Students in field

Exchange Student Spotlight: Abdi Bekele, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences

January 24, 2023

Small class sizes and faculty mentoring reward business student with invaluable experience studying abroad at Finlandia University

Abdi Bekele

The International Exchange Program at Finlandia University allows students who study at partner institutions to attend Finlandia for a semester abroad. These students can immerse themselves in American culture while earning credit toward their degree.

In this Q&A, Abdi Bekele, an aviation business student from Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences in Porvoo, Finland, details his experience attending FinnU and living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Why did you choose Finlandia as your school of exchange?

A couple of years ago, I visited Michigan and met a few people with a Finnish heritage; they explained a little bit of the history, and I have been intrigued ever since then. Furthermore, when I realized my University was Finlandia’s partner, I knew it was the best opportunity for me as I was so interested in the Finnish heritage in the United States.

In addition, as a business student, I want to explore the entrepreneurial opportunity and ideas between Finland and the United States. The exchange program gave me a great insight into the similarities and differences in business practices between the two regions, which provided me with a baseline understanding of the region, demographic, and culture, which I hope to leverage and start a business between the regions when the time is right.

What do you like most about Finlandia?

I value Finlandia’s small class sizes and the faculty’s dedication to my intellectual and personal development. Thanks to the meticulous mentoring in Finlandia’s small class environments, I have forged ties with professors and students that inspired me and may last a lifetime.

What have you enjoyed most about the student exchange experience?

I enjoyed the whole experience. That is why it is challenging to point to one specific thing, but if I have to choose one, I will say the beautiful location in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

What are the biggest differences between life here in Michigan and your life back home?

I discovered that there are more similarities than differences between the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Finland. The first and most apparent similarity is the climate and the very similar ecosystem. In addition, there is a strong, deep-rooted Finnish-American Heritage, which I got to experience and learn more about the history and connections between the two regions. It is always exciting to see a street name in the Finnish language and hear people having a conversation in Finnish. One difference that comes to mind is the geographical landscape, as Houghton County has many beautiful mountains and hills, much different from the geographical landscape of southern Finland.

Take us through a day in the life as an exchange student at Finlandia University.

My typical day as an exchange student at Finlandia starts around 7:30 Am. I get breakfast, then plan for the day. My class begins at 11:10 Am most days, so I use this time to finish assignments and read. I might go to Maki Library or do it at home. Most days, I will be in classes until 4:00 Pm and then get something to eat, continue working on assignments and do some studying. Most evenings, I like to go for a walk, or a hike, then come home, relax and then get ready for the next day.

What do you do in your free time?

I like the outdoors. Fishing and hiking are my go-to activities in my free time. I also enjoy repairing smartphones and cars as a hobby.

What has been your favorite class at Finlandia?

Project management has been one of my favorite courses here at Finlandia. I have learned ways to keep project schedules on track, meet the budget, and collaborate with colleagues to ensure everything runs efficiently. Furthermore, throughout the course, I have developed my MS project skills, communication, organization, and leadership skills, which are an asset for my career. In addition, project management is a stimulating and rewarding career path that allows me to be versatile and work with various people, challenges, and situations.

What benefits do you see in pursuing an exchange student or study abroad program?

One of the benefits of pursuing an exchange study or study abroad program is experiencing and learning from a new curriculum.

There are differences in curriculum, educational philosophy, and class structure from one country to the next. Students will be engaged in a completely new educational system while studying as exchange students. Working toward a broader understanding and acceptance of people from other countries will help them develop their global perspective and cultural competencies.

Students may pick up academic skills in their field that they would not have acquired at home. Students also unquestionably explore issues of interest from several angles as they cultivate a global mindset.


International Business Degree
International School of Business
Majors and Minors
Study Abroad
Finlandia Exchange Opportunities

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
FinnU will not enroll students for 2023-2024Learn More