UC Davis to Finland: A Summer of Gratitude and Exchange

My top 6 Reasons to Experience Summer Study Abroad

On my first day as an exchange student in Finland, I woke up to the bright light streaming through my window.

I panicked!

Was I late for class?

To my surprise, my alarm clock showed only 2:30 am. A sunrise just after midnight—sounds magical, right?

That was just one of the many surprises I experienced in Finland. But first, you might be wondering how I ended up in Finland from the Bay Area.

Among the several quarterly or summer international exchange programs that the Graduate School of Management offers is to study in Finland from one to three weeks at the Lappeenranta University of Technology, also known as LUT University.

LUT offers intensive MBA classes focused on marketing, globalizing business and entrepreneurship from late June through mid-July. UC Davis MBAs pay no additional tuition fees, however they are responsible for living and travel expenses. After completing the course, the credits transfer towards your UC Davis MBA.

I was intrigued by the opportunity to learn from globally recognized professors and immerse myself in a multicultural setting.

I’d like to share my six reasons why it was a great experience and why as a UC Davis MBA student you should consider this unique opportunity:

1. Experience Midnight Sun

This exceptional natural phenomenon is exclusive to the Arctic Circle. During the summer months in Nordic countries, the Earth's axis tilts closer to the sun. As a result, the sun doesn't set; instead, it traces a circular path along the horizon, leading to continuous daylight. This was truly an incredible experience, unlike any other I've had.

Once I adapted to this truly enlightening phenomenon, I found myself energized throughout the day until midnight. In fact, after my eight-hour class, I took advantage of the extended daylight hours by visiting the market center, engaging with locals in supermarkets, trying out various food places, and exploring karaoke bars and pubs without worrying about darkness setting in.

2. Engage in a Beautiful, Global Cultural Exchange

Among my numerous classmates, I had the opportunity to meet and connect with students from Slovakia, Belgium, Germany, Latvia, Austria and many other nations. One of my favorite memories was the potluck organized by UC Davis students. We sang karaoke, played murder mystery games, and danced to English, Finnish, and Korean songs.

Another enjoyable experience I had with the incredibly helpful and friendly Finnish locals was during a visit to the Prisma supermarket to buy pastries and chocolates, They recommended I try “Karjalanpiirakka,” which turned out to be the best pie I've ever tasted.

Kritka Singh leading a presentation
Kritika Singh (at the easel) leads a presentation with fellow international students about an idea for a currency conversion app.

3. Global Perspectives In Class

The diversity and global perspectives in our class significantly enriched our conversations.

We had a discussion on Quantum EV cars, which are small compact cars that can fit three people. The discussion was whether Quantum cars are a great fit for the Bolivian market. Some Europeans thought it was a great idea, as some European cities have compact parking spaces and narrow streets. So, small EVs like Quantum can easily navigate these tight spaces.

However, those of us from the United States thought differently, as our markets are different from theirs. Many U.S. consumers value the comfort, cargo space and versatility offered by bigger cars. It was interesting to hear both perspectives on Quantum EVs, and showed that our regional market dynamics, cultural factors, and travel habits heavily shape our opinion.

4. Innovation in Interactive Classes

I enjoyed our in-class exercises. For one of our projects, we divided into teams and were given a task to solve and present to the team. My team of five came up with an idea for a payment app that we called “On the Go” (OTG pay).

This idea surfaced because each of us used different currencies, so when we tried to split payments among ourselves, we had to deal with exchange rates. Then, one of my teammates from China showed how they were using WeChat to handle international payments.

So, taking inspiration from that and combining our own diverse perspectives, we came up with OTG Pay to make currency conversion easier.

Travel abroad and you’ll find yourself brainstorming unique ideas with students you never would’ve met otherwise!

Kritka Singh in the city of Tallinn
From Finland, Kritika Singh travelled to Estonia and visited Tallinn, the country’s capital on the Baltic Sea and best-preserved medieval city in the world.

5. Embark on International Travel

Traveling to another country is much easier once you are in Europe. I was only there for a short time and still managed to travel to Estonia.

Estonia is a jewel of Europe, and has nurtured countless startups, including Skype. And it’s also technologically advanced—don't be surprised if you catch a glimpse of a robot zipping around Tallinn, delivering food right on the streets.

I decided to book a two-hour cruise from Helsinki to Tallinn, the best preserved medieval city in the world, located on the coast of the Baltic Sea.

Tallinn is made up of old buildings, charming, cobbled streets, and ancient city walls that make you feel like you've gone back in time. And when you look up, you see those castle towers and ancient church spires against the skyline. It's like stepping right into a fairytale.

My fellow UC Davis students also trekked to Denmark, Sweden and other European countries.

6. Challenge Yourself by Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Every time you are challenged, you need to figure things out independently. There were times when Google Maps stopped working, the street names were in Finnish, and when I was hungry but the menus were not in English. You will be challenged at every step of the way, which will change you into a more adaptable person.

I learned much about Finland's midnight sun, the sauna culture, karaoke, local pastries and various intriguing aspects of the Finnish people. No wonder it’s ranked as the happiest country in the world! It was a great academic experience and cultural exchange, and I would love to go back again.

Aerial views of Lake Saimaa where Kritika Singh spent time kayaking, biking, and swimming with new friends. (Drone footage courtesy of Pawel Cieslicki of Belgium)

I encourage future MBA students to consider the value of this opportunity and take advantage of it. You will certainly discover something new about yourself.

I am grateful that UC Davis selected me to be a part of this experience. It has been a wonderful journey and a significant highlight of my MBA program.

Kiitos (Thank you) to Finland for everything!