An expensive country, which is not that expensive – how to survive Helsinki as a student?


I always dreamt about going to Finland. Maybe because I love cold weather? Maybe because I also have light skin, greyish eyes and blondish hair? Who knows. In high school I found a Finnish language book and I borrowed it immediately and learn some language. Unfortunately I couldn’t go so far, but I learnt the basic.

I didn’t even apply for the university, but I knew if I’m accepted, I’ll participate the Erasmus program during my years. It wasn’t a question whether I can continue in the tertiary education, because I had very good grades from my school and my final exams, so yeah, I got into Budapest Business School.

So what is the Erasmus program? It’s based in Europe, and it’s for university students who are willing to study or work in an European country for a semester or 2. It’s a scholarship, which provides some money for the participants, though it doesn’t cover everything at all. For example, my allowance was 470EUR per month, and I got my whole scholarship in 2 installments. I heard worse stories as well, so I think my school was pretty fair in this. If you willing to participate as an exchange student, you should look for the partners of your schools. If you want to work in an other country, then you have to look for a place to work. There is a rule that you must be a student in an European insitute. I though that students need to be European too, but since my Israeli friend could participate in the program, I think this rule doesn’t apply to students at all anymore.

So, in my 3rd year of my university I applied for 2 schools: the Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, in Helsinki, and a school in Kayseri, Turkey. I really wanted to apply for Oslo, but I was talking to a girl who went there with the program, and she told me the monthly allowance wasn’t enough even for the accommodation. Ohh, wow, I was pretty surprised! In Helsinki in my opinion the student flats were pretty fair, I paid 320EUR per month (my friend who went to Germany paid 370EUR for a shared room, and her allowance was lower than mine!), and I shared my room with a Portuguese girl, Andreyna. In our flat there were 4 rooms, so all together we were 8. They were pretty weird (there were a Polish, 2 Russians, a Nepalese, a girl from Hong Kong and a Brazilian), so we mostly hang out with Andreyna.

Actually we were in the same school, while the others were in other schools in Helsinki. The flats were pretty far from the school unfortunately, in Linnoituksentie, while the campus was in Pasila. It was about 40 minutes by bus and train, but it wasn’t that bad. At least we had some nature nearby us, not like the another campuses, which on the other hand were pretty close to the campus and the city center. The complex allowed us to wash our clothes for free, and there was a sauna as well, which we could use – also for free.

The public transportation in Helsinki are pretty good. Well, not during night, because then there are almost no night buses, or at least not to the outskirts. If we went to party, we left with the last bus at 1, or stayed in the nearest McDonald’s till the first train, which left around 5 o’clock.

About eating! In my opinion there is no other countries which support the students that much like Finland. The education is free, and there are other kind of supports as well, like printing so much like hell per semesters and, canteen. If you end up being a student in Helsinki, or wherever in Finland, you will see a lot of very cheap foods for students. 1In our school the food was 1.50 EUR, which included a small plate of salad, a plate of food (soup or main course), 2 glasses of drinks (water and juice/milk) and 2 slice of breads. Ohh, and you can help yourself, so you can put as much food on your plate, as you want. Unfortunately the tastes are not the best, but I can say, after 1 or 2 weeks you’ll get used to it, and ketchup will be your best friend at every meals. (and salt, if you happen to be a Hungarian). So, you can eat almost for free during the week, and the portion is enough for the whole day, even for those who can eat like pigs – true story… There are some places where you can find this deal on Saturday as well, but on Sunday unfortunately you must look for other cheap opportunities: and then, your best friend will be Lidl. Before I went to Finland everyone told me it’s very expensive, and so, but when I was there, I was very surprised. When I went to Lidl, sometimes I saw prices which were pretty similar to the Hungarian prices, sometimes I found some cheaper products as well. With Andreyna we always bought the 4EUR pizza box, where there were 2 pizzas – that was enough for the day as well. If you say that this kind of habit is unhealthy, I can agree, but we need to make priorities of course, and there we wanted to save as much money as possible. Andreyna’s scholarship amount was even lower than mine.

Lets talk about partying! We usually went to parties on Sunday night, when there were some deals in the night clubs. Which made me angry was the cloakroom fee. You need to pay cloakroom EVERYWHERE, and it’s not that cheap in my opinion, it’s usually 3-5 EUR. I can suggest you a nice party place, the Tiger, where there is no entrance fee, and if you go there before 10 and buy a red cup, then you can buy your drinks for 2EUR during the night. If  you go after 10, then count with 5EUR per beer. The music is nice, and noone will stuck on you and start terrorizing you. Firstly, because there aren’t so many people at 10 o’clock, secondly, the Finnish guys are gentleman.

1Last, but not least, the school. Maybe you are not that interested, but who knows! In Haaga-Helia I was an International Business exchange student, but there were a lot of Tourism students as well, but their campus was different. My campus was Pasila, where most of the Business classes are held. You won’t have problems with the course selection, actually you will, because they offer soooo many good classes that you won’t be able to select which you want to attend. At taking up courses there are priorities: firstly the degree students can fill the positions, and then the exchange students can go. There are classes only for the degree students, and only for exchange students as well, but they mention it pretty clearly. I had classes for 30 credits, but I did only about 15-20. The semester was divided into 2 periods, and most of my classes ended in the first half, so I knew in the middle that I have 15 credits, which were compulsory to get the scholarship. I let the others go and I’d rather worked on my stuffs for my Hungarian school, as I had some obligations there as well. I participated 2 classes related to Supply Chain and I had Finnish lessons during the semesters. These were the ones I passes and I let Business German and Business Inteligence go. I didn’t really enjoyed those classes, they weren’t interesting at all.

The responsible student organization for Erasmus students organized us a lot of parties and gatherings, they gave us tickets (for example a free boat ticket to Tallinn), and so. They helped us in everything, so I was very glad to choose Haaga-Helia for my Erasmus exchange. They organized trips to Lapland, to Tallinn, to Stockholm and St. Petersburg, they organized us some cooking lessons, where we learnt some Finnish recipes. I learnt the Finnish Fish Soup. I hate fish, but that soup was amazing!

So, all in all, my monthly expenses:

  • Rent: 320EUR
  • Monthly ticket for public transportation: 25EUR (you can buy for more months as well, which would be cheaper, but think what will happen, if you lose the card like one of the Mexicans in our group)
  • Lunch in canteen: approximately 1,50×20 = 30EUR
  • Food for weekends: approximately 80EUR (I didn’t eat pizza all the time 😀 )
  • Parties: approximately 40EUR
  • Other expenses: approximately 20EUR (I liked writing letters, hahaha)

All: approximately 515EUR. The prices may be different, I was there between January and May, 2014. This is the lowest rate, I don’t say I spent this much every month. I did some travels as well, which raised my monthly expenses, I will write about those travels as well 🙂

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me.



3 thoughts on “An expensive country, which is not that expensive – how to survive Helsinki as a student?

  1. Your writing style is awesome! I can’t wait to read more about your life and travels. You are a very lucky lady to be able to do and see so much. Kraftykj

    Stopping by from swap bot


  2. Pingback: How I found my internships in abroad? – Kulturgram

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