Day-to-day life of a student studying in a foreign country
Study culture and at the same time day-to-day student routines may often differ from what they are like in Finland. However, a student’s basic needs remain the same: you will need housing, a support network as well as money for basic essentials such as food and study materials. You are entitled to financial aid from Kela while studying abroad. You will also be able to work in many countries while you study.
Studying abroad is not necessarily any more expensive than it is in Finland. Living costs vary depending on the country and its price level. The cost of studies also varies a great deal by country and educational institution.
Costs resulting from studies can include a fee for study materials, library and laboratory user fees, exam fees and tuition. At their highest, tuition fees can total 40,000 euros a year. However, if you go on an exchange through your educational institution’s exchange programme, you may not have to pay tuition at all. Ask your educational institution about this.
Living costs will generally comprise housing, food and other essential purchases, telephone and internet subscriptions, as well as transport, e.g. a bus ticket. It is also a good idea to reserve money for hobbies.
Additionally, there may be costs involved in arranging a study place abroad and making preparations to go abroad. You must also be prepared to pay for your trips from Finland to your destination and back, as well as for insurance, vaccinations and a visa.
You can apply for student financial aid for students studying in a foreign country from Kela, either for completing your entire qualification or degree or for completing parts of your Finnish qualification or degree. You can also get financial aid for practical training related to your studies completed abroad. You must be a fulltime student, and you must make adequate progress in your studies. Please note that you cannot get a study grant for a single course.
Student financial aid for students studying in a foreign country comprises a study grant and housing supplement. If the housing costs in your country of studying are very low, your housing supplement will be smaller as well. Once a foreign institution of higher education has notified you that they have accepted you as a student, submit your student financial aid application to Kela.
You can also finance your studies by working or by taking out a student loan guaranteed by either the Finnish state or the EU. You can also cover expenses with your own savings.
Find out whether you can get a grant or scholarship from your Finnish institution of higher education, a fund or a foundation. Other countries and the institutions of higher education in these may also have their own grant programmes for foreign students.
If you are studying in the EU Member State, you can finance your studies with part-time work in the same manner as in Finland.
If you are studying in a country outside of the EU, you will have to find out whether students have the right to work in the country in question. You can find more information on requirements and rights in foreign countries on the TE Office website and the EURES website.
No matter what country you study in, always notify Kela of any work you do in addition to your studies. The salary you earn may affect your student financial aid. Even if you do not live for the entire year in Finland, you must see to it that you do not exceed your annual income limit. Otherwise, you may have to return some of your student financial aid.
Please also note that finding a job in the foreign city where you are studying may be challenging. Do not base your entire budget on the belief that you will find work, at least not immediately.
If you go on an exchange through an exchange programme, you will most likely also get housing through the programme either in an educational institution’s dorm or with a host family. If this is not the case, ask for assistance from your educational institution in the destination country in looking for housing. Many educational institutions have affordable dorms.
You can also rent a residence yourself. Find out about local practices for renting and ensure that you understand all the details in your lease. Please not that if you sign a lease for a fixed period, you will likely not be able to move to another location before your lease is up even if your situation changes.
If you have acquaintances or relatives in the foreign city where you are studying, you can possibly live with them for at least part of your studies. They may also be able to give tips on available housing. You can also ask if any of your acquaintances that live in Finland have connections in the city in question.
If you so wish, you can first stay in a hostel or similar accommodation and search for a long-term residence while on location.
If you study in the European Union, an EEA country or Switzerland, you will have the right to use health care services in the country in which you are studying. You can use both basic health care services and specialist medical services. However, you will need a European Health Insurance Card awarded by Kela or another valid medical care certificate.
If you are studying outside the EU, you will have to pay any health care and medical care costs yourself. However, you can apply for compensation from Kela for these later on. Please note that the compensation provided by Kela will only cover a small portion of the fees you have paid, so it is important to ensure that your insurance is as comprehensive as possible.
If you use prescription drugs, ask your doctor to prescribe a special international prescription for you. This is enable you to also get your medication in your country of studies. If your medication has been prescribed in Finland with an electronic prescription, you may not need a special international prescription to purchase these. For example, in Estonia you can purchase your medication in the same way as in Finland.
If you have problems with anything related to your studies, don’t be afraid to ask for help from teachers or other personnel at your foreign educational institution. Your foreign educational institution will also generally provide student counselling and support for coping. Additionally, tutors and other students, both local and exchange students can often help.
If you are taking part in an exchange and your primary place of study is in Finland, you can contact your Finnish educational institution. Student advisors and student services can often provide remote assistance from Finland.
The most important thing is that you do not dwell on your problems alone. Ask for help as early on as possible so that problems do not escalate.
Whether you can stay in your country of studies, after your studies have come to an end depends entirely on the country in which you are studying. Remaining in a country will often require a number of actions and submission of documents to authorities in both Finland and your new country of residence. Always notify Kela of a change in live situation.
If the country you are studying in is an EU Member State, you can stay in the country without registering as a resident for three months after your study term ends. If you are looking for employment, you will be allowed to stay for six months. You must have a valid passport or identity card.
When the specified number of months is up or you get a job, you must register in your new country of residence. You will also be automatically transferred from the scope of Finland’s social security to that of your new country of residence.
Practices are often more stringent in countries outside of the European Union. In some countries, a mandatory visa determines how long you can stay in the country and what you can do there. Find out well in advance what the terms are for staying in the country. If you remain abroad for more than six months after your studies end, you will no longer be in the scope of Finland’s social security.