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Experiencing academic freedom in Finland: Iman’s story

31.10.2023 13.36 | Published in English on 31.10.2023 at 13.55

Iman Baramaki closes his eyes and breathes in the cool early summer air, chilly even in Finnish standards. "Perhaps the best thing about Finland is the air. It's so clean. You only have to visit Stockholm to notice the difference." Energetic and cheerful, the 25-year-old postgraduate student is a relatively new resident of Helsinki. Originally from Iran, he had also studied in Turkey before arriving in Finland in August 2022. Pursuing an academic career and a life in Finland seems like a significant change considering his background. What made Iman choose Finland? The short answer is science.

"The University of Helsinki is among the top 1% universities in the world. It actually made the decision for me," Iman says. 

Iman is studying Pharmaceutical Research, Development and Safety in the Master’s program at the University of Helsinki. After completing his Bachelor's in Pharmacy, Iman wanted to continue his postgraduate studies and was interested in neuroscience. After researching the offerings of different countries and universities, Iman discovered that the University of Helsinki had "world-class researchers who have conducted cutting-edge research on various neurodegenerative diseases, which I was very interested in getting into." That marked the beginning of Iman's journey to Finland.

Application Process

Iman searched for information online and explored different opportunities to study in Finland. He found useful information on the university's website, Study in Finland and Studyinfo websites, as well as the website of the Finnish Immigration Service. Iman also attended Finnish Immigration Service’s webinar, where he had the opportunity to ask questions about the application process. Iman was accepted into two other European universities as well, but Helsinki ultimately won the race. 

Iman describes the residence permit process through as straightforward and clear. The only thing he needed personal assistance with was a few additional documents required. Iman emailed the Finnish Immigration Service and received the necessary help. After that, everything went smoothly and surprisingly quickly, he says. He obtained a residence permit for the entire duration of his master's program, which is two years. As advice to others applying to study in Finland, he gives a simple tip with a smile: "Don't ask Google, trust official channels!"

Life and Studies in Finland

Iman has found studying in Finland to be very different from his previous experiences in the Middle East. He soon learned a new term that he had never heard outside of Finland: academic freedom.

"Basically, the universities here have no hierarchical system. The teachers and professors are always approachable; they are there to ensure that you learn and cater to your needs. There is no pressure on the students, and the teachers are doing their best to help you succeed in your studies."

Alongside his studies, Iman works as a research assistant at the university and finds balancing work and studies easy. He also considers the 30-hour weekly limit for student employment quite suitable, allowing for nearly full-time work if needed. While juggling studies and work, Iman enjoys the Viikki campus and the surrounding nature, the student community, and the gym. And that clean air he mentioned. 

The perks of studying in Finland

“The high quality of life, even as an international student, is one of the perks I am enjoying. Also, how easy it is to approach world-class scientists at the university and get their opinions on how you can further your career.

So far, my experience has been very positive. I am looking forward to building my future here in Finland.”

Experiencing academic freedom in Finland: Iman’s story


FACT: Residence permit on the basis of studies

  • A student who is not a citizen of the EU needs a residence permit if they come to study in Finland for more than 90 days.

  • The residence permit is granted for the entire duration of the studies.

  • In 2022, 8,383 residence permits were granted based on studies.

  • A student can obtain a residence permit if they come to Finland as a degree student, an exchange student or a student in special and additional education.

  • In the application, the student must prove that they have sufficient funds to live in Finland and cover tuition fees. They also need a health insurance.

  • The residence permit can be applied through the Finnish Immigration Service's Enter Finland online service.

Funded by the European Union: Next Generation EU.

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