Hello From Helsinki

The days are short, but the locals are friendly, and this GSAPP student enjoys exploring the outdoors.

Najia Fatima
January 27, 2021

This is part of a Columbia News series, titled Postcards, which invites members of the Columbia community who are living and teaching or studying abroad, to send us updates on where they are, what they miss about not being on campus, and how they are making the most of their situation during this global pandemic.

This is my second term at Columbia, so I have actually never experienced New York as a student. I miss being on a campus and surrounded by other (equally stressed and sometimes confused) students. It can be isolating living with just my family, especially when the workload gets heavy. It also feels like the best of both worlds, but there was a sense of community being on campus for my previous degree, which became crucial in getting through difficult assignments and classes.

A woman in a dark outfit works at a desk in front of a window through which you can see sky and a building.

Adapting to the time difference between New York and Helsinki, Finland, where I am currently situated, was the first challenge to remote studies, since most of my classes begin at 6 pm and end at 3 am. This time difference also makes it difficult for me to attend evening webinars and other events at the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, but I have managed to attend quite a few of those. Additionally, I try to arrange as many one-on-one Zoom calls with students and faculty members as possible, which helps me feel connected.

Another obstacle to remote education is being unable to access all the academic resources that I would have had in New York. But I have now learned to navigate around the Helsinki area, and connect with various universities to request online access to their libraries. 

Helsinki is a completely new place for me. It’s a relaxed city, and the people are quite laid back, which is a striking contrast to the chaotic nature of Toronto, where I moved from. I enjoy exploring the outdoors, even though it gets dark really early. I have discovered a nice community here, even though I can’t speak Finnish.

When I finally get to New York, I’ll look forward to getting pizza and sitting in a park with my classmates.

Najia Fatima is a student in the Masters of Science in Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practices in Architecture Program at GSAPP.