or 15 minutes, I gave up (how embarrassing haha) and decided to watch my friend rule the show. At that moment, I felt so proud of her and admired how Finnish children are brought up, to be strong and be a close friend with nature.

Party is a part of student’s life, of course, I cannot miss it. Liisa was officially my “party-mate” as we spent several times a month having fun in the club. How funny when we were always the last one leaving the parties. We share common crazy spirit for parties and that’s how we become even closer.

Not only me learning about Finnish culture, Liisa also had a chance to try Vietnamese things. She sometimes came to my place to taste Vietnamese dinners. It was so funny when I taught her to use chopsticks for the first time. Every time I cooked new dishes, she would show her “wow” face and laughed a lot because all of them were so strange to her.

Using chopsticks must be the most memorable moment.

Learn to be a Vietnamese

I let her try Pho (noodles with chicken) with those chopsticks, roll spring rolls, make bubble tea and dumplings. Vietnamese cuisine is what I am really proud of, that’s why I absolutely appreciate her time and effort cooking and enjoying those food with me. However, time to say goodbye is coming soon as we both have plans to move to new places, but I will, for sure, keep in touch with her and looking forward to seeing her again in Finland.

Friend family program is one of the reasons making me miss Joensuu. Hope that other International Business students will have a chance to participate in order to get the spirit of Finnish life.

Chi Nguyen

A touch to Finnish culture

Friend- family program or “ystäväperhe” is a notable feature in International Business Program at Karelia University of Applied Sciences, which allows staff and international students to exchange cultures. It is a chance for international students to have first-hand experience of Finnish culture and life in Finnish family. Meanwhile, the families get an opportunity to learn about students’ home countries and cultures.

At the beginning of the first semester, I applied for this program through my student counselor. I was a bit worried because I was afraid of not getting a Finnish family this semester due to high number of international applicants. Fortunately, after a month, I got an email from my teacher with my Finnish family’s contact information. I couldn’t wait to meet them for the first time, which was also the first connection with local people during my study in Finland.

My Finnish family are lecturers in Tourism and Creative Industry at Karelia UAS. Both of them are passionate about cultures, cooking and travelling. We decide to meet at least once a month at the weekend and stay in touch via social media. I find myself lucky to have such a local family that I always feel happy and relaxed when spending time with them. I love visiting their cozy house and I can’t stop admiring their huge bookshelves with hundreds of books as in a library. Thanks to them, I have opportunities to try as many local cuisine as possible and foreign cuisine as well. Whenever we meet, she prepares different dishes from different countries and I also make Vietnamese food and cakes as I love baking. In addition, I also keep them updated and ask advice for my study, daily life and my future plan as well, which makes me feel more secure and less homesick.

We celebrated Suomi Finland 100 😛

(To be continued)

Quynh Phan

Finnish cuisine through my eyes

I come from an Asian country where various spices are utilized in every dish to enhance the taste of ingredients. Finnish cuisine is a whole new level to me because Finnish cuisine values the original taste of ingredients so usually it requires very few spices. 

Finland is the highest coffee consumption in the world per capita with a population of only 5.5 million people, which is impressive. I remember having my very first Finnish coffee when I flew with Finnair. I was surprised because the taste is totally different from what I always had in Vietnam. Finnish coffee beans are Arabica, which makes it less strong and somehow bitter than those I tried back home. I’m not a coffee drinker but ever since I came to Finland, I drink more often thanks to the coffee break culture here. Finnish coffee can be combined with sugar, milk or cream, not condensed milk like in Vietnam.

My first meal at Wire restaurant

Most of Finnish dishes I’ve tried were at the school’s canteen. For such a relatively low price for students, you can have salad, one cup of water and one cup of optional beverage (milk, nut milk, homemade brew, mixed juice), 2 slices of bread, various types of warm dish. I was amazed by how balanced and nutritious school meal in Finland. Furthermore, canteen also has international week such as Mexican day, Indian week or even Favorite dishes week where the top 5 dishes voted by students will be served the whole week!

My favorite Finnish dish – Baltic herring with rye

Another Finnish favorite delicacy of mine is fish (again). The thought of having fried muikku under the sun in a local flea market with friends has never failed to excite me. To me, muikku reminds me of those summer well-spent days in the warmth of sunshine with my friends in Finland. Fried muikku (Coregonus albula, vendance) is a typical dish in Finland. The fish bone is soft enough to eat. The fish is dipped into a mixture of rye, flour, salt and pepper and then deep-fry. It is usually served with garlic sauce. A simple delicacy yet very Finnish!

Muikku and garlic sauce

If you are a sweet-tooth like me, then Finnish pastry surely won’t let you down. Dallaspulla, korvapuusti (cinnamon roll, slapped ears), joulutorttu, omenapiirakka (Finnish apple pie), etc. It’s hard to tell which one is the most delicious because I like them all. I love how Finland has special cake for specific occasion so I can always have excuse to satisfy my tummy!

My daily energy – dallaspulla served with milk coffee

Finnish Christmas dish – joulutorttu and glögi (mulled wine)

Can you find your favorite Finnish dish in this post?

Ha Minh Thuy

ECMT+ Intensive program in Wildau, Germany

Two memorable and educating  weeks in studying Entrepreneurship and Communication in Multicultural Teams at Technische Hochschuhle Wildau, Germany.

I just came back from Wildau, German after studying 2 intensive weeks about Entrepreneurship and Communication in Multicultural Teams. It was a memorable and educating trip in my study path. I had chance to meet a lot of talented students form 7 universities around Europe and experts on different fields as well. During these two weeks, we formed an international team and developed business idea to solve the problem of urbanization. In the first week, there were a lot of lectures providing essential background knowledge in entrepreneurship and communication in multicultural context. The second week focused more on business models. Each group spent more time working on prototypes and consulted their coaches in order to prepare for the pitching on the last day. We also had chance to visit Berlin as part of study, where we conducted survey to improve out prototypes for the product. There were also some well- organized activities to support our study. For example,  students had chance to visit some co- working space to get an insight into entrepreneurial aspect of this city. At the end of the course, each group delivered pitches in front of the jury and awards were given to the best start-up concept, best presentation, the most surprising project and the best project selected by the students.

The first workshop

Team Finland

We meet Wildau robot at university library

Image may contain: 4 people, people sitting

My group with the idea to develop a Simply Find app for shopping won Good Pitch Prize. In the late of afternoon on the last day, the hosting university organized a small event where we could try German beer and sausages, hang out and play the Beer Pong with some academic staff.

My group Simply Find won Good Pitch Prize

This IP program will be organized in Roanne, France. Stay tuned for the application period in the summer!

Image credit: ECMT+ Entrepreneurship and Communication in Multicultural Teams Facebook Page

Quynh Phan

More than International Business – complementary studies at Karelia

When thinking of studying International Business, most people know that we need to learn marketing, sales, finance,… However, studying in Karelia helps me to participate in more courses which are not just business-related. I have taken Culinary culture since cooking is my hobby. In this class, I have chance to work with Tourism students as well. My network is increasing at the same time. We had chance to learn, cook and each with each other! This course offers a wide range of international dishes that I have never tried before in my life. Not only did we learn how to cook different kind of dishes but we also know how to follow the rules  in the kitchen.

Scandinavian dish

Cooking class at Tikkarinne campus

We learn how to set the table

Another optional study that I had an opportunity to join is German language and culture. This course had one week in Berlin. I was one of Karelia’s students to participate with other exchange students in Wildau. It was a fantastic week since I was able to explore the capital city of Germany and made new friends as well. We went sightseeing to all historic and famous places in Berlin. We also exchanged and shared our culture with more than 20 different nations in the International dinner. In my group, we come from various study fields. Our hostel located in the heart of Berlin so it is convenient to travel around the city. The most exciting part when speaking of Germany is definitely Oktoberfest. It was such a memorable night for me marking my very first festival ever. Berlin is such a vibrant and historic city. I’m glad that I decided to sign up this phenomenal course!

For more information, you can check complementary studies in Soleops, or contact:

  • Kaija Sankila ( for German language culture course
  • Mikko Lahti ( for Culinary Culture course

Ha Minh Thuy

Winter in Joensuu

Feeling the cold of Europe for 2 years seems not to be enough for me. I am a girl coming from the North of Vietnam, where the weather is humid and subtropical. During summer, it’s really hot, sometimes the sun is our “enemy”. Meanwhile, winter is humid and cold with rain, that’s why I was so excited for the first time seeing snow in my life. Let me tell you why I am in a love-hate relationship with this beautiful creature 😉

I love snow since the day I was planning to study abroad. The moment when I was on the 

bus to Helsinki with my friend was the first day I admired snowflakes in my life. 7 hours on the bus were expected to be so longgg but none of us knew that day was the beginning of winter. It was still the most precious memory that I cannot forget. Imagine when every road we passed was covered with white color, everything looked like a scene in fairy tales. How can someone hate snow if they see that moment?

But…cold days make me homesick. Studying abroad is always a challenge. You can live alone, enjoy yourself, do whatever you want, have more private spaces but sometimes you may feel lonely. You will miss the day when your family gathered to have a warm dinner then talk about daily life. Or, you may miss your grand-father who likes to sit near the balcony and have a cup of coffee, listen to his old favorite songs. Winter in Joensuu is much colder than Vietnam, that’s why you may want to come back home to sleep with your mom on a big and super warm bed then tell her that you are afraid of being an adult. Cold days may make you want to be a child, but everyone has to grow up and experience something even more wonderful than a snowy day.

                                                               My Vietnamese IB classmates 


Chi Nguyen