Thinking about doing an LLM at Helsinki, anyone know what its like? Watch

TradLawyer
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Title says it all really

I'm pretty interested in Helsinki University's Masters in International and Comparative law (MICL), specifically the International Business Law track, but was curious if anyone on here had studied it or had any thoughts about the university or Helsinki in general. The course seems pretty much ideal and the faculty also seem decent but its hard to tell when I've never been there before and I can't seem to find anyone who has either...
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StBebe
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Title says it all really

I'm pretty interested in Helsinki University's Masters in International and Comparative law (MICL), specifically the International Business Law track, but was curious if anyone on here had studied it or had any thoughts about the university or Helsinki in general. The course seems pretty much ideal and the faculty also seem decent but its hard to tell when I've never been there before and I can't seem to find anyone who has either...
Hello =) I'm a current undergrad at the University of Helsinki, although I'm at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Science. As no one else had responded, I thought I would =) I won't be able to help with your faculty, but if you have questions about the university in general I might be able to answer them =)
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TradLawyer
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(Original post by StBebe)
Hello =) I'm a current undergrad at the University of Helsinki, although I'm at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Science. As no one else had responded, I thought I would =) I won't be able to help with your faculty, but if you have questions about the university in general I might be able to answer them =)
Hey

Thanks a lot for replying, if I'm honest a lot of the issues I'm thinking about are just to do with the university, the city and the country itself rather than the law faculty so a reply from anyone who knows about those things is helpful!

I suppose fundamentally I am wondering what life in Helsinki is like for international students, how well integrated are they into the university? How easy is it to get around and live life as normal only knowing English? What are the facilities at the university like? Is life in winter really as bad as people say haha? And what's Helsinki itself like? Do international students and locals actually mix? I suppose there are then all the more technical questions of what the education system and marking is like etc...

Anyway's apologies for all the questions! Answer as many or as few as you like
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StBebe
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Hey

Thanks a lot for replying, if I'm honest a lot of the issues I'm thinking about are just to do with the university, the city and the country itself rather than the law faculty so a reply from anyone who knows about those things is helpful!

I suppose fundamentally I am wondering what life in Helsinki is like for international students, how well integrated are they into the university? How easy is it to get around and live life as normal only knowing English? What are the facilities at the university like? Is life in winter really as bad as people say haha? And what's Helsinki itself like? Do international students and locals actually mix? I suppose there are then all the more technical questions of what the education system and marking is like etc...

Anyway's apologies for all the questions! Answer as many or as few as you like
Haha I hope I can be helpful =)

I'm Finnish so I don't know exactly what it's like to be an international student here. My course is entirely in Finnish so we don't have any international students, but until last year my department had a MSc course in English and about half of the students taking it were international, mostly Chinese with a few Americans and Canadians. They seemed to integrate well enough with people on the course and some of them hung out with other people in the department too. The university does actively encourage international students to integrate, every department has its own student union with an international affairs officer and international tutors. They're in charge of arranging orientation days at the start and arranging events for international students, where locals are also encouraged to come.

Basically everyone in Finland below the age of 60 speaks English so you'll be able to get around easily enough. A lot of people are shy about their language skills though, especially when talking to native speakers, but if you get lost or something they'll be able to help you.

The facilities at my department are fairly amazing. We exist in a perpetual shortage of uncracked glassware but our analytical equipment is mostly top notch and students are properly tutored in using it. I don't know anything about other faculties, but I expect that if a department with fewer than 150 students and around 30 researchers has both a gas chromatograph and a high-precision liquid chromatograph, then I'd assume the other faculties are well enough equipped too =)

Hahaha winter can get pretty awful but towards the spring, when you start having more hours of daylight, it's quite nice. Even though the outside temperature is colder than a lot of places, all houses have double or triple glazing windows and good heating, so I'd argue that winter is more bearable here than in the UK. We get snow every winter so it doesn't affect public transport very much, the trains only run late during serious snow storms. But yeah the five months of sleet, then snow, the sleet again in the spring does kind of suck =P

Helsinki is really nice, I don't live there myself because my department is in a different city, but the rest of my faculty is in the outskirts of Helsinki and I do have occasional business on the central campus. It's not a very old city by European standards but it is very pretty, and there are some good cafés and such. It is quite expensive though.

As for education and marking, most people do both a bachelor's and a master's degree because Finland has such a high average level of education that you can't really get a job with just a bachelor's, at least not in anything science-related. University grades are from 1 (50%) to 5 (above 90%), with anything below 50% being a fail. We don't have exam periods (again, at least in my faculty) but instead you do the exam soon after finishing each course. If you fail, you have two chances to retake the exam, and if you fail both, only then do you have to retake the course. Each month there is a General Exam Day, where you can resit any exam or take a textbook exam. Textbook exams are exams where you self-study a book with no formal lectures or contact hours. Most courses have a few mandatory textbook exams, and often there are optional ones that you can take if you want or need more credits. We use ETC's, with 45 credits a year being the minimum and 60 the aim. In my faculty all Master's degrees are two-year courses, I think most faculties are the same, but you can affect how quickly you graduate by how many courses a year you take. There generally isn't a strict order in which you have to take courses. Each degree has a list of mandatory courses that you have to take, specifications for a minor (most departments let you have any minor. I know someone who majored in evolutionary biology with a minor in Japanese), and a number of credits that you have to gain from any relevant courses. My department is quite lenient in what we can do for optional courses, so I have 6 credits for scuba diving training, for example.

Helsinki is the best university in the country, and I'm not just saying that because it's my university, it is the only Finnish university on international ranking lists =) I hope this was helpful, if you have any other questions I'm happy to help =)
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TradLawyer
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Haha I hope I can be helpful =)

I'm Finnish so I don't know exactly what it's like to be an international student here. My course is entirely in Finnish so we don't have any international students, but until last year my department had a MSc course in English and about half of the students taking it were international, mostly Chinese with a few Americans and Canadians. They seemed to integrate well enough with people on the course and some of them hung out with other people in the department too. The university does actively encourage international students to integrate, every department has its own student union with an international affairs officer and international tutors. They're in charge of arranging orientation days at the start and arranging events for international students, where locals are also encouraged to come.

Basically everyone in Finland below the age of 60 speaks English so you'll be able to get around easily enough. A lot of people are shy about their language skills though, especially when talking to native speakers, but if you get lost or something they'll be able to help you.

The facilities at my department are fairly amazing. We exist in a perpetual shortage of uncracked glassware but our analytical equipment is mostly top notch and students are properly tutored in using it. I don't know anything about other faculties, but I expect that if a department with fewer than 150 students and around 30 researchers has both a gas chromatograph and a high-precision liquid chromatograph, then I'd assume the other faculties are well enough equipped too =)

Hahaha winter can get pretty awful but towards the spring, when you start having more hours of daylight, it's quite nice. Even though the outside temperature is colder than a lot of places, all houses have double or triple glazing windows and good heating, so I'd argue that winter is more bearable here than in the UK. We get snow every winter so it doesn't affect public transport very much, the trains only run late during serious snow storms. But yeah the five months of sleet, then snow, the sleet again in the spring does kind of suck =P

Helsinki is really nice, I don't live there myself because my department is in a different city, but the rest of my faculty is in the outskirts of Helsinki and I do have occasional business on the central campus. It's not a very old city by European standards but it is very pretty, and there are some good cafés and such. It is quite expensive though.

As for education and marking, most people do both a bachelor's and a master's degree because Finland has such a high average level of education that you can't really get a job with just a bachelor's, at least not in anything science-related. University grades are from 1 (50%) to 5 (above 90%), with anything below 50% being a fail. We don't have exam periods (again, at least in my faculty) but instead you do the exam soon after finishing each course. If you fail, you have two chances to retake the exam, and if you fail both, only then do you have to retake the course. Each month there is a General Exam Day, where you can resit any exam or take a textbook exam. Textbook exams are exams where you self-study a book with no formal lectures or contact hours. Most courses have a few mandatory textbook exams, and often there are optional ones that you can take if you want or need more credits. We use ETC's, with 45 credits a year being the minimum and 60 the aim. In my faculty all Master's degrees are two-year courses, I think most faculties are the same, but you can affect how quickly you graduate by how many courses a year you take. There generally isn't a strict order in which you have to take courses. Each degree has a list of mandatory courses that you have to take, specifications for a minor (most departments let you have any minor. I know someone who majored in evolutionary biology with a minor in Japanese), and a number of credits that you have to gain from any relevant courses. My department is quite lenient in what we can do for optional courses, so I have 6 credits for scuba diving training, for example.

Helsinki is the best university in the country, and I'm not just saying that because it's my university, it is the only Finnish university on international ranking lists =) I hope this was helpful, if you have any other questions I'm happy to help =)
Thanks so much for the reply, I was wondering if I would ever get one haha!

One other thing that I was wondering about was the holiday system, I looked up the term dates at the university a while back and I couldn't make head or tails of it! Do you have half-term holidays over there or long holidays for Christmas, easter etc...? We have a fairly stupid amount of holidays over here e.g. 3 weeks for easter, 2 weeks for christmas, 3-4 months over the summer etc.. and I didn't know whether things were the same in Finland?

Also, and I realise this is a slightly awkward question to ask as you are Finnish, but... are Finns really as reserved as people say haha? I mean I'm british so I'm used to reserved but people seem to make a big deal out of it...
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StBebe
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Thanks so much for the reply, I was wondering if I would ever get one haha!

One other thing that I was wondering about was the holiday system, I looked up the term dates at the university a while back and I couldn't make head or tails of it! Do you have half-term holidays over there or long holidays for Christmas, easter etc...? We have a fairly stupid amount of holidays over here e.g. 3 weeks for easter, 2 weeks for christmas, 3-4 months over the summer etc.. and I didn't know whether things were the same in Finland?

Also, and I realise this is a slightly awkward question to ask as you are Finnish, but... are Finns really as reserved as people say haha? I mean I'm british so I'm used to reserved but people seem to make a big deal out of it...
Haha no worries, I'm on TSR a lot to procrastinate from writing my thesis =P

It might be different in other faculties, but in my faculty we have about two weeks for Christmas, a couple of days for Easter, and an undefined length for summer. It really depends on when your classes start and end, which the teachers have a strong say in, so sometimes they all decide they want a longer Christmas break and arrange it so it happens =P Also my faculty has ridiculous summer breaks because all of our teachers are researchers and field work needs to be done in the summer, so they all arrange their classes to finish very early in the spring. It's slightly annoying because it means that we have a ton of classes now and nothing after Easter =P Although that I'm fairly sure is a unique feature of my faculty because no one else's research is so confined to the summer. However the autumn term does always start on the first Monday of September, with the last week of August being an orientation week for new students. We don't have half-term breaks as such, although there is a week in the middle of each term when we're not allowed to have class, but exams and revision sessions and sometimes labs can be held, and we're supposed to use the week for private study and consolidation. Some people take it as a holiday but they do get disadvantaged in their grades by it.

Haha I guess we are quite reserved, we don't do small talk and tend to look at foreigners who try to small talk like they're crazy (especially on lifts, do not talk to Finnish people on lifts). I guess we don't really talk unless there's something to talk about and silence isn't considered as awkward as it is in a lot of places, which might make us seem reserved or even rude. Unless you were lost you wouldn't really have a reason to go talk to random people on the street. You sort of have to know people or know someone they're with to talk to them =P although once I was queuing all day for a good spot at a concert and I managed to make friends with the people in the queue with me. Although in hindsight I started talking to them when I had something to talk about, ie, asking them to hold my spot while I went to the bathroom. At uni people are a bit more relaxed and mostly understand that international students don't act Finnish, so if you went to talk to random people in the canteen or something they'd probably not think you were weird. Okay I see why people think we're reserved now =P But at uni there are usually lots of people that want to get to know the international students because they want to learn about them and their countries, and as I said there are students whose job it is to integrate international students, so those people won't be too reserved =) just bring food to share to a party and everyone will love you , and even the more reserved people might talk to you =)
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TradLawyer
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(Original post by StBebe)
Haha no worries, I'm on TSR a lot to procrastinate from writing my thesis =P

It might be different in other faculties, but in my faculty we have about two weeks for Christmas, a couple of days for Easter, and an undefined length for summer. It really depends on when your classes start and end, which the teachers have a strong say in, so sometimes they all decide they want a longer Christmas break and arrange it so it happens =P Also my faculty has ridiculous summer breaks because all of our teachers are researchers and field work needs to be done in the summer, so they all arrange their classes to finish very early in the spring. It's slightly annoying because it means that we have a ton of classes now and nothing after Easter =P Although that I'm fairly sure is a unique feature of my faculty because no one else's research is so confined to the summer. However the autumn term does always start on the first Monday of September, with the last week of August being an orientation week for new students. We don't have half-term breaks as such, although there is a week in the middle of each term when we're not allowed to have class, but exams and revision sessions and sometimes labs can be held, and we're supposed to use the week for private study and consolidation. Some people take it as a holiday but they do get disadvantaged in their grades by it.

Haha I guess we are quite reserved, we don't do small talk and tend to look at foreigners who try to small talk like they're crazy (especially on lifts, do not talk to Finnish people on lifts). I guess we don't really talk unless there's something to talk about and silence isn't considered as awkward as it is in a lot of places, which might make us seem reserved or even rude. Unless you were lost you wouldn't really have a reason to go talk to random people on the street. You sort of have to know people or know someone they're with to talk to them =P although once I was queuing all day for a good spot at a concert and I managed to make friends with the people in the queue with me. Although in hindsight I started talking to them when I had something to talk about, ie, asking them to hold my spot while I went to the bathroom. At uni people are a bit more relaxed and mostly understand that international students don't act Finnish, so if you went to talk to random people in the canteen or something they'd probably not think you were weird. Okay I see why people think we're reserved now =P But at uni there are usually lots of people that want to get to know the international students because they want to learn about them and their countries, and as I said there are students whose job it is to integrate international students, so those people won't be too reserved =) just bring food to share to a party and everyone will love you , and even the more reserved people might talk to you =)
Haha, thanks again for the reply its really helpful! And yeah I know the feeling about procrastination, pretty sure I spend more time on facebook or google than I do working...

One last question, and I suppose its quite general, but what's the social life like at the uni?
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StBebe
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Haha, thanks again for the reply its really helpful! And yeah I know the feeling about procrastination, pretty sure I spend more time on facebook or google than I do working...

One last question, and I suppose its quite general, but what's the social life like at the uni?
My department is very small so everyone hangs out together and mostly gets along =) I've not been that involved in the social life of the rest of the faculty, but the few times I've been to some of the bigger parties they've been amazing and super inclusive. The bigger annual parties are pretty cool, in my faculty there's BiTa which is a weekend party for biology and environmental sciences students from all of the universities in Finland, and there's the natural sciences students' Christmas cruise which is also for people from all of the universities in the country. That's my personal favourite annual party, basically it's a cruise ship-ful of students partying to Sweden and back =D I really don't have any contact with the faculty of law but I'm sure they have big annual parties too.

Then there's a lot of smaller parties, both annual ones and more ex tempore things, which tend to be departmental. My dept has the Z-drain where we take the train from Lahti to central Helsinki and get off at every stop to have a drink =P In those parties it's mostly people from the dept but usually a small number of people from other depts turn up too, and the departmental parties tend to be very friendly and open. Oh and there's the tradition of Sitsit or the Academic Sit-Down Dinner, which is a lot less formal than it sounds. Usually the dress code is moderately black tie (I suspect the lawyers might have it more formal than the scientists) and we have a meal and sing drinking songs.

Aside from parties there's quite a lot of social stuff going on especially in the autumn and spring. My department has an annual weekend hike and a biennial trip abroad, this year people went to Croatia. Then there are things which are very biology-centric, there's an annual competitive bird watching trip to Ahvenanmaa where it always rains and everyone gets sick, and a few other species-spotting competitions. I think there's also a wine- and beer-making competition in my faculty. There are also quite a lot of interest-based student organisations, at the union fair last year I remember seeing stands for an all-male a cappella choir, a jazz orchestra, a Chinese student's organisation, a bunch of political and religious student organisations, medieval swordfighting, martial arts, animal rights and veganism groups and anime and comics groups. On the opening fair every September a lot of the student organisations have stands on the central campus and you can sign up if you find something you like.

I think I mentioned before, every department has its own student union that operates under the faculty student union, which operates under HYY which is the student union of the whole university. HYY owns a few properties in central Helsinki that are mostly rented out and the profits used to fund the faculty and departmental unions, so all of the departmental unions have their own club rooms for example. All of the unions host events that are open to everyone. There are also the regional unions but I'm not involved in any of them and I suspect you won't be too interested in them either as they're for people from a certain region of Finland and aim to celebrate being from there.

The social life tends to die down a bit in the winter but it's very active in the autumn and when it starts getting light again in the spring, although in the summer everyone seems to flee the city. The law faculty is on the central campus I think so I expect the social life is more continuous there than here though =)

I hope this has been helpful, tell me if you do decide to apply here =)
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TradLawyer
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(Original post by StBebe)
My department is very small so everyone hangs out together and mostly gets along =) I've not been that involved in the social life of the rest of the faculty, but the few times I've been to some of the bigger parties they've been amazing and super inclusive. The bigger annual parties are pretty cool, in my faculty there's BiTa which is a weekend party for biology and environmental sciences students from all of the universities in Finland, and there's the natural sciences students' Christmas cruise which is also for people from all of the universities in the country. That's my personal favourite annual party, basically it's a cruise ship-ful of students partying to Sweden and back =D I really don't have any contact with the faculty of law but I'm sure they have big annual parties too.

Then there's a lot of smaller parties, both annual ones and more ex tempore things, which tend to be departmental. My dept has the Z-drain where we take the train from Lahti to central Helsinki and get off at every stop to have a drink =P In those parties it's mostly people from the dept but usually a small number of people from other depts turn up too, and the departmental parties tend to be very friendly and open. Oh and there's the tradition of Sitsit or the Academic Sit-Down Dinner, which is a lot less formal than it sounds. Usually the dress code is moderately black tie (I suspect the lawyers might have it more formal than the scientists) and we have a meal and sing drinking songs.

Aside from parties there's quite a lot of social stuff going on especially in the autumn and spring. My department has an annual weekend hike and a biennial trip abroad, this year people went to Croatia. Then there are things which are very biology-centric, there's an annual competitive bird watching trip to Ahvenanmaa where it always rains and everyone gets sick, and a few other species-spotting competitions. I think there's also a wine- and beer-making competition in my faculty. There are also quite a lot of interest-based student organisations, at the union fair last year I remember seeing stands for an all-male a cappella choir, a jazz orchestra, a Chinese student's organisation, a bunch of political and religious student organisations, medieval swordfighting, martial arts, animal rights and veganism groups and anime and comics groups. On the opening fair every September a lot of the student organisations have stands on the central campus and you can sign up if you find something you like.

I think I mentioned before, every department has its own student union that operates under the faculty student union, which operates under HYY which is the student union of the whole university. HYY owns a few properties in central Helsinki that are mostly rented out and the profits used to fund the faculty and departmental unions, so all of the departmental unions have their own club rooms for example. All of the unions host events that are open to everyone. There are also the regional unions but I'm not involved in any of them and I suspect you won't be too interested in them either as they're for people from a certain region of Finland and aim to celebrate being from there.

The social life tends to die down a bit in the winter but it's very active in the autumn and when it starts getting light again in the spring, although in the summer everyone seems to flee the city. The law faculty is on the central campus I think so I expect the social life is more continuous there than here though =)

I hope this has been helpful, tell me if you do decide to apply here =)
Ah that's really helpful and sounds amazing. I've already applied and in fact got in last year but had to turn it down due to financing issues, hopefully I will get in again this year! I've no idea when I would start though as I have applied for a fairly prestigious one year job from 2015-2016 so may defer if I got in and start in 2016. Anyway's thanks again for your help
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StBebe
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Ah that's really helpful and sounds amazing. I've already applied and in fact got in last year but had to turn it down due to financing issues, hopefully I will get in again this year! I've no idea when I would start though as I have applied for a fairly prestigious one year job from 2015-2016 so may defer if I got in and start in 2016. Anyway's thanks again for your help
Oh cool, good luck with your application =)
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Oh cool, good luck with your application =)
Thanks
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TradLawyer
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Oh cool, good luck with your application =)
Hey, sorry to ask another question... but do you happen to know if in general its possible to defer ones place at Helsinki? I'm only asking in case I have to do so and I know that there's a procedure for registering as a non-attending student but I'm not sure if that's the same thing as deferring :confused:

Also the law faculty's website in relation to the LLM now says "Studies begin in Autumn 2015. It is not possible to postpone the commencement of studies" I'm pretty sure that's new and it contradicts what they told me last year at any rate, I've emailed them to ask but just thought I'd ask on the off chance you or someone else knew about deferring/registering as non attending.

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Hey, sorry to ask another question... but do you happen to know if in general its possible to defer ones place at Helsinki? I'm only asking in case I have to do so and I know that there's a procedure for registering as a non-attending student but I'm not sure if that's the same thing as deferring :confused:

Also the law faculty's website in relation to the LLM now says "Studies begin in Autumn 2015. It is not possible to postpone the commencement of studies" I'm pretty sure that's new and it contradicts what they told me last year at any rate, I've emailed them to ask but just thought I'd ask on the off chance you or someone else knew about deferring/registering as non attending.

I'm not sure if you can defer. When you register at Helsinki you get a number of attending semesters within which you have to finish your degree, for an undergrad and Master's together it's seven years but I'm not sure how long it is for just a Master's. I think what you can do instead of deferring is accept the offer then register as non-attending for a year and next year register as attending. In my faculty you can definitely do that because there's generally a particular order in which you need to take courses, but you should check with your faculty.
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Ah yeah, that's what they said to do last year, thanks! And I promise this is the last question haha
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