The Russians are catching up to the Chinese, who have until now been the largest group of foreign students in Finland.
Russians are particularly keen on applying to universities in the south-east, such as the town of Lappeenranta. For some, such as Vyborg residents, the trip from home is actually shorter than the domestic ride to St. Petersburg.
The Saimaa University of Applied Sciences in south-eastern Finland has quite a number of Russians students.
“Over half [of students] are, luckily for us and for the area, Russians. Word has spread on the Russian side that such education is available in Finland. There are quite many applicants, and they are very gifted students,” says the university’s principal, Anneli Pirttilä.
More students from other countries are also choosing Finland as their education destination. For example, in the year 2000 there were no Nepalese students in the Finnish higher education system, but now they’re the third largest national group.
“The whole world open”
Julia Dolgopolova began her studies at the capital region's Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences two years ago. She's now been interning at an international company in Helsinki.
“Russians come to Finland because it’s Europe and the living standards are on a different level. There are much better possibilities if you are able to handle the language problems,” Julia says.
She points out that studying in Finland opens up a wealth of prospects.
“If I continue working here, later on I have opportunities to go further,” Julia says. “It's opening the whole world for me.”