Emilia Vuorela graduated from St. Thomas University, located in heart of Miami, Florida. At STU, Emilia earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations and communications. Along with her studies she was part of the school’s tennis team and enjoyed spending her free time horse riding, shopping, with student activity clubs and, of course, at South Beach.
Which university did you attend in the USA?
During my four years of studies I attended two universities. I began my studies at Averett University in Virginia, but later transferred to St. Thomas University in Miami, from which I graduated in December 2013.
Why did you decide to leave for a U.S. university?
I was in America for the first time when I was 16 for a tennis camp in the state of Massachusetts. Even though two weeks was a short period of time, it left an American spark in me. After graduating from high school in Finland, I was given an opportunity to study in the USA, which I then decided to take.
What was it like studying in the USA?
The first semester was spent mainly getting familiar with the new language and getting used to the university life. Another thing I found a little confusing was that, in the USA, your first year consists largely of general education classes — such as mathematics, music, philosophy and art — which is different from universities in Finland or Europe.
After the initial shock, so to speak, I really enjoyed my years of studying. Regardless of the subject, all the professors were extremely nice and always willing to help regarding, not just studies, but also in regards to my future career, such as helping find internship (work practice) opportunities. It certainly isn’t wrong to say that America is the land of opportunities.
In addition, I really found the wide variety of course offerings very pleasant. For example, at Averett I had an opportunity to take elective courses such as swimming during my first semester. During the spring semester I went horseback riding at the school’s horse stable on Monday and Wednesday mornings.
Obviously, along with all the elective and general courses you must decide what you want to study or major in, but you also can change that during you studies. Personally, I changed my major two times. At Averett I begin with physical education (teaching) and after my first semester changed to journalism. Once I transferred to St. Thomas University, I changed it again to public relations and communications and that is the major I graduated with. As I said, the American university model is also very flexible!
Were you part of any athletic teams and/or student clubs?
Yes! My sport was tennis, which was also the reason I ended up in America, and why I was able to stay and study. Along with tennis, I was active in international student clubs along with other activities. Different activities are one of the best ways to find and meet new friends!
Was there enough free-time and how did you spend it?
In a city such as Miami there are plenty of activities for anyone, regardless of the season or time of day. Whether one is interested in music, art, fashion, taekwondo or poetry readings, there are clubs, classes or performances for them. Personally, of course, tennis and classes mainly filled my schedule, but when there was free-time we went with a group to South Beach, shopping at Sawgrass Mills or just relaxing in one of the pleasant cafes.
What did you do after graduating with a bachelor’s degree?
I am co-founder and co-owner of an online store. I also work as a special needs assistant in a high school, and I am preparing for my master’s degree studies in business communication.
What would you like to say to students thinking about studying in America?
Hesitation and nervousness are totally normal and part of the process, as anything new and unknown typically is. If your dream is to experience student life in America, I think you should bravely do so! You always can come back home.