FAQ: Frequently asked questions on student exchange

WHY IS STUDENT EXCHANGE A GOOD IDEA?

Studying abroad often gives a new and broader perspective to your own field and offers the chance to take courses not provided by your home university. The exchange period will improve your language and intercultural communication skills. You will make new friends, gain experiences and confidence, and become familiar with a different culture.

HOW SHOULD I START PLANNING FOR MY EXCHANGE?

You can start by thinking about the following questions:

Why do you want to be an exchange student?
Where do you want to go?
At what stage of your studies do you want to go?
Which exchange programme suits your plans?
What do you want to study during your exchange? Your major or minor subject, local languages, something else?
In what language would you like to study?
For how long would you like to go? Will one semester be sufficient? Or would a full academic year suit your plans better?
How will you finance your exchange?
Would you like to go by yourself or with a friend/spouse/family?

WHEN CAN I GO?

All (undergraduate/graduate/postgraduate) degree students of University of Eastern Finland whose studies have progressed normally are eligible for student exchange. You can go on exchange after you have completed one year of academic studies.

HOW LONG ARE THE EXCHANGE PERIODS?

The duration of an exchange is normally one semester or full academic year (3–12 months). The precise duration and timing of the exchange will be determined by the schedule of the host university. You should note that the start and end dates of semesters may differ from those of your home university.

WHERE CAN I GO?

There is a wealth of destinations available everywhere in the world (Nordic Countries, Europe, Russia, Asia, Africa, Australia, North America, Latin America). The precise number of available destinations varies each year. In the Erasmus+ programme, the destinations are department-/school-specific, while most destinations offered by other exchange programmes and bilateral agreements are available to students of all fields.

HOW DO I APPLY FOR EXCHANGE?

Applying for exchange is a two-stage process. In the first stage, you apply for exchange for your home university, i.e. you apply to become a UEF candidate for exchange for a certain host university/exchange programme. The first-stage application is submitted on the electronic application system SoleMOVE. The applicants accepted in the first stage then apply for the actual exchange place from the host university or exchange programme. Every university and programme has a different process for second-stage applications, and the applicants chosen in the first application stage will receive university- and programme-specific instructions for the second stage.

WHAT IS A LETTER OF MOTIVATION?

A letter of motivation is a free-form text in which the student writes about why they have chosen that particular country/university/exchange programme and provides a brief description of their studies and future study and career plans. The letter of motivation is written either in English or in the language of the host country/exchange studies.

WHAT LEVEL OF LANGUAGE SKILLS WILL I NEED TO GO ON EXCHANGE?

Becoming an exchange student does not require perfect language skills, but you should nevertheless take language into consideration when planning your exchange. Courses are increasingly available in English, but some countries and universities may not offer courses in English at all. The number of courses taught in English varies between countries, universities, and even subjects within the same university.

You should always study the language of your host country before going on exchange, whether to learn the basics of a new language or reactivate previously learned skills.

WILL AN OFFICIAL LANGUAGE TEST RESULT (TOEFL, IELTS) BE REQUIRED FOR THE EXCHANGE APPLICATION?

You should find out in good time whether your host university or exchange programme will require an official language test result to be enclosed with your application in the second stage. Official language test results are normally not required from students participating in exchange programmes. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as the ISEP programme (language certificate requirements must be checked for each individual university), Hokkaido University, and some universities in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

WHERE CAN I TAKE AN OFFICIAL LANGUAGE TEST (TOEFL or IELTS)?

TOEFL language test result is mostly required from students applying for universities in English-speaking countries. In Finland, the TOEFL language test can be taken in Helsinki and should be booked well in advance. Additional information is available here.

The other widely recognised language test is the IELTS and these tests are also organised in Helsinki. Additional information is available here.

A language test is usually required only in the second stage of applying, after the applicant’s home university has approved them as an exchange candidate.

WHAT IS A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION?

Some host universities or exchange programmes require an academic letter of recommendation to be appended to the second-stage application. You can ask for a recommendation from someone who is a member of the academic staff of your home department/school (e.g. a teacher, lecturer, or professor) who knows you as a student. Follow the guidelines of the host university or exchange programme regarding the academic letter of recommendation.

HOW WILL I GET BY FINANCIALLY WHEN STUDYING ABROAD? IS FINANCIAL AID AVAILABLE FOR EXCHANGE STUDIES?

UEF students participating in the university’s exchange programmes (with the exception of the ISEP Direct programme) are exempt from tuition fees at their host university and they receive a mobility grant from University of Eastern Finland (or from the network in the case of the subject-specific Nordplus networks). The students are required to cover the accommodation and costs of living of their own, and these costs naturally vary by destination. Additional costs are incurred from travel, insurance, and other such matters.

The students who are receiving financial aid from Kela for their studies are eligible for the study grant, housing supplement for studies abroad, and a study loan for the duration of the exchange, provided that the exchange studies are included in the student’s degree at the home university.

HOW CAN I APPLY FOR THE MOBILITY GRANT?

The mobility grant is awarded to all the students who go on exchange via UEF exchange programmes or bilateral agreements and who are accepted for exchange by the host university. The mobility grant can be paid after the student has submitted a mobility grant form with a copy of the acceptance letter or email sent by the host university to UEF International Mobility Services. It will take about 4 weeks to process the payment after both documents have been submitted, and the mobility grant can be paid a month before the beginning of the exchange at the earliest. Holiday periods may cause a delay in the payment process.

The students who go on exchange via a subject-specific Nordplus network will receive the mobility grant from the network which will send the instructions to the student by e-mail. If the network cannot issue a mobility grant to the student, the mobility grant can be awarded by University of Eastern Finland. In this case, contact UEF International Mobility Services.

WHAT IS A LEARNING AGREEMENT? WHEN DO I NEED TO SIGN IT?

A Learning Agreement (LA) is a study plan into which the student lists the planned exchange studies. The LA is signed by the contact person for international matters at the department/school of the student’s major subject and by the contact person of the host university. By signing the LA, the department/school agrees to credit the studies listed in it to the UEF degree.

The Learning Agreement is made before the beginning of exchange studies. If there are changes to be made to the LA, the changes must be recorded into the Changes to Learning Agreement document. More detailed instructions are available in the information package for outgoing exchange students.

HOW MANY CREDITS DO I NEED TO GET WHILE ON EXCHANGE? WHAT IS THE MINIMUM?

Students are expected to make progress in their studies also during the exchange. When you are planning your exchange studies and making your Learning Agreement, the minimum number of ECTS is 20 to 30 ECTS. The students should follow the host university’s instructions and regulations on matters such as the minimum number of courses. UEF will not charge back the mobility grant if you get less ECTS than recommended.

The sufficient progress of studies (5 ECTS credits per month of financial aid) is a general condition of Kela’s financial aid for students also during the exchange studies.

CAN I CANCEL MY EXCHANGE?

You may cancel your exchange for a weighty reason. You should think about whether exchange studies suit your current phase in studies and situation in life before applying.

A GPA/AVERAGE IS REQUIRED AT THE EXCHANGE APPLICATION – HOW DO I KNOW WHAT IS MY GPA?

GPA (Grade Point Average) is not calculated at University of Eastern Finland. You can write ’not applicable’ in this section. If the host university asks for the GPA again, please contact UEF International Mobility Services.

WHERE CAN I READ REPORTS WRITTEN BY PREVIOUS EXCHANGE STUDENTS?

You can read feedback left by previous exchange students through the online application system SoleMOVE: https://saas.solenovo.fi/solemove/ -> select ”University of Eastern Finland” from the list of universities -> click on ”Exchange destinations Abroad and feedback” in the top bar -> select “Search feedback” and add any filters, e.g. the country/university/exchange programme/department -> click on ”Start Search”.