Study Abroad in Finland

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A Guide to Studying Abroad in Finland

Known for its countrywide free education, many international students have capitalized on study abroad in Finland through direct enrollment in local universities, despite its lesser known status as a study abroad destination. With 20 universities and almost 30 polytechnic institutions, aspiring study abroad students have a variety of program options to meet their specific curricular requirements. Students who want to study abroad in Finland will find many programs related to architecture, biology, technology, and environmental studies. Additionally, Finland has a strong reputation for research efforts and is a particularly great place for graduate students to study abroad.


The most popular cities to study abroad in Finland are the top five largest cities in the country, starting with the capital of Helsinki, followed by Vaasa, located on the western coast of Finland.

Ranked as the third most liveable city in the world in 2013, Helsinki is by far the most popular destination for study abroad in Finland. A city surrounded by the sea at the southern tip of Finland, it’s a hub for activity. Students looking for an active academic scene that goes beyond the classroom will be pleased with what the capital has to offer. Theater, music, as well as research programs in economics and social sciences, are popular program types at local universities in Helsinki.

Tampere, located next to two huge lakes and four academic institutions, provides students with the big city feel and small town comforts. The city is convenient for students as everything is walkable. Turku, Finland’s oldest city and first capital, houses one of the two international schools in Finland.

Oulu is one of the larger cities of the north, in Finland and also on a global scale, though it’s home to less than 200,000. Studying in this subarctic spot (expect an average temperature of around 30 degrees Fahrenheit) exposes students to emerging technologies, lectures, and opportunities for lab work. The city is also known for the Air Guitar World Championships.

Jyväskylä, about 270 miles north of Helsinki, is the city for study abroad students looking to do a lot of travel around the rest of the country. The city offers a well developed infrastructure with the balance of green spaces. Sports fans can enjoy a robust variety of outdoor activities from skiing to biking to floorball. 

Students looking for a wide range of travel and academics in their study abroad program, can experience Helsinki and a few other European destinations through multi-country program options too.

Study Abroad Programs in Finland

Finland’s educational institutions are separated into two categories: universities and polytechnic institutes. If you’re interested in a more theoretical approach to education and want to focus on research, a university is the direction to go for study abroad in Finland. Undergraduate students may be surprised to learn that universities function much more like a graduate school with an emphasis on research. Polytechnics, on the other hand, are more practically based and provide a hands on approach to learning. The most popular subjects to study in Finland include architecture, environmental science, design, and technology. These also happen to be the nation’s specialty.

Finland is renowned for its design (think Marimekko, Angry Birds, and of course Nokia). This spills over into architecture and fashion as well. Some study abroad programs in Finland even focus on a specific element of design, like furniture making. Finland also has the most internet connections in the world, so it’s easy to see why programs specifically geared toward technology are popular as well.

While over 90 percent of the population speaks Finnish, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t also speak English. University courses are offered in both languages, but English is primarily used for instruction at most institutions, including the University of Helsinki.

Students who study abroad in Finland can expect a laid back academic environment due to the national policies regarding free education. Expectations around attendance and prerequisites are fairly lax. Students are expected to be assertive and self-guided in their studies because of this as well.

Scholarships & Costs

Finland is a fairly expensive place for international students when it comes to cost of living, but not drastically different than other European Union countries. Study abroad students can expect to spend the most on accommodations and food, if these expenses are not included in program costs. While education is free, students should budget at least $1,000 a month to cover everyday expenses, unless included in program packages. Keep in mind, rent and other living expenses are higher in Helsinki too.

Part-time employment to supplement living costs is very difficult to find unless you know the language, so plan ahead financially if you’re supporting yourself during your study abroad program in Finland. Luckily, as a member of the European Union, students studying abroad in Finland can at least use their Euros during travel throughout other regions of Europe without having to deal with the hassle of currency exchange. 

There are a variety of scholarships available to help supplement the costs of study abroad in Finland (visit GoAbroad's Scholarship Directory to see what is available!).

Accommodation & Visas

Students who elect to live in student housing will find it to be a very affordable and convenient alternative to finding an apartment on their own. The majority of students attending universities in Finland live in apartments on or near campus.

Students from the U.S. will need a student residence permit to study abroad in Finland for more than three months. This can easily be obtained via an online form or with a visit to your local Finnish embassy or consulate (find one in GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory). Health insurance coverage is also a must when studying in Finland. In addition, it is recommended to invest in travel insurance for the entirety of your stay abroad.

Benefits & Challenges

Activities. Many universities and study abroad programs in Finland offer excursions, whether it’s a weekend ski trip, a visit to Santa Claus in the cultural region of Lapland, or a trip across the arctic circle.

Freedom to Explore. Finland has something called, “Everyman’s Right,” which essentially allows individuals to freely roam and explore the outdoors as long as no damage or disturbance to nature is made. With this “right” comes the obligation to take care when exploring. However, because of this, you can explore everything all the way to the Arctic Circle.

Exciting & Unusual Events. Finland is unique in its competitions. You can find the Wife World Carrying Championship, The Ant Hill Competition, and the World Sauna Endurance Championship, just to name a few!

If you are ready to explore the Finnish language, experience Scandanavia, and take your education off-the-beaten bath, then it is time for YOU to study abroad in Finland!

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The Learning Adventure of a Lifetime

Study abroad in Finland with Youth for Understanding. Students are offered accommodation with a host families in Helsinski while they attend local schools. Living and studying alongside locals provides participants with numerous opportunities for cultural learning and growth.