Finland's enchantment surprised Xezal Ercan during her exchange semester at Haaga-Helia
"Going on an exchange is something I can recommend to everyone who wants to enrich their studies, social group, their view on other cultures or people that just want to see a bit more of the world. It is an amazing experience in so many ways. It is as they say an experience of a lifetime."
Xezal Ercan from the Netherlands completed her exchange semester at Haaga-Helia in spring 2015. At the time, she studied International Communication and Media at the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, The Netherlands, which is one of the partner universities of Haaga-Helia.
Doing an exchange semester was a compulsory part of her studies and she was presented with multiple countries to do the exchange, so she decided to ask for guidance from her brother, family, and the student counsellor.
– I did not consider Finland at first, as there are so many more ‘popular’ options. But after asking the questions which country has the best education system and what studies best fitted my wishes, the answer was simple: Haaga-Helia in Finland, she says.
Xezal approached her exchange semester with an open mindset – an excellent starting point for this new adventure.
A snowy but warm welcome to Finland
Before her exchange, Xezal was already contacted by her exchange tutor, fellow students who accommodate new exchange students to Haaga-Helia. When she arrived in Finland in early January, she met her tutor and a group of other exchange students at the Helsinki airport, and they hit it off right away.
– Going outside of the airport I was mesmerized. Stunned by the beauty and loads of snow, I never saw that much snow! After my flight, meeting some Finns, seeing the snow, I thought by myself: I am going to like it here very much, Xezal says.
The tutor helped the exchange students to their apartments. Xezal shared a HOAS apartment with two girls outside her own study group and mentions that this was a way to not fully be in the “Erasmus bubble”. It created the opportunity to meet local students and get the full Finland experience.
During her exchange, Xezal became friends with people inside and outside the exchange students' group. Xezal tells that she is still in touch with some of these friends including her Finnish friends she met during her exchange.
Exchange studies strengthened the skills she uses to this day
Xezal says that one of the most important learning processes during her exchange was learning more about herself. In addition, getting to know other cultures and knowing how to work with people from different backgrounds have been an asset in today’s global business life, in an industry that is constantly developing and changing.
In the Netherlands, Xezal specialized in Communication and Marketing. During her exchange at Haaga-Helia, she decided to focus more on business as this also interested her.
– I did not know back then that six years later I would have worked in marketing and later would work in sales as an Account Manager! I am able to combine the skills I learned during my bachelor studies with the competencies I required during my business minor at Haaga-Helia. It really enriched the skill set I need to use now on a daily basis.
During her exchange period, Xezal had multiple unforgettable experiences. A day when she got to work at the airport for a study project was one of them. She mentioned that in each course, she felt she had enough challenge and the teachers really care about students’ educational progress. This gave her a very pleasant learning environment, which resulted in high grades.
Besides studying, Xezal participated in many activities organised by ESN-Helga and visited the neighboring countries as well. One of the ESN-Helga activities she took part in was visiting an ice hockey game at Hartwall Arena, which is next to the Haaga-Helia Pasila campus.
– I already liked ice hockey a lot before coming to Finland. But after the first game, I was completely hooked. Every time I am in Finland, I make sure to go visit a game of the local team, she says.
Education and equality
– Finland surprised me in so many ways. The people, the nature, the food, and the culture in general. Finland is known for its great education, being one of the best in the world year after year. Haaga-Helia is definitely part of making the educational system in Finland great. They are very welcoming to exchange students and they do not treat you any differently than the Finnish students. Teachers find ways to personalize the course materials, make them more understandable or more challenging. You can see they care about your educational progress, Xezal concludes.