Which of these European schools would you rather spend a semester to a year abroad at?

I want to go somewhere that's not super duper large (so no London/Paris/Madrid/BCN/etc…). I'm also interested in an aesthetically pleasing place with access to nature. Cold climate is preferable. Strong English is super helpful. 
 

As such, I've narrowed my choices to:

University of Oslo (Exchange), Oslo Norway

Stockholm University (Exchange), Stockholm Sweden

University of Helsinki (Exchange), Helsinki Finland

Aalto University Business (Exchange), Near Helsinki 

St. Gallen (Direct Enroll), St Gallen Switzerland 

I've ruled out Denmark for personal reasons. Preferably, I'd spend my entire senior year at one of these schools. St Gallen lines up most with my degree program and remaining requirements wouldn't be a challenge. Finishing my degree requirements at any of the other schools would require me to overload the semester before I went and take one summer class right before starting IB FT at my home institution here in the US. 
 

I also would like a decent social life, and I'd hope to socialize with locals too and not just other internationals. Also interested in traveling, so access to airports is a small factor as well. 

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Comments (44)

Oct 16, 2021 - 6:08pm

I studied abroad in Beijing through Columbia at Peking University and Valencia Spain through UVA. 

I'd check out some US schools that offer study abroad as well. 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Most Helpful
Oct 17, 2021 - 9:03am

Laowai666

When were you in Beida? Did you like the Chinese vibe?

I was at Beida in Summer 2005. It was a very prestigious program. I had a Peking University ID and used it to bargain at the markets for ties and clothes. They call it "The Harvard of China" as you probably know with Tsinghua being like MIT. 

It took a bit of adjusting for me to Chinese culture and food. American Chinese food is a bit different than authentic Chinese food. But, hotpot and Beijing Duck were some of my local favorites.

I had to take a Chinese test through Columbia to get into L2 Chinese classes, but only qualified for L1, so the classes were somewhat easy for me and I went clubbing almost every night at Mix and Vics at Gongti. Overall it was a good experience and I still know basic Mandarin and know Chinese customs and culture which is a big deal to Chinese people I meet when they hear I put in the effort.

My school sent me to China and paid for the whole thing including airfare and food and tuition (not beer though) in my attempt to get a Fulbright research grant to study underemployment in China. I was accepted on the US side, but China rejected my grant as they probably didn't want some young US person meddling with their inside economics. Most Fulbright grants are to study art and culture. 

But, yeah good times. I met a lot of Columbia students as well and still have close ties with some and even went to the wedding of one friend I studied with in China.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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  • Intern in IB-M&A
Oct 17, 2021 - 4:16pm

What do you mean you studied at beijing through columbia and spain through UVA. Did you go to undergrad in UVA then transferred to columbia whilst simultaneously going on exchange? Or did the programs run whilst studying like a masters degree? cheers, cool stories as well.

Oct 17, 2021 - 5:07pm

Some schools have international study programs like this:

https://valencia.virginia.edu

It looks like Columbia U in Beijing might not be around anymore but was a partnership between Columbia U international studies and Peking University.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Oct 17, 2021 - 5:08pm

On my undergrad transcript it said Columbia or UVA. They were all pass or fail classes. Most of my Spanish degree is from UVA. 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Oct 17, 2021 - 5:17pm

Princeton has a Beijing program that is TBD in 2022, but their program is notoriously hard. Those kids never left their rooms abroad - they were given so much homework and not a lot of time to experience Chinese life.

https://pib.princeton.edu

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Oct 16, 2021 - 6:24pm

This is a good time to pick up another language - challenge yourself and even if you're not in a language program, you'll learn a lot in immersion.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Oct 16, 2021 - 6:59pm

I would take 3rd level German in St Gallen which is in German Switzerland. I have to take that class regardless, and I couldn't take it at a Nordic school as it would be taught in the local language there, so I'd then be forced to take it summer before FT IB here. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Oct 17, 2021 - 1:59am

Go to whatever school sounds interesting and appeals to you the most. It's not going to help with your career or anything dramatic like that. If you want to get to know the locals, see if you can do a home stay.

Quite frankly, if you don't know the native language, you will struggle to get to know locals. The Finns are especially cold in my experience. My Finnish friends joked that they didn't even notice the Covid social distancing. I'd recommend whatever school has the largest amount of international/exchange students who aren't from America. Chances are most of them speak English so you can have the common language in your friend group be English, even if you have people from Germany, Hungary, Denmark, Estonia, etc.

  • Analyst 1 in ER
Oct 17, 2021 - 9:36am

Personally would go for St Gallen although beware that Switzerland (even more so than some others on this list like Oslo) is ultra HCOL.

I would go because Switzerland is probably one of the most beautiful countries on Earth.

If not then I'd pick Oslo or Stockholm.

  • Associate 3 in IB-M&A
Oct 17, 2021 - 11:17pm

St Gallen. Not worth the impact to your home courseload unless you are leaning strongly towards Nordic for other reasons.

Will be very easy to travel (airport, also don't forget that Europe and especially Switzerland have a great train system) the people usually speak English and tons of outdoor activities and quaint mountain towns. It's a hassle to get to mainland Europe from the Nordic countries and you'd probably only go a few times, versus in Switzerland you could check out a different area every weekend if you wanted to.

Oct 18, 2021 - 11:15am

Disclaimer: I did not attend any of the schools you mentioned, but come from the DACH-region and can speak a bit about HSG and know some people who did their masters at one of the other Unis. 

I would strongly advise against St. Gallen. Although it might sound like a fairytale (small town in Switzerland, high-ranking academics etc.), it is not. I know many people who did their undergrad / graduate studies there and most people give off hardo-vibes, so please consider this. Also Switzerland is very expensive. Even if you manage to go to Zurich etc. for a few short-trips, accommodation, food etc. will set you back by a lot. The Swiss can be quite uncommunicative to foreigners, so please consider this as well. Please also make sure that the German-course they give you is "regular" german and not swiss-german. This would diminish your learning experience and reduce your applicability. 

Don't get trapped in a village, paying >20€ for a kebab (compared to 5-7€ in Germany / Austria) with unfriendly people. 

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Oct 18, 2021 - 12:13pm

The cost isn't really an issue. Tuition would for INTLs would save me a few grand there compared to my home institution. The higher CoL would even out.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Oct 19, 2021 - 8:25am

HSG student here. Dont waste your exchange semester on St Gallen. In terms of reputation, HSG is a contender for being one of the best (business) universities in Cont. Europe and probably the best in D-A-CH. But this comes at a cost. The "city" is rather depressing. Granted, the HSG spirit originates from house parties and the close-knit community but I am not sure how well you could break into it on your exchange. Disregard the prestige and go to Stockholm!

Oct 19, 2021 - 5:10am

I'd go with Oslo or Stockholm. I'm probably biased, having lived in both places, but Helsinki is much more boring IMO. If one of your wishes is to mix with the locals, then Finland shouldn't be on your list at all. It will be very hard for you to get to know anyone over one semester in Finland. 

I don't know... Yeah. Almost definitely yes.

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Oct 19, 2021 - 6:18am

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