Checklist for Exchange Student
Are you going abroad for exchange studies or an internship? Below is a checklist for those going on exchange, which you should familiarize yourself with carefully before the trip.
Orientation for students leaving for exchange is arranged twice a year usually in mid-April and early December. The session covers issues which students must deal with during the exchange period and provides information regarding countries and cultures, culture shock in the new environment, studies, as well as other more practical and detailed matters.
Erasmus+ and OLS language assessment
Students doing their Erasmus + studies or training in English, French, German, Italian or Spanish will need to do a mandatory OLS language assessment online test before the exchange period. The invitation will be sent by e-mail. The result of the assessment does not affect the selection process. The result will be seen by the student and the International Mobility Services staff of VAMK.
After the assessment students have the possibility to follow an online language course.
The travel and living arrangements related to the exchange process are student’s responsibility. The travel arrangements should be organized as soon as you have received the Letter of Acceptance. It is worthwhile to compare prices from different travel agencies. Please note that flight tickets with flexibility (right to make changes) are recommended , even if you need to pay some extra.
The International Office at the host institution should be notified of your travel schedule. Some of the partner institutions arrange pick-up service for exchange students upon arrival. Find out if such service is available and inform the host institution about your arrival time and details well in advance.
Country Entry Permits
The students are responsible for obtaining the necessary country entry permits. The type of entry permit that is needed for the specific country should be found out well in advance. The student should contact the embassy or consulate of the target country here in Finland to find out the details.
EU and EEA countries:
You do not need a visa when travelling to other EU or EEA countries when you are an EU citizen. A residence permit in these countries is needed if the stay exceeds three months. A student can usually obtain the residence permit from the local police in any EU or EEA country by presenting the Letter of Acceptance from the host institution. Students with non-EU citizenship need to have Visa/residence permit to other EU countries for studying or practical training.
When applying for a visa or residence permit for countries outside of the EU and EEA, the student is generally required to present a passport, two photographs, the Letter of Acceptance from the host institution, a bank statement of sufficient funds or equivalent and a document stating that the student is covered under the national health insurance. The application for a visa or a residence permit should be submitted in good time before the departure, since the processing may take long.
It is recommended to have a passport when travelling anywhere in the world because it is the best way of proving your identity. You always need a passport when entering a foreign country. Finnish students can obtain a passport from the Police. Time for obtaining a passport is usually around 1-2 weeks.
You should take care of the living arrangements before leaving for exchange, because it will make the start in the new environment much easier. Most of our partner institutions have student apartments which are available for exchange students. Some partner institutions automatically arrange an apartment for you. But in many cases, you need to apply for the accommodation by filling out and sending an application form to the host institution. If the host institution does not have student apartments, they usually provide contact information, through which the student can find an apartment from the open market.
You should remember that the quality of housing may not necessarily be as high as you may have accustomed to in Finland. You should also be prepared to pay a deposit that normally equals 1-3 month’s rent, or even the whole rent in advance for your entire stay abroad. You should always insist on a written rental contract and receipts of payments from the landlord or rental agency.
The student should always have personal travel and health insurance with coverage for the whole length of stay abroad, when travelling, studying or working outside the Nordic, EU or EEA countries. Some countries or host institutions may require specific insurance, and this should be found out well in advance. The student should be aware of the conditions and risks covered by their insurance.
VAMK students going for practical training are insured by VAMK. Please note that students need to take care of the liability insurance by themselves.
Residents of Finland are entitled to medical care while staying temporarily in another EU/EEA country or in Switzerland. Anyone covered under the Finnish social security system who intends to travel to an EU/EEA country or to Switzerland
- on holiday
- for the purpose of study
- on secondment (temporary work assignment) or
- to seek employment
can apply for The European Health Insurance Card. The card is available free of charge and can be issued in Finnish or Swedish.
More information can be found
Enroll for attendance at VAMK
Please note that you need to enroll for attendance at VAMK in PAKKI even if you are completing exchange studies/traineeship abroad and you are not physically in Finland.
FSHS Healthcare fee payment
You need to pay the Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS = YTHS) fee:
- if you go abroad on student exchange from Finland,
- you are studying for a degree in a Finnish higher education institution
- and you have enrolled for attendance
You have the right to use the services of the FSHS when visiting Finland during your student exchange or possible online services they provide.
Health Care and security
Before you start your mobility period abroad, it is good to check what kind of vaccinations are either required or recommended in the destination country. Take care that you have at least the basic vaccinations up to date. If you have an illness and medication is required, it is good to take own medication and prescriptions in English with you.
Before you travel, consider the security of the destination city and country. A good way is to check the travel and safety announcements. You can get information to support your decision from the websites and travel advice of missions of your home country abroad.
Crises may erupt unexpectedly. To make sure that the mission can help you in the event of a crisis abroad, it is advisable to have their contact information with you, and to find out if they have a service where you can submit a travel notification before you leave.
For detailed information please see Funding the Exchange.
Register for courses at the Host Institution
Before the beginning of the exchange, you should register for the courses at the host university. In some cases, this is not possible until the student arrives at the host university.
Always when entering a new environment and culture, people will start noticing the differences immediately. Living in a foreign country requires adapting to new ways of life and you should be open-minded to new things around you. Exchange abroad brings along many changes to your daily life that alone may cause stress. Probably you will feel pressure and anxiety due to your new living environment. This is what culture shock is about.
Adjusting to a new environment and culture takes you through five phases, depending you’re your previous experiences abroad and the length of your exchange:
- ‘honeymoon’ period: everything is new and exciting
- rejection: everything feels bad and annoying
- adjustment: you will learn to accept differences
- recovery: you adjust to the new environment and culture
- returning home: returning home may cause similar reactions as to those you experienced when on exchange
The symptoms of culture shock can be more or less serious and they can appear at different times. The experiences and feeling are always individual.
How to cope with Culture Shock?
Sometimes it helps to keep a journal or diary during the stay abroad.
Try to stay positive and look at things from a new perspective.
Try to think of things as just different, not necessarily better or worse, than at home. A good way to learn about the “do’s and don’ts” in a new culture is to listen and to respect.
As soon as you have arrived try to get involved with people and activities that interest you.
Talk openly to people, because they will be curious about you and will certainly not be familiar with your culture. Maybe you could host a ‘Finland–evening’ at your school and teach the students and friends about Finland, so that they will understand you better.
If you feel homesick, and culture shock is taking over when dealing with new and strange things constantly, talk about it. Note that these feelings are usual for people who are staying abroad for a longer period that just for a vacation. Contact friends or personnel at the school, they will help you.
Not giving up, overcoming difficulties and socialising are the best cures for cultural shock and homesickness.
- Salo-Lee, L.(1997). Minä ja muut – kulttuurienvälisestä viestinnästä.
- Syrjänen,A&Westermarck,I.(WSOY). Maailmalle, Maailmalta – kulttuurisia katsauksia
- Chen, G-M.&Starosta, W.J.(1998), Foundations of Intercultural Communication
- Culture Shock
- Google tips and culture specific information regarding “culture shock”
Here you will find out what needs to be done when you arrive to the country and host institution.
When you arrive to the country and host institution it is good to keep some things in mind. You should:
- Inform the International Coordinator at VAMK that you have made the trip safely and update your contact information
- Register at the International Office of the host institution
- Register at local authorities when necessary
- Keep in touch with family and friends
- Keep in touch with the International Office at VAMK!
- Ensure that completed courses are marked to your study register
- If there will be changes in the courses in your Learning Agreement, consult your Study Counsellor at VAMK and make changes to your Learning agreement
- Keep all documents, such as course descriptions and copies of your written work
- Agree with the host institution when and how you will receive your final certificate of studies
- Remember to ask for a Letter of Confirmation for the exact dates of the exchange at the end of your stay.
Enjoy your stay!
The exchange abroad is meant to be included in your study program (210 cr or 240 cr). After the exchange period abroad, you need to:
- Submit a Letter of Confirmation in which the host institution confirms the exact period of the exchange (Erasmus studies)
- Submit Erasmus Traineeship Certificate (after mobility -part of Erasmus Training agreement, Erasmus trainees only)
- Return the Learning Agreement (and if applicable the Changes to the Learning Agreement -during mobility) signed by the host institution
- Submit a copy of your study register received from the host institution
- Take care of the credit transfer/recognition (see instructions below)
- In case of practical training contact the supervising teacher at VAMK
- Fill in EU-survey received by e-mail (Erasmus students and trainees)
- Submit a Report on Exchange (see instructions below)
- Be prepared to share your experiences abroad to other VAMK students in information session arranged by the International Mobility Services
The documents listed above should be sent to: email@example.com .
After the exchange period abroad your Transcript of Records will be sent either to you or directly to VAMK International Mobility Services. In case the document is sent only to you, deliver a copy to International Mobility Services for the recording of the courses in the study register (PEPPI/PAKKI) under “External Studies”. You still need to contact the Study Counsellor about the Individual Study Plan (HOPS) and the recognizing of courses.
Second part of the grant
Please note that the second part (max. 200 euros) of the grant will be paid after the exchange when the student has submitted the above-mentioned documents and completed all the requirements.
Erasmus+ grant is based on the actual length of the mobility period. Thus, it is also possible that if a student has stayed a shorter period abroad than was estimated before the exchange, VAMK may need to send an invoice to the student.
Report on Exchange Abroad
The report on exchange abroad should be written in English or in the language spoken in your destination country. The actual contents may be informal. Use the normal VAMK layout. Three pages is the minimum length of the report (text). I addition you can also include pictures. Note that no confidential or delicate information should be included in this report, since the reports are public. Bear in mind that reports are a good source of information for those who are planning to go abroad. Try to be honest and describe things as they were during your exchange. In the future reports may be published in the homepages. Submit the report to your International Coordinator preferably as an e-mail attachment.
Report on Exchange Abroad
1. Personal details and exchange period
- student number at VAMK
- study field
- study year (1st-2nd-3rd)
- exchange destination (university, faculty/department, town, country) exchange period
2.A. List of the courses at the host institution and short comments
2.B. Practical training abroad and short comments
- description of main duties, short evaluation of the outcome of the training
3. General description of the host university and the city
- also practical arrangements during the exchange period
4. Living in a new culture, culture Shock
5. Practical tips to students planning to go abroad
6. Value of the exchange period to your intercultural competence and learning and final remarks
The report can also be submitted as a slide show, as digital story telling, in some other multimedia format or you can keep blog during your exchange period. Please agree in advance with the International Coordinator.
My Foreign Experience – wider Exchange Report (1 cr)
Students have an opportunity to receive 1 credit for writing an extended report on their exchange period. This longer and wider report should be written in English and have the title: “My Foreign Experience”. It can be written as an “extension” from the basic report on exchange (above).
The length of the report should be min. 15 pages text. Pictures can be added. In addition to the “Report on Exchange Abroad”, it should include more detailed information about the country (cultural, economical and political aspects, geography, city/town, social life etc.). The report should reflect the student’s own experiences and should be written from the student’s own point of view. Please note that “copy – paste” work from a web site or such will not be evaluated. Submit the report to your International Coordinator preferably as an e-mail attachment (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com ).