Finnish exchange student Lotta Ylinen has already packed a lot into her semester in Australia. On top of her studies, she works as a Resident Assistant (commonly known as an RA) at her student accommodation, Campus Perth, and has plans to travel to Singapore, Melbourne, and then up the east coast during the mid-year break.
Before leaving for Australia, Lotta was in her third year of a Psychology degree at the University of Turku, which is located in a small historic city on Finland’s southwest coast. In Perth, she decided to change things up a little. She left her old job as a freelance content creator in Finland and decided to try out some new courses at university.
“I wanted to not have to worry about the things that are in Finland while I was here,” she says. “I wanted to focus on my life here in Australia, then I’ll see what happens when I get back!”
Using elective courses from her Finnish Psychology degree, Lotta took the opportunity to broaden her studies at Murdoch University. In Perth, she is taking subjects in marketing and game design to learn how she can incorporate new skills into her profession.
“I kind of wanted to explore when I can here, try something new and see if there’s something I can use in the future,” she says.
Before coming to Australia, Lotta completed her thesis on psychological profiling in market targeting on digital platforms. With the help of her wide range of interests, Lotta hopes to use technology to build a career at the forefront of psychological research. After three more years of study in Finland, she plans to graduate with a Masters in Psychology.
Lotta chose Australia because she knew speaking English would give her a wide range of options when it came to courses she could take. She also wanted to get to know a country as far away from her own as possible. Perth was the only city available through her home university and, luckily, she’s happy to have ended up there.
Lotta lives in the trendy suburb of Northbridge, right near the city centre, which has lots of cafes, bars and boutiques to explore. It’s around 30 minutes on the train from Murdoch University.
“Perth is quite big compared to the cities in Finland, but it doesn’t feel it. There’s a lot of nature around which makes it really cosy,” she says. “And the coffee is so good here! Doesn’t matter where you get it, it’s always good.”
Finding the balance
In Finland, Lotta lived by herself, so she didn’t know what to expect from student accommodation. However, the common areas that she shares with five other students in her apartment at Campus Perth have been really useful when it comes to making friends. Plus, her job as an RA has helped her find her feet and connect with the student community.
Juggling work, school and a social life isn’t always easy, but after the first few weeks, Lotta found her routine in Perth. She likes to get involved with activities at her accommodation as well as on campus, but makes sure to set aside time to study when she needs to.
“The most challenging part was just the beginning, when you get to a new city and you don’t know anyone, so you have to form those social networks and figure out the places you like to go. It’s kind of exhausting at the start,” she says. “But that’s the most fun part too, because you’re experiencing so many new things.”
Advice for fellow students
Although diving into a new environment isn’t always easy, for Lotta, it has definitely been worth it. She’s only been in Australia for a couple of months, but so much has happened that she feels like it’s been much longer. She has two pieces of advice for other students hoping to be similarly adventurous during their studies abroad.
“First, be brave. It’s always exciting. You might also feel afraid of moving to another country, but it gets easier as you get to know people.
“Secondly, be open. Be open to different kinds of experiences and say yes to anything that sounds even a bit interesting, because it’s an opportunity that you probably won’t get again.”
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