Explore Vaasa and Finland
A Hub for Education and Student Life
Finland is full of interesting contrasts, such as four distinct seasons, the midnight sun and long winter nights. The Finnish way of life is a unique mixture of high-tech and love for the country’s unspoilt nature. Special attention is paid to the content of education as well as to educational standards and equality.
This is Finland
Where is Finland?
Finland is situated between West and East bordering Sweden, Norway and Russia by land and Estonia by sea. During its history, Finland has been part of Sweden and an autonomous Grand Duchy under the Russian Tsar before gaining independence in 1917. Twenty percent of the country lies above the Arctic Circle. All this is naturally reflected in the Finnish culture, traditions, cuisine, way of life, and in the character of the people.
What is Finland like?
Finland is full of interesting contrasts, such as four distinct seasons, the midnight sun, long winter nights and a distinctive culture in the different regions of the country. Finnish people are warm and genuine and treat each other as equals. Democracy and equality are considered more important than cultural hierarchy.
Finland is a bilingual country: the main language is Finnish and Swedish is spoken by six percent of the population. All population groups and regions of the country enjoy equal educational opportunities. Special attention is paid to the content of education as well as to educational standards and equality.
Finland is well-known for being a safe and stable society. It is also one of the leading information societies in the world. The Finnish way of life is a unique mixture of high-tech and love for the country’s unspoilt nature. Finland is a member of the European Union and has strong ties with the other Scandinavian countries.
Nature is an integral part of the Finnish way of life because nature is everywhere. Approximately 70 percent of the land is covered by forest, there are about 188 000 lakes, 1 100 km of coastline and around 81 000 islands off the coast. The archipelago that lies between mainland Finland and Sweden is the largest in Europe. The country is 1 160 km long: the terrain in Lapland, the northernmost part of Finland, is tundra while the middle and southern parts of the country are lush and green and dotted with thousands of lakes.
Finland has four distinctive seasons: summer (June-August), autumn (September-November), winter (December-February) and spring (March-May). While the temperature may vary from +25C in the summer to -25C (or more!) in the winter, the climate is rather mild considering that Finland is on the same latitude as Siberia. The daytime summer temperature in Vaasa varies between +12C – 25C and +5 – -15C in the winter.
According to surveys foreigners consider Finns very friendly, polite and helpful, and a bit shy. English is widely spoken, especially among younger people, so even if you don’t speak a word in Finnish or Swedish you won’t have difficulties communicating.
Finnish society is stable and well-organized. The country’s population in only 5.5 million so long queues are almost unheard of. Traffic jams too are rare – the transport systems in the towns and cities are extremely efficient and every corner of the country is easily accessible by public transport.
The Finnish Way of life
The Finnish way of life reflects the democratic principles of the nation. It is based on equality between all the people. Nature plays quite a role in the Finnish way of life as well sports, the arts and sauna.
The Finnish way of life is easy going and strict formalities are not really observed. People are more or less straight talking and gaps in the conversation are not generally dreaded the way they are in many other countries. In conversation it is polite to wait for the other person to finish what they are saying before presenting your own viewpoint and this tends to slow down the rhythm somewhat. At work the atmosphere tends to be informal, first names are used and people dress casually.
When going out it pays to be aware that usually each member of the party pays for themselves. Tips are not generally given except perhaps the doorman at bars in order to facilitate entry the next time or in restaurants if you are particularly pleased with the service. Finns entertain regularly at home. When you are invited to a Finnish home, it is considered polite to take a small gift for your hosts. Coffee is part of Finnish entertaining.
Smoking is forbidden in public places, offices and other workplaces. Employers have built special facilities for smoking but if there are no such places smokers go outside. Restaurants and bars must, by law, reserve areas for non-smokers. At home, guests who wish to smoke generally only do so if their host does so first. Generally speaking, smokers will go out to the balcony to smoke.
People in Finland
Finns are said to be relatively quiet and shy, but also straightforward and honest. The four distinct seasons mould the Finnish character. Life, in general, is much more relaxed in the summer than in the winter.
Even though it is not possible to talk in general terms of a national character, all in all it is fair to say that Finns perhaps give an extreme degree of space to other people which can mean that the initiative for making friends often falls to the foreigner. However, many have observed that once the ice is broken Finns are open, warm and can be relied on. Honesty and dependability are the two characteristics most highly regarded by Finns.
Finns have a real passion for sports and their patriotic spirit is aroused in international ice hockey games, skiing competitions, athletics (especially when competing against neighboring countries) and in motor sports. Finland has also achieved a lot of media coverage internationally for organizing some crazy sports events such as wife-carrying, boot-throwing, mosquito killing world championships or swimming in ice cold water in the winter.
Given the country’s excellent natural setting, it is no wonder that sports are the Finns’ favorite leisure time activity. Slalom and cross country skiing are popular in winter as are snowboarding and ice fishing, where a hole is drilled in the ice and you fish through it. During the summer, biking, hiking, swimming, canoeing, river rafting and yachting are popular, as are Finnish baseball, which differs from the American variety, and soccer. And Finland is gradually filling up with golf courses and golfers.
The fact that there are 5.5 million Finns and 1.7 million saunas says it all. Sauna is still an important part of the Finnish way of life. There are saunas everywhere in Finland and it is customary to go to sauna about once a week. As a general rule women and men bath separately, except within the family.
Finnish sauna is one form of the ancient sweat bath tradition. It relaxes the muscles and relieves muscular aches and pains. It also helps you sweat away mental stress. In sauna there are heated stones onto which you throw water to create steam. Some Finns also whisk themselves with bunches of birch leaves to stimulate the circulation of blood.
The most important thing to remember in sauna is to take time and listen to your own body. You don’t have to wait until others take a break, just leave the heat room when you no longer feel comfortable. Every now and then you should anyway leave the heat room to take a shower or a swim to cool off.
Practical information on Vaasa and Finland
Vaasa – The sunniest city of Finland
The coastal city of Vaasa is with its population of 68 000 a lively and international centre of culture, education and tourism in western Finland. The Ostrobothnian spirit of entrepreneurship, original culture, bilingualism, international industry and abundant services bring together traditions and the present day in the 400-year-old city. Over 70 percent of the people in Vaasa speak Finnish as their mother tongue and around 25 percent Swedish – languages are switched with ease and you can get by with just one. Due to the two languages everything good is doubled, such as institutions of higher education, theatres and newspapers.
Best of all, the sun is often shining in the sunniest city of Finland.
Enjoy the company
In Vaasa every fifth person you meet on the street is a student of higher education. In proportion to the population Vaasa is in fact the biggest student city in Finland. The 13 000 students of the seven different institutions of higher education guarantee diverse services involved in student activities and free time as well as new circles of friends and new experiences. As the students are so many, there is no lack of student events or nightlife. Recreational activities offer something for sport spectators, athletes as well as cultural consumers. Student discounts are often given on entrance tickets and different kinds of memberships.
Getting fit is easy, when you have an ample choice: sports halls for different kinds of sports, the newly renovated public swimming pool, Tropiclandia Spa for pampering, the skiing centre of Öjberget, the biggest gym in Finland, summer beaches and a 27-hole golf course. Sport events include the Beach Volley league tour and Botniagames in athletics. Vaasa Region Sports Academy attends to the top athletes studying in institutions of higher education.
Refresh your mind
Hiking along the coastline paths, marked trails and excellent cycle tracks is suitable for a student budget. During wintertime you can walk, skate or ski on the sea ice. Sport spectators can join the fans of Sport ice hockey team, VPS football team or Kiisto volleyball team. Numerous clubs, associations and the courses at Vaasa-opisto and Vasa Arbis offer activities ranging from arts and parachute jumping to dancing and crafts.
Cultural events include the Night of the Arts, the literature event Vaasa Littfest Vasa and the international nature film festival Wildlife. Rock and pop festivals, Korsholm Music Festival, Vaasa Choir Festival and the quality programme of Vaasa Opera bring music to one’s ears. Also a lot of smaller music events like symphony and church concerts as well as rock and jazz concerts are arranged. Kuula-opisto provides basic teaching in music and dancing.
Theatre, art, dance and music from rock and pop to classical are on offer for those interested in culture.
Enjoy a night out
Vaasa has night venues ranging from nightclubs to quieter meeting places for friends. You can find restaurants and pubs for all tastes and budgets: there are gourmet restaurants, pizzerias, ethnic diners, numerous cafés, nightclubs and bars. You can also enjoy a night out by glow bowling or in a cinema that has five screens.
Sense your style
The pedestrian streets around the market square are a meeting place for people and services. There are three constantly renewing shopping centres in the city centre. In addition to doing some window shopping you can find great bargains there. Many foreign and especially many Swedish clothing and interior decoration shop chains have trusted the excellent sense of style in Vaasa. Many chains have added momentum to their conquest of Finland from here. Almost every trend shop can be found in Vaasa and you can also improve your sense of style by observing the street scene.
The student accommodation situation in Vaasa is excellent. The biggest renters, VOAS Student Housing Foundation and Pikipruukki, have almost 7 000 apartments. All over Vaasa VOAS has shared apartments, bed-sitting-rooms and family apartments, almost all of which have a data network connection and electricity included in the rent. Laundry and sauna turns are also offered in most apartments. The level of rents on the open market is also reasonable and worth considering.
Get employed in your field
Vaasa has employment for various experts in their field and the employment rate of the region is the second best after the province of Uusimaa. There are particularly enterprises of energy, chemistry, plastic and metal industries. In addition to the industrial sector, the labour market has drive on almost every field, especially in the social and health sector and the business sector. The most significant employers include the city of Vaasa, the government, Wärtsilä, the central hospital of Vaasa, ABB, KWH Group and Vacon. In addition to the government and the city of Vaasa, the numerous business, service and industrial enterprises of the region offer students practical training and summer jobs.
Everything at hand
Vaasa is the busy centre of traffic in its region. Good connections are available from morning until evening. Vaasa has regular links to other parts of Finland by train and bus. The student discount on train tickets is given. A 50 % student discount on bus tickets is also given, when the travel distance is at least 80 kilometres. You can fly to Vaasa from Helsinki or Stockholm in an hour and the trip from the city centre to the airport takes less than 10 minutes. There are also flights to holiday destinations from Vaasa airport.
You can take a local bus to your institution, to work or to your hobbies. Students residing in Vaasa get an almost 25 % discount on the local bus fares. Short distances make Vaasa an easy city to live in; everything essential is within a walking or cycling distance and traffic jams are rare.
The wide avenues in the urban area, the modern pedestrian street in the city centre and the fire lanes between the city blocks make Vaasa spacious – there’s room to breathe here.
Learn more: vaasaregion.fi
VAMK has no own dormitories or any other kind of accommodation arrangements for its students. Students have to take care of the accommodation matters by themselves.
The accommodation situation for students in Vaasa is fairly good. The most common way to organize housing is to rent an apartment from VOAS, the Student Housing Foundation in Vaasa. In general, their rents are lower than in the private market, because most of the tenants are students.
A shared apartment generally accommodates 2 – 4 students. Each student has his/her own room and shares a kitchen and a bathroom with the other students in the apartment. International students usually want to reserve apartment/room with basic furniture. In a furnished bedroom there is a bed with mattress but without mattress pad, writing table, lamp, chair, bookshelf and a clothes closet. In the kitchen there is a dining table and chairs.
There is no cutlery or any kitchen appliances except a refrigerator and stove in the kitchen, no pillows, blankets or bed linen in the beds. You can bring the basics with you from home, or you can buy them in Vaasa.
Only one person is allowed to stay in one room in the VOAS shared apartments– bedrooms are not for sharing!
The housing complexes where international students are advised to apply for housing are Tekla II, Linna, Olympia I, Suviboxi and Ahvenranta. Most of the apartments are furnished and the rents are moderate.
Please read through and follow carefully the accommodation instructions. The most frequent housing problem is noisy behaviour at night time. Silence is required after 22 o´clock in the evening. Many Finns start their work day at 8 (some people even at 7) in the morning. Please also pay attention where you leave your waste bags and how you sort out the waste (biological / glass / paper / mixed waste). Instructions on waste handling are included in the accommodation rules.
For more detailed information, please contact:
VOAS (Student Housing Office),
Hartmaninkuja 4, 65100 Vaasa
Tel: +358(0)6 – 3276 530
The office is ususally open Mon – Fri 10 a.m – 3.30 p.m
The first and last working day of the month 10 a.m-5 p.m
VOAS is closed during weekends.
Please visit the website for information on facilities, rental condition and rules: www.voas.fi
NOTE! Information for exchange students:
The rental agreement with VOAS is made for a fixed period for the whole semester and it can not be terminated. This means that the tenant is liable for paying rent for the whole duration of the lease, even if moving out earlier. Tenants can apply for another apartment only if staying two semesters. The change can be done for the second semester.
- Autumn semester: August 1st/September 1st to December 31st
- Spring semester: January 1st to May 31st
There is also a new “Survival kit” provider in Vaasa called StudentSurvival. You can read more about their services from their webpage.
Health Care and Insurance
The level of health care in Finland is high. There are two parallel systems: the public health care sector financed by the government and municipalities, and the private sector. Both sectors are available, but the private services are more expensive to the patient.
Accidents and acute illnesses are primarily treated in municipal health care centres. In dental emergency, international students may turn to the dental clinic in municipal health care centres. International degree students like other degree students as well shall use YTHS (=FSHS= Finnish Students Health Service).
Medicines are sold only in pharmacies (“Apteekki” or “Apotek”) and for stronger medication a prescription from a doctor is needed (see Pharmacy under Shops and Services for more information).
During your studies you have the right to services organised by the Vaasa Health Centre, which include:
- The health station doctor’s appointments
- Medical care and first aid
- The school doctor’s appointments in case of illness, if needed referral to a specialist
- Counselling in family planning
- Dental care (fees according to separate statutes)
- Psychologist services
- Supervision of the school’s health-affecting conditions
Student Health Care Services
From 1 January 2021 onwards, all degree students in higher education will be entitled to use FSHS services, as long as they have registered as an attending student for a particular term and paid the healthcare fee to KELA.
Prior to the departure from the home country it should be made sure that the student has a personal health insurance that has full coverage if he/she is not covered by the national health insurance. The student should know the conditions and risks covered by the health insurance plan because there may be differences from one country to another.
Citizens of the EU and EEA countries are covered by the Finnish National Health Insurance plan administered by KELA (the Social Insurance Institution). When arriving to Finland, student must have the European Health Insurance Card with him/her. The card must be obtained from the national health insurance provider from own home country before arriving to Finland.
A student from a non-EU country must have a valid health insurance issued by a reliable company or institution if he stays more than 3 months. Please see Finnish Immigration Service for more information on health insurance issues.
Before coming to Finland there are certain preparations the student should undertake before leaving the home country. The student should contact the closest Finnish Embassy or Consulate to find out which kind of entry permits might be needed in order to travel and study in Finland. All foreigners except citizens of the Nordic countries and the citizens of the Schengen agreement countries need a valid passport. Depending on your nationality and the length of your stay in Finland, you may need a visa or a residence permit.
Citizens of EU/EEA countries
Citizens in the EU and European Economic Area countries, that is the member countries of the European Union and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, do not need to apply for a visa or a residence permit before arriving in Finland. For EU citizens, if their stay is longer than three months, they must register their right to reside in Finland at the Finnsih Immigartion Service.
Citizens of the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark or Iceland) may arrive, reside, study and work in Finland without limitations; no permits are needed. Only an official identity card is needed to prove their identity. Citizens of a Nordic Country are registered at the Registers Office.
Health insurance: Citizens of the EU and EEA countries are covered by the Finnish National Health Insurance plan administered by KELA (the Social Insurance Institution). When arriving to Finland, student must have the European Health Card with him/her. The card must be obtained from the local social security office before arriving to Finland.
Citizens of non EU/EEA countries
Citizens coming from countries outside of EU/EEA need a visa (stay less than 3 months) or a residence permit (stay longer than 3 months). For the residence permit you need:
- Valid passport
- Passport sized photos
- The acceptance letter from Vaasa University of Applied Sciences
- Health insurance policy
- Evidence of sufficient funds to cover your expenses
- Evidence of paid tuition fee (degree students)
Health insurance policy is a requirement for obtaining a residence permit for studies in Finland
All students from non EU/EEA countries have to have a health insurance policy that covers the costs of medical care. The health insurance must be in force upon entry into Finland.
Income requirement for students
Please note that international students coming from outside of Europe, must have 6720 €/year or 560 €/month with you when arriving to Finland. (This is the amount required during the academic year 2020/2021; may be a subject to change). When applying for a student visa, you need to show this amount on your bank account. The 6 720 € is for 12 months, (12 x 560 €) and 13 440 € for two years, so you will have to have the same amount for each year of studies. Please check the valid amount of funds you will need to have from Finnish Immigration Service.
You can find more information about entry permits required to enter Finland from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland or in the web page of the Finnish Immigration Service.
All foreign students who intend to stay for at least three months in the country must report to the local population register office after arriving in Finland in order to be registered to the population information system and to get Finnish personal ID number.