Last modified 15.3.2011 at 13:25
Text and photo: Niko Peltokangas
The land of the free education is not that free when it comes to living costs.
After Ireland, consumer prices in Finland are higher than in any other Euro country, told the news in June 2010. According to the Finnish News Agency (STT) food costs here 20% more than the EU average. Alcohol prices are even 70% higher.
In the whole Europe, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland are also more expensive industrial countries than Finland.
Laura Tuhkala, a member of the board of OSAKO (Student Union of Oulu University of Applied Sciences), says that foreign students are usually aware of high prices. Once in a while someone contacts OSAKO and tells about their financial difficulties.
- Foreign students ask help for searching a job, and say that they need it urgently due to lack of money. There are not many job ads or jobs in English, and the students realize that it's easier to get a job when you know some one who could offer one, Laura explains.
Difficulties in job hunting are also related to the foreigner's knowledge about the Finnish culture.
- We have learned that it's difficult for foreign students to get Finnish friends and to get the hang of the local society and culture, Laura says.
OSAKO has been pushing the policy that universities should inform the foreign applicants better about the high cost of living.
- Living in Finland is expensive, but especially African students do not necessarily receive truthful information about this, or they have their own beliefs of the West, Laura emphasizes.
No difference between the Finns and foreigners
SAMOK, the national union for the UAS students, did a study about foreign students in Finland in year 2007. One fifth of the respondents said that their income is not enough.
But according to a study, a quarter of the students think that their livelihood is very good. A half of the respondents stated that their income is barely adequate.
When comparing to the earlier research about Finnish students, there is no radical difference between the livelihood of Finns and foreigners.
An interesting detail is that students in the field of social sciences, business and administration have the fewest financial worries.
Pauliina Savola from SAMOK recalls that the residence permit granted by Immigration Service is conditional on the fact that a student has 6,000 euro on their bank account. The purpose is to ensure the student's income.
- It may cause problems if the students borrow that amount of money for a residence permit, and repay the loan after the inspection, Pauliina warns.
It's worth it
After all, studies show that most students get along well enough when living frugally. Some of them are working in the evenings and on weekends. Of course, students also get money from their families.
The fact is that living in Finland costs a bit more than somewhere else. The second issue at stake is public health care, no tuition fees and, for example, meal subsidy for students. And they say that good is worth paying for!
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