A group of Finnish medical students at Vilnius University (VU) created a special organisation to help and encourage students from Finland arrive and start their studies in Lithuania. According to them, the association at Vilnius University creates a great link between other unions and associations in Finland as well as in other Baltic countries.
The current members of the organisation board are Nina Luomakoski (chairperson), Jenni Tynkkynen (vice-chairperson), Silja Valkama (secretary), Ida Koivisto (representative for events), and Reetta Pakkanen (fund manager). They have all received their high school diplomas in Finland and some of them earned other degrees, for example in nursing and midwifery, before coming to study medicine in Lithuania.
“We created the Association of Finnish Medical Students in Vilnius in 2018 because of the increasing number of Finnish medical students beginning their studies at VU. It is a popular tradition at Finnish universities that every faculty has its own association run by students,” Ida stated.
The aim of the Association is to help new (and existing) students from Finland with practical issues related to studies at VU and to provide accurate information regarding internships and working, living issues in Lithuania. It is also a part of a bigger organisation of medical students in Finland, and the members are able to benefit from their services as well.
“Additionally, we arrange activities for our members. At least once per semester, senior students teach practical techniques to the others. These workshops have themes, for instance, suturing, patient examination, manual BP measurement, etc., and the themes change every time,” Ida stated. According to her, companies and doctors from Finland also come to Vilnius and train medical students from time to time.
Many Finnish students choose to study medicine abroad because in order to get a spot in Finland you need to take a couple of years to study/prepare for the entrance examination, which includes questions about physics, chemistry and biology.
“Some of our students applied to Finland a couple of times, and some of our students came to Vilnius directly after finishing high school. All in all, the most common reason to study abroad is the ability to get in without an entrance examination and not to waste many years trying to get a spot in Finland,” Silja explained. In her opinion, most Finnish students want to move on to working life quickly and graduate as soon as possible.
Finnish students usually choose to study medicine in the Baltic countries, Sweden, Ukraine, and Romania. Now, there are about 1,120 Finnish students studying medicine abroad. Silja and Ida, now 4th year students, along with their two fellow students, were the first Finnish people to come and study medicine in Vilnius in the autumn of 2016.
Because of the lack of information about the possibility for Finnish people to study in Vilnius, they decided to start answering all questions new students might have and writing about their experience at VU: “After we present our study programme, new students are able to get accurate information about their possibilities and easily get answers from those who are already studying”, Nina said.
The students visit different high schools in Finland to represent VU and organise events, training sessions for students. Silja and Ida think that Vilnius University is undoubtedly very traditional and appreciated and that Vilnius is a very compact and beautiful city. By the time when Nina (2nd year student) and freshmen students Jenny and Reetta applied, the programme in Vilnius was better known in their home country, there was more information available, and they heard a lot of positive feedback about studying in Vilnius.
“We are really happy with the studies and most of the professors are really great and real experts of their field. When we started in 2016, we felt like the programme was still fairly new, but we have noticed so many positive changes over the years, for example – allowing our students to take the whole 6th year to do their internship in Finland. And we love the addition of more practical skill development for the students in the lower years,” students said.
Jenni and Nina stated that for Finnish students the development of practical skills is very important, because after the 4th year of studies they are already able to work as junior doctors at a hospital, get a license to prescribe medications, etc. Before that, they can do paid internships in their chosen specialty. After the 5th year, the students are allowed to work at an outpatient clinic as a doctor with the possibility to ask for consultation from senior doctors.
“We highly encourage our students to take as many internships/summer jobs in Finland during the holiday period as possible to integrate into the Finnish system,” the members of the Association of Finnish Students explained.
After graduation from VU, most of the Finnish students go back to Finland. There are 50 medical specialties to choose from, so hopefully everyone will find their own place: “Although most of us will continue our education and career in Finland, we will always be proud to call Vilnius University our alma mater, and we wish to carry its name with pride throughout our career as medical doctors,” the members of the Association said.