Hart House Finnish Exchange
Overview of the Exchange
The Hart House Finnish Exchange (est. 1951) is a unique, three-month intercultural program, in which Canadian and Finnish students have the chance to work and live abroad during one of their Summer semesters. The Exchange, which includes a two-week Orientation road trip and a ten-week work period, gives students the chance to gain international work experience and be immersed in a new culture. Typically eight students are chosen for every Exchange, and each one is placed in a job with a local employer and/or receives a fellowship with an Alumni of a past Exchange. The program is organized between the University of Toronto and three different Universities in Helsinki: Aalto University, the University of Helsinki and Hanken School of Economics.
The Exchange, known in Finland as Kaledonistit, operates on a four-year cycle, in which the countries rotate sending a group of students every two years. Both sides of the Exchange are student-run, and after returning from their Exchange, the newest Alumni are in charge of hosting the next group of visiting students. This creates strong relationships between Alumni in both countries and has led to many successful partnerships over the years.
The Exchange has two broad purposes. First, it helps students of both countries to develop an understanding and appreciation for a different culture. Second, it serves to help students forge strong connections and friendships with other Alumni, who continue to be a community of support for each other long after their Exchange. For more than 60 years, the Exchange has been remarkably successful in both of these aims.
The Hart House Finnish Exchange began in the autumn of 1950, when the choir of the Polytech Institute of Helsinki was on a tour of North America. After performing at Hart House, the members of the choir suggested that they would in turn welcome a visit from students at the University of Toronto. They spoke of their plans for “Tech Village” and stated that Canadian students could help them to build it. Subsequently they sent a formal invitation, and Hart House prepared to organize a group.
The Warden of Hart House (Nicholas Ignatieff), his wife, and eight students arrived in Helsinki in early June 1951, and were at once warmly welcomed and entertained. After two weeks of parties and trips, they asked when they were to start work. They were then housed in university residences and put to work digging the foundations for a sauna. Thus began the tradition of an “orientation” followed by a work placement, which remains the basis of the exchange.
Nicholas Ignatieff died in the spring of 1952, but his leadership in launching the exchange ensured its continuance. That same summer, the Duke of Edinburgh, when visiting the Olympic Games in Helsinki, unveiled a plaque in memory of Nicholas Ignatieff, placed on the sauna that he had helped to build.
In 1954, ten students came from Helsinki to Hart House. They spent the first two weeks meeting Canadian students and seeing some of the country, and then went to summer jobs in different places. At the end of their work placements, they met again at Hart House Farm, located just outside Toronto. There they spent ten days building a sauna on the bank of a small pond in the woods.
The pattern of reciprocal exchange has continued to the present day, and both countries have recognized the importance of these enduring bilateral links. The government of Finland has honoured Joseph McCulley (fourth Warden of Hart House) for his contributions to international understanding, and has conferred knighthoods to former Exchange Chairs Audrey Hozack and Linda MacRae.
The exchange is also supported through the interest and work of the alumni, who have found it to be such a valuable experience that they want to ensure its continuance. The exchange provides an intensely personal experience for each member, and at the same time makes an informal but important contribution to the growth of international co-operation. Both U of T and Finnish students have gained from it, and its past accomplishments augur well for its future influence on students of both countries.
Applications are Now Closed for the 2021 Exchange
Applications for the next exchange opens in September 2023.
All students enrolled at the University of Toronto are eligible to apply for the exchange. Knowledge of Finnish is not required—a high standard of English is spoken throughout Finland! We encourage students from professional and graduate programs and any of the undergraduate colleges to apply.
Your experience in Finland
At the start of your summer, the previous Finnish Exchange group will take you on a two-week orientation tour around the country. The tour will include several cultural and recreational sites in various regions of Finland. After the tour, you will be placed in a job for approximately ten weeks. Please note that the primary purpose of the exchange is cultural, not vocational. Although every attempt will be made to find you a summer job in your academic or career field, this cannot be guaranteed. After the work placement is over (usually in early or mid-August), you are free to travel or to return to Canada.
Your return to Canada
After your eventual return to Canada, you are required to contribute some time to help to ensure the future success of the exchange. Your group will be responsible for overseeing the HHFE Committee and for managing the next four-year cycle of the Exchange. This duty is one of the vital commitments of the exchange, and you will be expected to contribute in every way possible to ensure that the Finns who visit Canada have as memorable a time as the Canadians have in Finland!
The exchange is self-funding. You are responsible for the cost of your flight and living expenses, but you should earn enough money from your job to recover most of these costs. Please note that your first paycheque will likely not arrive until early July, so you should take sufficient funds, upfront, for one month’s living expenses. The one exception to this is the initial two-week orientation tour when all costs (apart from purely personal expenditures) will be covered by your Finnish hosts. Most students in the last group found that their financial circumstances at the beginning and the end of the summer were roughly equal.
How much will the trip approximately cost?
A student’s overall expenses completely depend on their lifestyle while living in Finland. Basic costs include: Flights: 800 euro (approx $1,250 CAD), Visa: 400 euro (approx $600 CAD) and Rent: 400 euro/month (approx $600 CAD/month.)
Most students cook at home and socialize at friends/co-workers’ apartments to save money. If you choose to go out for food or nightlife frequently, that will increase your expenses. Many people choose to spend extra earnings on travelling throughout Europe.
What proportion of my expenses will be covered by the money I earn during the summer?
The vast majority of alumni report that they break even at the end of summer with their costs and expenses. In most years, students take 2-3 side trips to other European countries during their time in Finland. If you choose not to travel, you may be able to save a decent amount of money. And remember, even though Europe is more expensive than Canada, you are earning Euros while there, so after converting the money back into CAD at the end of the summer, you have a nice boost in your overall savings!
What kind of accommodation is provided?
The Kaledonistit Committee will help organize accommodations for you. If you are based in Helsinki, you will live with your exchange group in student residence apartments. In 2017, students were placed in three-bedroom apartments, with a kitchen, living room, balcony and shared washroom (with an ensuite sauna). In some cases, students will receive job offers outside of Helsinki and may choose to live in accommodations arranged by their employer.
What kind of job will I have?
Our alumni have held a wide variety of positions while working in Finland! In the past we’ve had students working in banks, research facilities, think tanks, farms, forests, libraries and tourism companies (just to name a few examples). The Kaledonstit Committee will try their best to secure you a job in an area of personal or professional interest, but it is not guaranteed. Check out our Alumni Catch-ups series on our social media to hear about some of our alumni’s jobs and experiences in Finland!
Do you offer any financial assistance?
We do not offer any official scholarships or bursaries, due to the nature of it being a work abroad program, and that you are expected to at the minimum to break even for the summer. In extenuating circumstances, financial assistance may be available to selected students, but it is never guaranteed.
Finland is currently in better shape than Canada, due to it being a sparsely populated country, and there being a series of strong precautions in place. We are hopeful a vaccine will have been approved and widely distributed by next summer so that students can travel freely. But if that is not the case, then of course certain guidelines may be put in place, such as wearing masks and not being able to travel as easily outside of Finland on your work visa.
We receive bi-weekly updates from our Finnish counterparts and will be transparent throughout the process with all applicants and selected individuals. We are also guaranteeing a reserved spot for applicants.
In the case that the coronavirus situation gets worse and the Exchange gets cancelled, then the students selected in the Fall of 2020 will be guaranteed their spot in the summer of 2022.