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Living in Finland - A Guide for Students

by Dr Nathalie Mather-L’Huillier

What's it like to study abroad in Finland?

Does anyone outside of Scandinavia know anything about Finland? Other than that it is home to Lapland and that you can reach the Arctic Circle there? According to Visit Finland the top reasons for going to Finland are:

  • To see tourist attractions that are off the beaten track.
  • It's a good place to hide (only the Finns came turn this into a marketing message!)
  • To do something that your friends haven’t done.
  • To visit a land of four seasons.
  • That there are no crowded places.
  • To see Santa!
  • To use a sauna (there are 1.7 million of them for a population of 5.2 million!)

Still not convinced that the 'land of saunas' is for you? Perhaps playing in the snow, experiencing 'real' driving and discovering Finland’s wildness will be enough to sway you!

Your university (or polytechnic/UAS – see our study in Finland article) should have ‘welcome guides’ for international students so it is worth consulting them when you are choosing where to study in Finland. Equally, the city or region of your chosen university will have a website (most of them will have an English version) so you can get information about local services such as public transport or sports facilities.

This article is a summary of things you should look into once you have your offer of admissions or even earlier in the decision process. Once you’re in Finland, universities (especially if you are joining an 'international masters programme', i.e. delivered in English) will offer support and advice to international students so don’t hesitate to contact them.

In terms of sources of information, other students can provide a more personal view of their experience in Finland. For formal information on visas, driving or legal issues, it is best to access official sources of information but if you are after a general view of the day-to-day living and studying in Finland, then student forum or blogs can be really useful. The Study in Finland website has its own Facebook site which you may find useful.

Key facts for Masters students in Finland

  • The academic year in Finland usually runs from August or September to May or June.
  • Around 17,600 foreign students study at Finnish universities.
  • Finland spends approximately 6.8% of GDP on education as a whole and 2.2% on tertiary education.
  • The language of Finland is Finnish, but Swedish is also widely spoken - particularly in coastal areas.
  • The Finnish term for a Masters degree is 'Ylempi korkeakoulututkinto'.
  • The currency of Finland is the Euro (€).
  • Finland has a population of around 5.5 million people, with around 1.4 million in and around its capital city, Helsinki.
  • Finland is a parliamentary democracy with a democratic election system.
  • The majority of Finns who profess a religious faith worship within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Other faiths are practised freely.

Accommodation and living costs for Masters students in Finland

In Finland most students, especially international students, live in university-owned accommodation or in student flats which are managed by either student unions or a local student housing foundation. Regional councils and local authorities will sometimes manage dormitories for students. University accommodation is in short supply so start enquiring at your institution as early as possible after you have received your letter of acceptance.

Finnish student housing (soa) provides a lot of useful information about accommodation as well as website details of student housing organisations in different locations in finland.

It is possible to rent in the private sector but sharing with other students is not a well-established practice. In addition it can be near impossible to secure accommodation before moving to Finland and in any case, you are always recommended to see the place for yourself. This means you will have to find temporary accommodation until you find something more permanent.

How much does student housing cost per month?

Monthly rent varies from one city/institution to another and it also depends on the size and type of accommodation. The average monthly rent for a single room in a shared student flat ranges from approximately €160 ($204) to €340 ($432). Single apartments or family flats are also available, but the rent rate is obviously higher.

The private sector can be considerably more expensive than student accommodation but it can be an option if you do not want to live on campus or share with other students.

Living costs and budgeting

Scandinavia in general has a reputation for being expensive, and it is true that the high rate of taxation means that the cost of living is higher than in other European countries. By northern European standards however, the cost of living in Finland is average. Finland is part of the Eurozone and the Euro (€) is the official currency.

As an indication of your budget for the duration of your studies, excluding education-related costs, students requiring a visa to study in Finland must demonstrate that they have at least €560 ($712) per month (€6,720 / $8,546 per year) at their disposal. This is a minimum and you are recommended to budget around €800 ($1018) per month. This will depend on your individual living standards. If you are on a budget, remember that as a student you can get discounts in university restaurants and cafeterias, cinemas and on public transport...

In your financial planning it is best to exclude any predicted part-time employment income because it can be hard to get a student job if you do not speak Finnish or Swedish.

Working whilst studying a Masters in Finland

EU and EEA nationals will usually be entitled to work whilst studying a Masters in Finland, though some restrictions may apply to the number of hours you are permitted to work whilst registered as a postgraduate student. If you are not a citizen of an EU or EEA country you should enquire with a Finnish embassy or with your prospective university in order to confirm the rights and restrictions that may apply to you when seeking work in Finland. Your university may maintain an international office with staff prepared to assist with such inquiries.

You can also use PostgraduateFunding.com to search a comprehensive database of small grants available to all postgraduate students. These can help top up your funding if you have any difficulty finding work alongside your studies.

Other useful information for Masters students in Finland

By now you should have a good idea of what to expect whilst studying a Masters in Finland. You'll be able to get started looking for accommodation, working out a living budget and deciding whether or not to take on a part-time job whilst you study. You'll also be ready to experience some of the more unique experiences offered by studying in Finland, whether that means exploring beautiful northern landscapes, relaxing in a sauna or going looking for Santa Claus (FindAMasters does not actually recommend postgraduate students spend their time looking for Santa Claus, unless enrolled on programmes studying myth and folklore). There are a few other areas you'll want to read up on before heading off to study a Masters in Finland though - click 'read more' for a quick introduction to transport, healthcare and banking for Masters students in Finland.

Travel and transportation

Public transport is well organised in Finland and it is relatively easy to travel in cities; Helsinki has buses, trams, local trains and a metro. To get around the rest of the country, trains, buses and flights are widely available. In the northern part of the country the transport network is less extensive.

Don’t forget that Finland’s location in northern Europe means that you can easily access neighbouring countries such as Sweden, Norway, Russia and Estonia by road, rail, air or ferry. Although, you should check the visa and other possible permit requirements before travelling


You should make sure that you have suitable healthcare cover, either through a reciprocal health agreement between your home country and Finland (this is often the case if you are from another European country) or through international student health/medical insurance (which is compulsory for non-EEA citizens to obtain their residence permit).

For information on international insurance, visit the Student Insurance Programme (SIP) website.

As a rule only permanent residents of Finland are covered under the Finnish National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, KELA. However, student healthcare for those studying at universities (not UAS) is offered by the Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS - in Finnish, the acronym is "YTHS"). If you are studying in a UAS, healthcare is sometimes provided by the local authority of the city/region you live in. Overall it's best to check with your institution.


As a masters student you do not need to have a Finnish bank account. However, it can make your day-to-day life easier, especially if you need to pay bills. There are several banks operating in Finland and the types of account they offer are not that different. In choosing a bank, you may therefore want to consider convenience in terms of location and whether, as a non-Finnish resident, you can access online banking.

To open an account, you will need to visit the bank branch in person. Make sure you have the right documentation with you, including your passport for identification purposes and a proof of your address in Finland.

Banks usually open Mon-Fri from 9.30 to 16.30 and close at the weekends, but ATM machines/cash dispensers are available 24/7.

This article is the property of FindAMasters.com and may not be reproduced without permission.

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