How did you first feel when you arrived in Otaniemi?
Coming from the concrete jungle of Dubai, UAE to the green nature of Otaniemi, Espoo I was shocked! The first thing I noticed was the huge temperature difference. Secondly, I had never seen this much of greenery back home, except in the plants' section at IKEA. This was my first time living on my own without friends or relatives around. It felt weird on the first day of my new life in Otaniemi, where the campus area of Aalto University is located. During the orientation week for my studies, I became surrounded by new friends and that weird feeling was replaced with the feeling of belongingness.
What’s something super Finnish that you find funny?
The only thing I knew about Finland was that Nokias are made here. I come from a totally different culture. Thus, I wanted to seek for the Super Finnish experience, which included:
- jumping into an avanto (which is literally a hole in a frozen lake) after the sauna!
- eating mämmi at easter, and now understanding why you would need a ton of sugar and cream with it.
- tasting salmiakki. Now I know that if you're having a bad day, you can still make it worse.
- being mindblown that hobbyhorse is a legitimate sport in Finland, and there are even championships for it.
- And finally, admiring how Finns love their coffee and free buckets!
Is there something with life in Finland that has surprised you?
Alongside the temperature difference and greenery, I was surprised with the changes in daytime. There are short days in November with only a few hours of sunlight and long ones in June when the sun doesn’t set at all. In addition to nature, it was quite difficult for me to settle in culture-wise. In Arabic culture, people tend to talk a lot and loudly, and our personal space is quite literally non-existent. In other words, rather different compared to Finns. However after some time, courses, and parties I got to know awesome people. Even my Finnish classmates opened up and really made me feel like a part of their families. I learned so much from being around Finns; I learned from their honesty, equality, punctuality, and most importantly, I learned how to keep my distance!
What do you think is the best thing about the campus/city/Finland?
The incredible student culture here is definitely the best thing about the campus. During my studies, I completely immersed myself in all those fun activities. I joined a guild and even became a board member for the annual ball committee of AYY, Aalto University's student union. I participated in dinner parties (sitsit) and earned my right to be a teekkari. Teekkari are students who study technology at an university, they are knows for their teekkari caps and traditions. I am sure I will miss those amazing student events that made Otaniemi so special.
How did you find out about Aalto?
While I was a researcher at the University of Sharjah, UAE I got the chance to meet with a former Aalto University professor. He noticed that I was applying for master’s degrees and suggested I would apply to Aalto University too. Aalto, in comparison to universities e.g. in Sweden, France or Canada, seemed like the perfect fit for me. Due to its high worldwide reputation and modern facilities, Aalto University became my first choice.
What was the biggest barrier for you before accepting to come to study at Aalto?
For me living alone for the first time was a totally new experience, at times even a scary one. I was cooking more or less successfully and trying my best at being independent. However, once I started to get the hang of it, this place and the people became like a second home to me. Moreover, we have this saying in my language, which roughly translates to:” your parents will only raise you to a certain age, and after that only life matures you.”