I’m Leevi Vekka and I’m a final year student in the International Business degree programme at the HAMK’s Valkeakoski campus. I went to an exchange to the RIT Kosovo which is the American University of Kosovo (A.U.K) located in Prishtina. I studied there the spring semester 2019. I have also had my work placement in Pristina at the Embassy of Finland. Work placement lasts from July 2019 to October 2019.
Why you wanted to have an exchange period?
I wanted to extend my perspective and try living abroad. I chose Kosovo because my friends had good experiences from there and my teachers also recommended Kosovo. I found Kosovo interesting because I considered it the “most unknown” place in Europe and because I’m interested in politics, I thought it would be a great place to study it. Also, Kosovo’s inexpensive price level makes the country an attractive destination.
What did you study there?
Because of the phase of my studies, I could choose courses quite freely outside of the business studies as well. I studied many courses of politics which related to international relations, international law and developing countries. In addition, I studied one course of literature, so I had a lot of reading to do during the spring. The studying at RIT was more theoretical compared to studies at the university of applied sciences which suited me well. The quality of teaching at RIT was very high, which was actually a bit of surprise to me.
What was the best thing in exchange?
The list would be shorter if I had to mention which things I didn’t like. I found it a nice opportunity to study politics because I have been interested in it for a long time. After the exchange studies I got the chance to utilize my knowledge of the local state of affairs when I started the work placement in the Embassy of Finland in Prishtina. Also, all the new friends I have made are priceless. Living abroad, especially in a country where things I take for granted, like independence and freedom of movement are restricted, is a very eye-opening experience.
What was the most challenging thing in exchange?
Perhaps it has been challenging to adapt to many small things, which I might have taken for granted. You can’t use e-payment for paying bills, instead you must use cash. You have to remember to load balance to your prepaid SIM card and always have cash with you. It’s allowed to smoke for example at night clubs, so afterwards your clothes will stink. Still, the culture shock was quite minimal to me because many of my class mates are Kosovans. Sometimes, though, I have had to adjust to different points of views related for example to punctuality or your own space, which is usually important to Finns.
How did you manage with accommodation and money issues during the exchange?
I got the apartment through my local connections. In Prishtina it’s quite easy to find apartments and almost all of them are furnished. Of course, it’s easier if you get help from a local, but in Kosovo international quests are common for lessors and brokerages. It’s easy to find apartments from the Facebook (for instance Network Prishtina – Real Estate). You can also ask me hints if you need help for finding an accommodation in Prishtina.
I haven’t had to worry about financial issues in Kosovo. The price level there is really cheap compared to Finland. You can get furnished apartments in the city centre at the price of 250-400 euros / month. I have cooked food very rarely because it’s almost cheaper to eat out. During my exchange and work placement I have gotten Erasmus+ support and the study grant from Kela as well as the higher study loan.
Why would you recommend others to go for an exchange?
Exchange gives you change to try new, challenge yourself and widen your world. I don’t know if it’s arrogant or dismissive to say, but many of the problems in Finnish society seems quite small to me nowadays.