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Noora Hautamäki was an exchange student in Mexico and encourages everyone to go on exchange

Noora Hautamäki, studying chemical engineering, spent six months on exchange in Monterrey, Mexico. After her exchange, she spent a year as an exchange student advisor at Aalto University and continues to volunteer with the exchange organization through which she did her high school exchange. The experiences have inspired Noora even more and, inspired by her two experiences abroad, she still dreams of going abroad to work or do a traineeship.
Noora Hautamäki
Noora Hautamäki

Before doing her university exchange, Noora had spent a year in the United States on a high school exchange. During that time, she was indirectly exposed to Mexico and Mexican culture, as she lived in a city in California where many of the residents had Mexican backgrounds. However, it was not until she arrived in Mexico that she really got to know the country, and there was no escaping the cultural shock. Moving far away from Europe was exciting, but it also brought with it difficulties in adjusting. For example, organizing things was more difficult than in Finland or Europe: "Sometimes you had to wait a really long time for answers. I was wondering if everything would be okay when I got there. For example, when it came to school, a lot of things had to be sorted out on the spot," says Noora about the initial arrangements. Despite the difficulties, everything went smoothly in the end. For example, the exchange coordinator at Aalto, who was familiar with Latin America, was able to help with course selection, which was a huge help for Noora. 

There was also another everyday issue that caused the Finnish student some grey hairs: "The worst thing for all of us Finns was that in Mexico they are so generous with their schedules. I'm used to the fact that when you've agreed on a time, you're always ten minutes early. But in Mexico, when we had agreed to do something with someone, we couldn't get that person to be there for an hour," Noora says of the locals' perception of time. An additional difficulty was that it was impossible to foresee how much one should be late for the agreed time. Although Noora got a bit more used to the time concept in six months, it could vary a lot. "We asked the locals what the general consensus was. They said that everyone knew to come later, but it wasn't always, say, half an hour in every situation. So I didn't immediately learn what time was meant in a given situation. The funniest thing was that people came late to school too. The proffesors even told us that they come to school on time - but people kept rolling in during the whole class," Noora laughs.

Everything to do with exchange has also become familiar through work and responsibilities. After her exchange, Noora worked for a year as an exchange student advisor at Aalto University. Her job description included writing articles about students' exchange experiences, helping students with exchange-related questions and hosting foreign exchange students. Noora feels that the part-time role provided a varied overview of exchange issues and was easy to fit in with her studies. In her volunteer work for the exchange organization through which she was on her high school exchange, she has acted as a contact person, especially for exchange students arriving in Finland, as a kind of support person outside the host family. 

For those considering going on exchange, Noora has a clear message: "I definitely recommend it! Although it's a bit of extra work, it's really worth it in the end. And I've never heard anyone say that it's not worth it. No matter what the experience has been like, it's been cool to see how adaptable you are." Noora hasn't had enough of her experiences abroad yet either, as she is still interested in going abroad to work or do a traineeship. She is also interested in studying for a doctorate abroad. The future will tell where in the world Noora will go next.

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