“Finland has a lot of things money cannot buy” – a year as an exchange student made Finland a second home country for Lejla Cardzic

Experiences Erasmus+ Erasmus+ for higher education
Metal music fan Lejla Cardzic came to Finland as an exchange student and fell in love with the country. Lejla currently works as a mechanical engineer in Jyväskylä and her relationship with her new home country has become true love.
Lejla Cardzic

The interview with 24-year-old Lejla Cardzic from Bosnia-Herzegovina begins with a discussion on which language we should use for the interview. Cardzic started to learn Finnish slightly over three years ago and Finnish is now becoming her best foreign language, alongside English.

“I knew from the beginning that learning the language would help me to find work in Finland. After my first day in Finland, there has not been a day when I haven't been studying Finnish. I often joke that the complicated grammar and the millions of exceptions in the Finnish language are my favourite nightmares,” Cardzic says.

When you are learning a new language, you may first hesitate to say anything. This happened to Lejla too: with Finns, the language was very quickly changed to English.

“I wanted to speak good Finnish so much that I didn't speak at all. Thanks to my colleagues and friends, I soon realised how much Finnish people appreciate that I speak their language. They try to understand what I am saying and don't give up with me! I soon decided that I will never reply in English to Finnish people,” Lejla describes her language immersion.

Her Finnish is now so good that it is not necessary to edit her comments in this text much more than Finnish spoken by Finnish people needs to be modified in texts for publication.

Students are the priority

Lejla arrived in Finland as an Erasmus+ exchange student in 2017. She studied mechanical engineering at JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Jyväskylä.

“I could have chosen to do my exchange in many other countries. When I read that Finland was in the list, I didn't hesitate for a moment. I had been dreaming of Finland since I was a teenager, although heavy metal was the only thing I knew about Finland at the time. Rock and heavy metal still mean more than just music to me.”

Lejla says everything went smoothly from the very beginning. She took a coach from Helsinki Airport to the bus station in Jyväskylä, where she was met by JAMK’s tutor students and students from Bosnia-Herzegovina who were studying at JAMK. They took Lejla and the other arrivals to their flats and showed them around in the city and at the university.

Lejla says she felt that she and the other students were made a priority in all of JAMK’s activities.

“The teachers tried to explain everything and often stayed behind after the lesson to make sure that we got an answer to all our questions.”

She also finds higher education in Finland very modern. The majority of the teaching material at JAMK was digital.

“In Bosnia, my back was hurting from carrying all the books. Technical drawings were made by hand, and you therefore had to carry large papers, special pens and pencils and rulers with you. I think it should no longer be necessary in the 21st century.”

The relaxed world of work

During her exchange, Lejla completed studies both at Jyväskylä and at the university of technology of her home town Mostar. She was also writing her master’s thesis at the same time. After the exchange year, she returned to her home country and presented her master’s thesis “in front of the committee”.

After her graduation, Cardzic returned to Finland and now designs papermaking machines in the Finnish company Elomatic Oy. The rules at Finnish workplaces have been a pleasant surprise to her.

“At first I was surprised when everyone at the workplace was wearing sandals or slippers, and no one objected to it. Now I have got used to wearing them too and they are my favourite thing at work.”

Lejla feels that the working conditions and enjoying work are important in Finland.

“The rules at workplaces are much stricter in many other countries. I think a lack of freedoms and opportunities to relax may cause stress at the work and have a negative effect on working.”

Lejla finds her colleagues and Finnish friends calm and quiet and says she envies them that.

“They talk only when they have something to say or have something smart to say. My tongue is still faster than my brain sometimes.”

Lejla is the youngest person in her workplace.

“So I am still learning. All my colleagues have been supportive although I kept asking for help every few minutes in the beginning. But they always said to me that there are no stupid questions. I am very grateful for such a friendly reception.”

To Lievestuore instead of Lapland

Quietness, equality and safety. Clean air, forests and lakes. Honesty, truth and education. Lejla’s list of the different sides of Finland sounds like endless praise.

As a place to live, Finland gives her peace of mind.

“Finland has a lot of things you can’t buy with money. Perhaps the most important thing is that efforts are made to provide the conditions for a decent life for everyone.”

Lejla says she has learned the value of money and education personally. She explains that financing her engineering studies was rather difficult for her.

“In Bosnia, you have to pay a fee to join the university. I received a grant that is awarded for the best students, but it was only EUR 50 per month.”

The Erasmus+ grant was crucial for Lejla. She was even able to save some of it for herself. Her goal was clear: she had to save money because she wanted to be able to also pay her return to Finland.

“The grant helped me to manage the basic things, but I never went to Lapland, Estonia, Russia or Sweden like many other students did. On one weekend, I travelled to Lievestuore near Jyväskylä, where I swam in a hole in the ice for the first time in my life. That was all!”

  • Project type: Erasmus+ for Higher Education, Student mobility
  • Sending higher education institution: Dzemal Bijedic University of Mostar
  • Receiving higher education institution: Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences (JAMK)
  • Project period: Academic year 2017
  • Partner countries: Bosnia-Herzegovina and Finland
  • Funding: The student may receive a grant for financing their travel and stay. The grant amount varies depending on the differences in the living costs of the country of origin and the country of destination, the number of persons applying for the grant, the distance between the countries and the availability of other grants.

Author: Matias Manner