The bridge crossing lake Jyväsjärvi takes you from Mattilanniemi campus to Ylistönrinne campus. Photo: Perttu Puranen

Dear international student, we want to congratulate you on making an excellent choice coming here. To make your settling in as easy as possible, we collected some useful information about Jyväskylä and our university. Whether you stay here for a few months, one full year or even longer, you probably want to know this stuff rather now than later.

Local transport: Bike. Need we say more? Everyone rides a bike – everywhere. We highly recommend you to get one as well. Sometimes you can find used ones at a low price from local flea markets. Also see Facebook group ”Roskalava Jyväskylä”, where you may find a person willing to give you their old bike. There are also several other groups where sellers and buyers meet. Search for ”annetaan”, ”myydään”, ”ostetaan” or ”vaihdetaan” where people sell – or give away – used stuff. And before you hop on your bike, please, ask your tutor or anyone else about the traffic rules.

Buses are rather expensive in Jyväskylä. However, sometimes you may find them a nice way to travel. You might want to consider getting a bus card called ”näyttökortti” instead of paying for single rides. Local buses charge you more (almost double fare) when traveling from 11 pm till 4 am. With ”näyttökortti” you don’t have to pay any extra at night time.

Long-distance transport: While in Jyväskylä, you probably want to go and explore other Finnish cities as well. Train is a good way to travel long-distance. However, the ticket fares vary a lot depending on date and time. If your schedule is flexible, it is usually cheaper to travel in the middle of the week. Friday and Sunday are the most popular days to travel and therefore more expensive. You may find bargain tickets if you register in Veturi, the railway company VR’s customer loyalty program. It’s free of charge and can help you save a lot of money.

Also see Facebook groups for shared rides. Type ”kimppakyyti” in Facebook’s search box, and you will find several groups for shared rides from Jyväskylä to other cities.

Campus: Right now, our campus site looks more like a construction site – especially Seminaarinmäki, the main campus. Several buildings are being renovated due to indoor air quality issues. Construction work may affect your moving around in the university area, and some of the lectures may be held in temporary spaces. Prepare yourself for everything. One year, students had an exam in a movie theater.

Student restaurants: In general, food in the university cafeterias is awesome. The quality is high, the prices low. If you want to make the most of your lunch, timing is the key. Avoid having lunch around noon so you avoid queuing. Especially in Ilokivi you will sometimes find a line reaching the front door. Showing up later, close to the closing time, might come with other perks too. There could be left-over dessert…

Unfortunately, sometimes some options displayed on the menu may have ran out if you come very late.

Not only campus restaurants have lunch at the student price. Especially vegetarian students will be happy to know that restaurant Katriina in Kauppakatu, only a couple of minutes’ walk from Seminaarinmäki campus, serves a vegetarian soup lunch for just 2,60 euros.

Finnish students: We may seem shy and restrained, and we definitely don’t make the first move, but we would in fact love to get to know you. Language should be no issue. After all, most of us have studied English since the 3rd grade.

Very often international students aren’t integrated with Finnish students, unfortunately. Exchange students hang out with each other, and Finnish students do the same thing. You are more than welcome to join student organizations’ – each major subject has one – events. Add yourself to your major’s organization’s Facebook group and mailing list to get the information on upcoming events. And then, just show up. Usually these organizations also have one person responsible for international things. You can ask that person, or anyone else, about how to participate. You can also give your student organization feedback or new ideas for reaching international students.

And guys, ahoy! According to a recent article, Finnish girls have problems finding dating partners of the same nationality. It has been noted that especially in the university cities, including Jyväskylä, girls are very willing to get to know international males and potentially date them.

IT: Our university is sort of high-tech. You can make eExams, log on to a wireless network on campus and borrow an iPad for two weeks in the University Library. We won’t go into details, because you will most likely be informed on IT stuff on your first days at the university.

But we do want to warn you not to trust Finland’s high-tech reputation too much. For example, in some of the exam rooms you won’t even find a clock on the wall, so you may want to bring your own good old-fashioned wrist watch to exams.

Grocery stores: You will probably find Finnish grocery stores expensive. That’s because they are. Usually small neighborhood stores are even pricier, so you may want to find your way to a bigger supermarket. They often have special discounts every week and, in general, products might be a lot cheaper than in small stores or kiosks.

However, small stores are the ones that stay open later. For example, on Saturdays bigger supermarkets actually close already at 6 pm. Check the opening and closing times before you travel any further to buy food. In Finland stores, like anything else for that matter, aren’t open 24/7.

And, by the way, alcohol is sold only from 9 am till 9 pm, so even if your local store is open longer, don’t expect them to sell you even a beer. You won’t find any beverages above 4,7 % in grocery stores. Those are only sold in Alko.

Discounts: Jyväskylä is a student-friendly city. In lots of places you can get student discounts. In most of such places, they have a sign saying ”opiskelija-alennus”. If you don’t see the sign, just ask for the discount. Some places may actually give you the discount even if they don’t advertise it.

Winter: You probably have been warned about the brutal winter in Finland. If you are reading this, people obviously weren’t able to scare you. That’s good, because winter in Jyväskylä is in fact a lot of fun! There will be a free of charge ice skating rink in the lake Jyväsjärvi, and also many smaller ones scattered around the town. So just get yourself a pair of skates, and have fun.

If you like snowboarding or downhill skiing, ski resort Laajavuori is located just four kilometers from the city center. Maybe you also want to try out cross-country skiing, which is a very traditional Finnish sport.

As Finns are very fanatic about ice hockey, also Jyväskylä has its own team, JYP. Next Liiga season will start in September. Check the schedule online and join the local fans either in Synergia arena, where the home matches are played, or go to a bar to see the match.

And just for your information, we actually don’t have polar bears, so don’t be disappointed.