Living in Finland: private and student accommodation
Applying to university and getting accepted is an exciting time. Coming to Aalto was a dream come true for me, but because this was more than a dream there were also a lot of practicalities to deal with before I could move here and begin my journey. And accommodation was one of the most pressing issues I encountered last July. There were many things to consider, from the pandemic and online studies to expenses and furniture. This is my experience living in Finland for a year.
Flying here has been an adventure all on its own because two of my flights had been cancelled already. But in July 2020 I managed to arrive in Finland. For the first couple of weeks, I lived with some of my friends in Tampere. I have to say that right from the start I had a lot of support in Finland (both from Aalto and my friends). But the decision where to live was not easy. There was uncertainty with the online studies and just plain anxiety about the future. After a month, I decided to live in Lahti which is a city 100 km North of Helsinki. It is relatively close to Espoo for when I actually needed to be on campus, plus it has frequent and fast train connections to the capital.
Renting from the private market as a foreigner and a student (with no particular steady income) was difficult at first. I have seen more apartments that I care to count, and some landlords had reservations about me. The first and most important step is to obtain the Finnish Social Security number and all other legal documents, of course. This country relies on it for anything such as renting, utilities contracts, bank account, you name it (you can find more about this here Quick guide when you move to Finland - kela.fi). Due to the pandemic, the process was much longer. Hopefully, the situation has started to improve now, and everything will go smooth. The second step is figuring out furniture. Previously, I had lived in the UK and Romania where most apartments are furnished already. Less of a hassle if you ask me. As it is, I had to buy the basics from IKEA and other stores.
Overall, I enjoyed the independent style of living. Having an apartment all by myself meant that I felt more at home in Finland, more than just a student here. For the coming year, I have decided to live in student accommodation just so I could experience a new city and style. The application process is really well put together both for HOAS and DOMO. Learning from last year’s application, I can say that one important aspect is to be clear with what you want. There are usually only one or two offers that you will receive, so being picky (like me!) is not really an option. Check the areas and how far they are from the campus, what modes of transport are close, and make sure that you select the appropriate rent range. Also, it’s good to be realistic about the types of housing. A studio is usually the most sought after, so the wait times are much longer.
Finally, whatever you decide, I hope you have a great time in Finland and at Aalto University! I am more than happy to answer any questions related to my experience living here.