Travel report Exchange Fall Semester 2014

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1 Travel report Exchange Fall Semester 2014 Picture 1 Climb to Säntis (close to St. Gallen) Aalto University School of Business

2 Contents 1. Introduction Getting ready for the exchange Before leaving Arriving Accommodation Local SIM card Studying at HSG General Bidding My courses Free time and other things Free time in St. Gallen Travelling BuddySystem Final comments... 10

3 1. Introduction I did my bachelor s exchange at the University of St. Gallen (Universität St. Gallen or HSG) in Switzerland. One of the biggest reasons for me for choosing HSG was that it was in the German speaking part of Switzerland and it was situated in the very center of Europe. Due to this it was very easy and cheap to travel around the Central Europe and to see other kinds of cultures as well. Also Switzerland itself is already multi-cultural country so you were able to meet people from Germany, Italy and France as well. Also one of the main reasons why I chose St. Gallen was the University s good reputation. In 2014 Financial Times ranked HSG 6th among all the European Business schools. It was also ranked the 1st in the Strategic Management Master s Program. In general, St. Gallen is a rather small city (population around ) but that did not bother me that much. It is still an actual city and there is everything that you need and even more. Also the distances to other bigger cities are not that big so it is easy to go to Zürich for instance to party or to shop. One thing that you need is good shoes as the city itself is in between two large hills and the University is on top of one of these hills. 2. Getting ready for the exchange 2.1 Before leaving Before leaving for the exchange I reserved extensive information from HSG by at first and then by normal mail, so it was good to follow the mail closely. The s will cover a lot of the byrocrazy that you are required to do before leaving and also information about the important dates that you need to follow. By reading these mails and following the guides it is very easy to get everything done. If you need additional information, the school s website is very easy to use and it gives you a lot of information about everything that you could possible need to know. Other things to remember are the things that you need to do back here in Finland. You need to return the learning agreement to Aalto but this a little bit tricky because of the bidding system used at HSG. Thus, you might not know until several weeks after your school has started what courses you will be taking. I will cover the bidding system later in this report. You also need to do the moving papers (muuttoilmoitus), take care of all the required insurance papers (there is a lot

4 of information about the insurances in the material that you will be getting from Aalto and HSG) and informing KELA about your exchange in order to make the adjustments to your financial aid. Make sure that you have your European Health Insurance card with you when you are leaving to Switzerland since otherwise you need to get a Swiss health insurance. 2.2 Arriving When you are traveling to St. Gallen, the best way to get there is to fly to Zürich and then take a train from the airport to St. Gallen. The train leaves from under the airport every half an hour and it takes about an hour to get to St. Gallen main train station that is situated in the center of St. Gallen. Before taking the train, you should buy the Half Fare card or the HalbTax card. You are required to buy this for a whole year and it costs about 175 CHF but this is money well spent. You will get all the train tickets for half the original price and a lot of other discounts from busses etc. You can also purchase the Gleis7 card that allows you to use the public transportation after 7 p.m. for free. I didn t buy this and neither did my friends at HSG since you rarely travel after 7 that much and it also costs around 300 CHF. If you are really going to travel a lot, then this might do the trick but otherwise I would not buy it. So think about the necessity of Gleis7 but definitely buy the Halbtax card immediately when you land and after that buy your ticket to St. Gallen. You also need a passport picture for your Halbtax and later for you registration at the town hall so take some passport pictures with you to St. Gallen. You can also take the picture in a booth at the airport but it is easier to get this done before you leave. You can also decide whether or not to participate the two week orientation week that involves intensive German course that I took. It was a very good way to get to know the other exchange students and the campus. Also it was very good to practice your German a bit before you get to know the local students. You will be placed into a group based on your placing test score that is fairly easy if you have any former studies in German. Also the teachers were nice and the themes were designed so that they will also let you know about cool places to visit in Switzerland. You are required to register at the town hall before two weeks of time. This costs around 60 CHF and you will need to fill some forms that you will receive from HSG beforehand. In order to do this

5 registration you need to visit the town hall couple of times as you need some papers also from the university. As Switzerland is not anymore part of the ERASMUS they now offer their own scholarships for the exchange students from Europe. This scholarship is called the Swiss European Mobility Program scholarship. The scholarship is worth 360 CHF per month (4 months) and I received it in the end of September You will get a notice to apply for it and the required information to fill the papers. 2.3 Accommodation It is possible to apply for an accommodation through the housing office at the university or search for a place on your own. I got my place through the housing office and everything went very smoothly. I also know that people have easily found accommodation through the private market but then you really need to do the search on your own. The problem with the private housing market is that the apartments are usually unfurnished so you need to spend money on stuff like that which is not the case with the housing office apartments. When applying for the apartment you can also make wishes on where you want to live. To my knowledge, if you know exactly where you want to go, you will most probably get that place. Most of the apartments are situated in the city centrum so you have all the grocery store etc. really close to you. The only downside is that you need to make the climb to the university every morning. I had my place up on the same hill as the university is, this was nice because then I didn t need to use the steps every day. The only downside with living on the hill was that you were relatively far from the city center (although the public transportation is very good and it is easy and fast to get to the city center) and there are no real grocery stores near. Once you arrive to St. Gallen, you need to visit the housing office that was not at the university but close to the train station. You will get all you need from there and then you are able to proceed to your own apartment. If the apartment is in the center, you might want to walk there but as mine was up the hill, the best way was to take a taxi, which surprisingly was not that expensive.

6 2.4 Local SIM card You will receive a free LEBARA SIM card from the buddy system during the first two weeks which is fairly cheap to use. It is a pre-paid card that you can top up at the local K-Kiosk for instance. It is free to call from one LEBARA to another so keeping touch with your fellow exchange students and buddy system people is easy. The data package was also very helpful and when you were travelling to other countries, the fees to make international calls were the cheapest ones that you could get. 3. Studying at HSG 3.1 General HSG offers a lot of different courses for both M.Sc. and B.Sc. students. It is possible to choose only courses that are taught in English or courses that are also taught in German. But be aware that choosing courses taught only in German are quite demanding and you should only take them if you really know you German. I took one of these courses in the beginning but found it to be a lot harder than I first thought. Also if you take the course in German, you need to do the exam in German, which usually for the exchange students is oral, so you really need to be able to speak up your mind at the exams. Also most of the courses at HSG are worth 3 or 4 credits, so to get the full 30 credits; you need to take several courses. I was able to take one 6 credit course and all the others were worth 4 credits. The 6 credit course was not that much more time consuming so if it is possible it is wise to choose the courses that give you more credits. The exams for the courses are set on the two last weeks before the exchange students are leaving. Otherwise the exam period is during the central examination period when the local students take the exams. The exchange students are asked to take care by themselves that there is an exam for you before the central examination but I found that at least for the B.Sc. courses, these decentral examination were always arranged regardless of your activity. If you want to enhance your German skill, you might want to take some language courses at HSG. After the two week intensive German course, the teacher will pretty much tell you what level you should be taking. Also additional to these official courses, you are offered to meet up with a local

7 student that will talk German with you and in the best scenario he/she will want to learn your language. Thus, it is basically an exchange where you teach you language and he/she teaches you German. 3.2 Bidding The way to select your courses for the semester is to bid for them before the semester starts. You will get very specific guide on this well before the bidding starts. It sound a bit hard at first but what it basically is, is an auction. The most important thing is to find the courses you want, see that they don t collide (this is very important), find a couple of back up courses (most probably you are not going to need those) and rank them according to you preferences. When the bidding begins, you are given 1000 points (this is basically the money that you have in the auction) that you distribute according to your preferences. The rules of bidding say that this 1000 points is divided into 500 and 500 and you can use them to bid for certain courses. THIS DOES NOT APPLY ON THE EXCHANGE STUDENTS so make sure that you use all of the 1000 points. Everyone will pay for the course the amount that was the lowest one that some bid to get in to the course. Thus, in the next round you will get these points back that you paid over this price and the possible points that come from an unsuccessful bid that you did not get. The highest bid that I did was around 200 points but usually you don t have to go that high. You can see from the places left which courses are popular and you should bid the most for those ones. Also, the courses taught in English are rather popular. You should bid for the language courses on the last rounds when there is no minimum bid because usually you get the language courses for 0 points.

8 3.3 My courses 3, 164, 1 Real Estate Finance and Investments (undergraduate, 4 ECTS) Professor: Roland Füss Grading: 20% Case study, 80% Exam This was one of my favorite courses that I took in HSG. The lecturer was really good and his examples gave a lot of extra to this course. Also it was nice to get a real estate course since Aalto BIZ doesn t really have one. The course itself was not too hard to pass since the lecturer pretty much told us what we should concentrate on when studying for the exam. Also the topics for the case study were not too hard either so they were not too hard to finish. 3, 174, 1 Doing Business in China (undergraduate, 4 ECTS) Professor: Maximilian von Zedtwitz Grading: 100% Exam This course was taught during the semester break. The semester break is a two week period when you can either just relax or take some seminar courses like this. The course took only one week and in the end of the week there was the exam. It is required for you to be there every day but this is a very nice way to get 4 ECTS fast. The course itself was very interesting and the lecturer knew a lot from the topic. Although I was not very interested in the Chinese market, now I know much more about it and would like to visit China one day. 3, 202, 1 Microeconomics II (undergraduate, 4 ECTS) Professor: Catherine Roux Grading: 100% Exam The course was divided into lectures and exercise sessions but neither is mandatory to attend. The course is the next level if you have taken the basic courses in Microeconomics but it still goes through the basic concepts that I already was familiar with. The course might have been a bit more mathematically loaded than the courses here at Aalto but the exercises will help

9 you through it all. The exam was oral, so you really needed to understand the concepts that the course covered. 3, 212, 1 Macroeconomics (undergraduate, 4 ECTS) Professor: Winfried Koeniger Grading: 10% Online test, 90% Exam Quite similar to the Microeconomics course skill wise but this had some mandatory online tests that were not that easy but they were only 10% of the grade. I encourage you to buy the course book for this one since the lecture slides were not that complete. Also the exam was oral and you need to draw all the basic graphs that you are used to see in a macro class. So I made sure that I really knew what I was talking about. The key in the oral exams is understanding what you are doing, not just solving an equation. 3, 436, 1 European and International Capital Market Law (undergraduate, 6 ECTS) Professor: Christian Rehm & Thomas Werlen Grading: 100% Exam This was also one of the highlight courses during my stay at HSG. The lecturers were extremely good and we went through a lot of interesting cases in the lectures. This course will offer you the basic understanding how the capital market law works in Europe, the U.S. and Switzerland. There was a lot of material to cover for the exam but the it was very interesting so it did not feel like you needed to do that much work for the exam. The exam itself was written and quite hard so it is good to prepare well before and attend the lectures. 3, 760, 1 Cognitive Psychology of Responsible Behavior (undergraduate, 4 ECTS) Professor: Mohammad Shafiullah Grading: 100% Presentations and Participation in the group assignments

10 This was the one course that I was waiting for the most. Main focus of the course was on the cognitive psychology and its terminology. This terminology was used to get some insight for instance on the incentives behind the financial crisis. The lectures were used for intensive conversations and presentations. The grading is based on a portfolio that you will be doing the whole course. This portfolio was fairly easy to come up with so that it was one of the easiest courses to pass. 7, 909, 1 Deutsch Obere Mittelstufe (B2) (undergraduate, 4 ECTS) Professor: Elke Breitenfeldt Grading: 50% Oral Exam & 50% Written Exam One of the reasons why I chose HSG was that I would be able to learn German there and that is why I also took one language course. This course was the highest level to attend with the exchange students and it also gave the most ECTS as a language course. The lectures were used to work on your vocabulary, doing some grammar exercises and to making a lot of different conversations. There were usually not that many people in the class and thus it was nice to make deeper conversations during the class. The lecturer on this course was very nice and helpful. 4. Free time and other things 4.1 Free time in St. Gallen It was nice to find out that St. Gallen offered a free membership to the university s gym that was located next to the main building. There were also two big football fields that we used when it was good weather for that. In addition the local Unisport offers a lot of different group classes and hikes to the near mountains. Although St. Gallen is a rather small city, there is a lot of different grocery and clothes stores (H&M, Zara, IKEA etc.). I did my groceries at Migros which can be compared to the Finnish S or K stores. It is also possible to do the shopping at the Lidl-like store called Denner, which is a bit cheaper but it does not have all that I was looking for. Also you can only pay with cash at Denner.

11 There is also a nice variety of different bars and restaurants in the center of St. Gallen. Whether you are looking for a place to have a nice meal or a coffee, or looking for a place to party, you will find those places anywhere you go in the center. There are certain places where you will go with the local tutors (BuddySystem) but you can also find other places that suit you the best. 4.2 Travelling As already mentioned, St. Gallen is situated so that it is very easy to do some travelling when you have the time and the money. The public transportation in Switzerland works very well and the SBB website will help you a lot when you are planning your travels in Switzerland or to some other country. I did some travelling within Switzerland and also to the countries around it. If you are going there during the fall semester I would encourage you to go to Munich and visit the Oktoberfest, this was one of the best trips that I did. Just make sure to book your place to stay in Munich in advance since the whole place if crowded. I also did a one-day hike to the mountain close to St. Gallen, called Säntis. This was really an experience that I would really recommend to anyone. 4.3 BuddySystem As I already mentioned before, the local student tutors are collectively called the Buddysystem. You will be assigned to your personal buddy that is supposed to help you with everything that you have to ask. I never met mine as he was living in Zürich but I could ask him couple of things via . The Buddysystem in overall is very useful as they will give you a lot of information about the university, they will take you to parties, they will arrange a lot of different get-togethers and, as already mentioned, you will get the LEBARA SIM card from them. They also had a BuddySystem Facebook group that was extremely useful with keeping up with everything that was happening. 5. Final comments If you are looking for a highly ranked business university that offers you a gateway to traveler also around the Europe, I would recommend HSG very openly. My experience was top notch and I never heard anybody complaining about their stay. It is also a place for students who want to study and not just party all the time (although that is also possible). Switzerland has a beautiful

12 nature and, like in Finland, everything works and is well organized. I also did not find Switzerland that expensive as people usually think. If you are willing to cook by yourself and not shopping all the time, you will be just fine.

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