Before your exchange - instructions for those chosen for student exchange

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This article concerns all degree students regardless of whether they are studying in the new degree programmes or according to the old degree structures. 

Before you can embark on your exchange journey, you must complete a number of important tasks. The checklist for outgoing exchange students includes the most important tasks regarding participation in an exchange and moving abroad.

Checklist for outgoing exchange students

Checklist for exchange students

  • Prior to your departure, participate in the briefing for students selected for an exchange as well as the orientation session for exchange students.
  • Make sure you have applied to your target university by its application deadline. Read more here.
  • Also make sure you have read and agreed to the terms of your grant on your electronic Mobility Online account. Read more about grants here.
  • Submit a notice of change concerning financial aid for students as well as a housing allowance application to Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland. You need a student exchange certificate for this purpose (see more below). Read more below and on the Kela website.
  • Inform Kela and your local register office about your move abroad. Read more on the websites of Kela and local register offices.
  • Register as an attending student at the University of Helsinki for the duration of your exchange.
  • Make the necessary housing arrangements. Read tips below.
  • Do not buy airline tickets until your target university has informed you that you have been accepted.
  • Make sure that you have a comprehensive insurance policy. Read more below.
  • Follow the Facebook page for University of Helsinki students participating in a student exchange: Exchange studies for University of Helsinki students.
  • Inform Kela if you will be working during your student exchange.

NB! The email address you enter on the application form at the registration stage will be used for all communications relating to your exchange, including grant-related matters. If you have participated in an Erasmus exchange, the European Commission’s EU Survey will also be sent to the same email address. Consequently, it is important that you update the email address if necessary.


If you participate in an Erasmus exchange, also remember the following:

  • Take the OLS language test prior to your departure.
  • Print out the Erasmus Student Charter (PDF) for your own use. The document explains your rights and responsibilities relating to Erasmus student exchanges and traineeships.
  • The degree level for which you were registered at the University of Helsinki at the time of your departure for your exchange will be recorded in the relevant statistics as your degree level. If you have not completed a Bachelor’s degree at the time of application, but will complete the degree prior to the beginning of your exchange, notify International Exchange Services as soon as you complete the degree, so that International Exchange Services can register your Erasmus mobility period at the Master’s level.


Student Exchange Certificate

International Exchange Services provides a student exchange certificate to all those who participate in an exchange through International Exchange Services.

  • The certificate features the name of the exchange programme and target university, the duration of the exchange and grant-related information.
  • NB! This certificate does not constitute a letter of acceptance by the target university and does not mean that the target university has informed International Exchange Services about your acceptance.
  • You must enclose a copy of the student exchange certificate with the notice of change concerning Kela's financial aid for students when you apply for such aid for the duration of your stay abroad.
  • Take the student exchange certificate with you to your destination. You may need it when enrolling at the target university or applying for a residence permit.
  • You will receive the certificate by e-mail from It will be sent about two months before your exchange begins (Erasmus+,   Switzerland and Nordplus/Nordlys exchange, exchange destinations outside EU: America and Ocenia) or about two months after the University of Helsinki has selected you as an exchange student (exchange destinations outside EU: Asia, Africa, Middle East, Russia, Serbia and Georgia).
  • If you need to certificate earlier than described above, you can ask for it by e-mailing

Housing arrangements

You are responsible for your own housing arrangements, so start making them in good time! You should, and usually can, apply for housing through your target university when applying to it for the right to complete exchange studies. Most universities offer advice and assistance, although the Erasmus and Nordplus agreements, for example, specify no obligation to provide housing to exchange students.

  • Read more on the website of your target university.
  • Read about the experiences of previous exchange students in Mobility Online and on the University of Helsinki site
  • Search for useful information online.
  • Use social media, such as the target university’s Facebook page.

The cost and quality of housing varies in different countries and cities. Housing is more expensive in big cities, and student housing quickly reaches capacity in cities popular with students. The quality of housing provided by universities may be higher than that on the private market (e.g., in Britain). In many countries, two or three students may live in one room. Choose the right option for you, but also bear in mind that the more flexible you are, the easier it is to find accommodation.

In recent years, international student housing has also been plagued by fraud. If you wish to rent an apartment advertised on the private market, do not sign a contract or pay a deposit until you have arrived on location and viewed the apartment. This will protect you from unpleasant surprises. Find out more about the housing culture of your target country. For example, oral lease agreements are still common in countries such as Italy and Spain. Stand up for your rights and find out all relevant information before signing an agreement!

Finding accommodation may feel like the hardest part of the exchange process, but don’t be discouraged. All exchange students have eventually found a place to stay!

If you are looking for a tenant to live in your apartment for the duration of your exchange, you can advertise your apartment, for example, to incoming exchange students on the University Marketplace.

Coverage by the Finnish social security system

When you move abroad to study for less than a year, you usually remain covered by the Finnish social security system and can receive benefits from Kela. The country to which you are moving also affects your social security. Read more in the slide show below and on the Kela website

You must always inform Kela if you move abroad. See the Kela site.

Kela requires that you submit both a notice of change concerning financial aid for students and a notice of moving abroad.

Payment of student financial aid and a housing supplement during your stay abroad

You can apply for student financial aid for the duration of your stay abroad by submitting a notice of change concerning the student financial aid to Kela. You can also apply to Kela for a housing supplement during your stay abroad. Your application must be accompanied by a student exchange certificate (see above).

If you are going abroad as a free mover, and you need a certificate for the notice of change concerning student financial aid, please contact

For more information on student financial aid and the housing supplement, see the Kela websites: If you study abroad and Report changes.

After returning to Finland from abroad, remember to ensure that the studies you completed during your exchange are entered into the Student Register as soon as possible. Also remember to inform Kela about your return to Finland. Read more on the Kela website: Returning to Finland

Insurance and medical treatment

Purchase a comprehensive insurance policy for the duration of your student exchange or international traineeship! The required insurance coverage depends on your destination.

In certain situations related to studying, University of Helsinki students fall within the insurance coverage provided under the act on study-related accidents.  For more information, click here. To print out an English-language insurance certificate, click here (PDF).

Destinations in the EU/EEA and Switzerland

If you participate in an exchange in an EU/EEA country or Switzerland, request a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from Kela in good time. If you do not receive the card before your departure, request a temporary certificate from Kela. The EHIC covers the costs of medically necessary treatment in the target country. More information is available from Kela. NB! The EHIC does not cover the costs of returning to Finland due to, for example, a serious illness or accident, so you should also purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy.

The European Health Insurance Card is not necessarily needed in the Nordic countries because they are covered by the Nordic Social Security Convention .

The training agreement of participants in Erasmus traineeships requires that the trainees have appropriate accident, liability and medical treatment insurance. For more information, click here.

Destinations outside the EU/EEA

If you participate in an exchange outside Europe, make sure that your insurance coverage is appropriate! Some countries and universities require that exchange students purchase an insurance policy before applying for a residence permit. Even if your target country requires that you also purchase local, inexpensive insurance (e.g., in Japan and Russia), you should note that it does not cover the costs of returning to Finland, for example, due to a serious illness or accident. Purchase a comprehensive insurance policy for the duration of your exchange! You should also consider the purchase of liability insurance.

Medicines during an exchange or traineeship

If you need medicines during your exchange or traineeship, find out whether your target country has imposed restrictions on the import of medicines. If necessary, ask your doctor for a European medical prescription, so that you can obtain your medicines in your target country if a sales permit has been issued there. Finnish prescriptions should be valid in the Nordic countries.

Proof of assets for a residence permit

If you are participating in an exchange outside the EU/EEA and apply for a residence permit, you must usually provide proof that you can support yourself during your exchange. The amount of sufficient funds depends on general costs and the standard of living in the target country. For information on the required amount of funds, see the website of the target university or the consulate of the target country.

Certificates for proving your assets:

  • A certificate of student financial aid (available from Kela in four languages)
  • A student exchange certificate
  • A balance statement from your bank (available from some banks for a fee)
  • If your parent or someone else agrees to fund some of your costs, ask them to provide a written commitment and balance statement.

Information material and orientation sessions of the target university

Target universities often send an information pack to students accepted as exchange students. Some universities provide such material to exchange students once they arrive. The best way to get started is to arrive on time at the destination and network with other students.

If your target university organises an orientation course or orientation day, take the date into account when making travel arrangements. Target universities can charge fees for language and orientation courses, but most courses are free. International Exchange Services does not provide separate grants to cover the fees of orientation courses.

Health and safety during exchange

Instructions of the Ministry for foreign affairs of Finland

Read the country-specific travel advice (in Finnish) of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland before your departure. The advice pertains to the country’s safety and security situation and contains instructions for what to do if you need consular assistance during your exchange. Also read the instructions of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland concerning the support offered by both the Ministry and Finnish missions in the event of a crisis.

Students, particularly those whose destination is outside Europe, should register with the Ministry. Some Finnish missions also request persons moving to the country to submit their contact details directly to the closest Finnish mission. For more information, see the Ministry’s country-specific travel advice.

You can also request information on safety and security to be sent to your mobile phone via text message. More information is available on the website of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

Telling others about the University of Helsinki and Finland during your exchange

We highly recommend that all outgoing exchange students take with them brochures about the University of Helsinki as well as other material relating to Finland. Exchange students often have opportunities to present Finland and Finns to others.

Below are some links that you may find useful if preparing a presentation on Finland as part of a course at your target university or answering questions about Finland and Helsinki as a place to pursue studies in:

The University of Helsinki


  • For information on student exchange at the University of Helsinki, click here.
  • If you are asked about studying in Helsinki, the University of Helsinki’s How to apply site contains information on study opportunities and the University’s application process.
  • The New Students site is intended for new, international students arriving at the University of Helsinki..
  • The University’s international Helsinki Summer School (HSS) organises three-week intensive Master’s level courses each August.
  • Edufi’s Study in Finland site offers a range of information on study and traineeship opportunities in Finland as well as related practical matters. The site also provides information on studying in Finnish across the world and on CIMO’s scholarships for students who come to Finland.
  • The This is Finland site of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland offers a wide variety of facts and information on Finnish culture, history and events, as well as an image bank and the latest news from Finland.


Material on Helsinki and Finland


Would you like to tell about your exchange on social media?

By writing about your experiences, you help other future exchange students. The story can be about everyday things like student life at the exchange destination and the practices at your host university. The story  will be posted on our page Vaihtokertomuksia maailmalta (page in Finnish). After the exchange, you will receive 50 euros as a reward when you finish writing your exchange story. International Exchange Services aims to collect stories from all our exchange destinations, so we might contact you in order to write a story about your exchange. 

You can also read Finnish-language blog posts and stories by previous exchange students here.

There are also other ways to tell about your exchange. Students have taken over our Instagram account and post about their everyday life in exchange destination. International Exchange Services look for students every Spring and Fall to produce content to our Instagram.

If you are interested, please contact us via e-mail ( for more detailed instructions.