“Hei” from Helsinki

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Who: Paul Brioux, Geography major

Where: University of Helsinki, Finland

Paul Brioux is a 3rd year geography student currently on an exchange for the year at the University of Helsinki. He says his study abroad is going very well and he’s “slowly getting used to the different lifestyle and culture in Finland.”

“The University of Helsinki is way different than Trent but it’s a nice change,” Paul tells us. “While Trent is known for its natural beauty – it’s located near drumlins, forests and of course, the Otonabee River the University of Helsinki is known for its old buildings in the downtown campus and newer, more science based classes a short drive north.” The University of Helsinki is an old establishment he notes, founded in Turku, Finland in 1640 and relocated to Helsinki in 1829.

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Paul says he’s found the Finnish language “difficult to understand.” He was “cautiously optimistic” that his previous Spanish classes may have given him a leg up but he admits he “may have been wrong”. Finnish is only closely related to one other language; Estonian.  “My teacher always says that Finnish isn’t difficult, it’s different, which is true!” Although he says that it’s “way different for a kid who grew up in a small town north of Toronto. But this is a challenge I was willing to take on.”

Paul is taking a variety of classes in multiple disciplines while he is abroad. He highlights his ‘American Politics after 9/11’ and ‘Tourism in North America’ courses as the ones he is enjoying most. “I’ve found it really interesting to learn about American politics from a professor from Chicago while in Helsinki and comparing the different perspectives from the Finnish students. I also wanted to see and understand how the events on September 11th effected the world.”  Paul received additional funding for his exchange through the Jack Matthews Study and Research Abroad Bursary.

“I really didn’t know too much about the country of Finland before arriving here in late August”, he tells us.   It was the University of Helsinki’s close proximity to mainland Europe on a quick flight or ferry that drew him to study abroad here.  This close proximity has made it possible for him to travel to elsewhere in Europe including the Netherlands, Sweden, Estonia and Scotland.  He says he’s met and made friends from many places during his travels.  “I’ve been thankful for the opportunity to get out and explore all of the different and exciting places that are within a short flight/ferry/or train ride away.”

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Paul concludes by saying that studying abroad is an opportunity that he is “so glad [he] took” saying that the “ability to study, travel and live in another country is something that everyone should do at least once in their lives.”  “I’ve learned so much about myself in the few months that I’ve been here.”

While getting used to the new experiences Paul has created a blog to allow his friends and family back home to share some of those with him: https://paulbriouxineurope.wordpress.com

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