The big ITEM experience: part 1
Welcome to the first part of the big ITEM experience!! In this article, Alwin van Welie and Laura van Ijzendoorn will tell you about their experiences regarding the double degree program called ITEM. ITEM stands for Information Technology for Enterprise Management. Within this program, you can study at two universities (those being Tilburg University in the Netherlands and Turku University in Finland). The double degree program is therefore a joint Master’s degree program based on IT/Information management. In the end, you receive not one but two Master’s degrees!
Because there is a lot to tell about the experience itself, this is the first article out of two regarding Alwin’s and Laura’s experiences. This first part goes deeper into preparing for Finland, how the online courses were, how the Erasmus grant program works as well as some other things. More information about the ITEM program can be found on the Tilburg University website. There is also a triple degree program which also hosts lectures in France, Marseille. Information can be found on this website. Enjoy!
The ITEM procedure
When you first apply to the program, you will follow the first half year of the master Information Management (IM) just like ‘regular’ IM-students. The only sidenote is that you will have to follow an extra elective course. This is because you need 30 ECTS in order to officially become an ITEM student. After the summer holidays, you will follow three courses at Tilburg University for 18 ECTS as well as two online courses. These two online courses are already given by Turku University. The online courses are held from mid Oktober untill the final weeks of November and the first week of December. Afterwards, untill you actually move to Finland, you have almost four weeks of nothing. For us, this was a nice opportunity to work a lot and safe money for the actual exchange period. More about our experiences about the online courses later in this article!
The system which is being used to exchange information with Turku University is called Mobility online. Within this system, several parties are involved (including the ITEM student) to exchange information and sign things. After the summer holidays have ended and the new courses have started, this process will also start. You will be informed by the time you will have to do things within this system. There are a lot of steps which take approval from different parties, like the Study Abroad & Exchange Office from Tilburg University. It is important to frequently check your progress in the system to see if you can advance to the next steps. You don’t get notified about certain steps being approved. Down below we posted a screenshot of some parts of the workflow within Mobility online.
Public transport statement
At a certain step within the Mobility online workflow you will receive a signed public transport statement from the Study Abroad & Exchange Office. This document is very important, since you will be able to receive a public transport compensation of around 120 euros per month (actual amounts may differ throughout the years) since you cannot use your ‘OV-chipkaart’ (also known as the public transport card within the Netherlands) when you are in Turku. As soon as you receive this document, downloading it and signing it yourself is important. The Dutch governental institution DUO (which can be accessed on the website mijnduo.nl) is responsible for handling this.
DUO may take up untill a month of processing this data, however. We uploaded the document in mijnduo.nl early December, but we only received the confirmation of the grant being transferred to us in the first week of January. At this point in time we were already physically in Turku.
A final note: do not forget to ‘freeze’ or ‘stop’ your public transport card subscription, otherwise you won’t receive any compensation for this! We did this in the final week of December.
Erasmus Grant: based on Mobility online
Once you filled in all the steps of the Mobility Online system, it is time to receive the Erasmus Grant. The Erasmus Grant will depend on the duration of your stay. So in advance, you will fill in an estimate of the duration of your stay in the mobility online system. Based on this estimate you will receive 70% of the Erasmus Grant in advance of your stay. After your stay has ended you will have to state the exact duration of your stay. After this, the exact amount of your Erasmus grant will be calculated and you will receive the last part of the grant.
Study associations in Finland
There are two important study associations in Finland. The first one is TYY, and the second one is ESN.
TYY is the official study association within Turku University. Within Finland, study associations are obligatory for each university. This rule is stated in law, which is different from most countries. This also means that all students are obliged to pay the student union fee in order to receive their dedicated universities’ student ID. You need this student ID to be able to create a Turku University account, which is used for online services. It is important that you therefore pay the student union fee (around 55 euros at our time) before the summer holidays are over. This is because you will formally become an ITEM student directly after the sumer holidays are over. You will follow the two online courses from October to December, which means you already need a Turku University student ID.
The other important student association is called ESN. ESN stands for Erasmus Student Network. The important ESN part for Turku University students is called ESN Uni Turku. They organize a lot of fun activities, pub crawls, but also trips like the well-known Lapland trip. More about this trip and our experience in part two of this article :). ESN also offers al of useful information.
You don’t have anything to do with ESN untill you are physically in Turku.
Rent to be paid, scholarship money amounts
When applying for ITEM it is good to know what extra costs you will be making. In September you will pay for the whole academic year in Tilburg which amounted to 2314 euros for the academic year of 2023/2024. Next to this Tilburg University will ask you to transfer another sum of money in October, in 2023 this amounted to 1150 euros to the university for extra costs they make for the ITEM program. And as mentioned above to get access to your Turku University account so you can take courses there, you have to pay their student union. As you already take 2 courses in the fall semester (October– December) you will have to pay the student union for the whole academic year which amounted to 55 euros in the academic year of 2023 / 2024. So be prepared for these extra costs.
Housing options: TYS and how they work
When you study in Turku, you will also live there. But luckily, there is some sort of housing organisation called ‘TYS’ which offers housing for a very good price. You will have to submit a form on their website on the first of October (at least this was the case for us) where you indicate your preference to live. All ITEM students of our year indicated that they would like to live close to each other. After a month and a half, somewhere in November, we received housings offers (not all at the same day). We accepted them, and the process started.
We chose to live at the second floor in a studio apartment. The apartments included our own bathroom which included a shower and a toilet. There was also a desk as well as a big closet and some storage space already present. The rent for these apartments was 389 euros per month for 18 square metres. The first month you also have to pay 60 euros of contract fee.
Don’t worry if the actual housing offer takes a while. In the previous years, all ITEM students have received housing offers which were similar and also close to each other. Down below we added a picture of Alwin’s studio room.
Finnish online courses: our experience
During the last part of the autumn semester (October – December) you will take 2 online courses as an ITEM student from Finland. In 2023 these courses were: Management of Information System Security and Management of IS Projects. The course Management of Information System Security consisted of seminars, online discussions, groupwork and individual work. The course of Management of IS Projects consisted of discussions in a forum. Considering the workload of the courses of Tilburg University, these courses could be considered easier than ‘regular’ courses from the Information Management master. With a little self-discipline when it comes to planning these courses were really doable.
ITEM thesis versus ‘regular’ IM thesis
Writing a thesis as an ITEM student means that you will write your thesis proposal from January to April. Within this period, it is beneficial if you would already start preparing a lot of things before you return to the Netherlands. For example, you could already do a thorough literature review of your chosen subject. If you are not sure how to find a thesis subject, we suggest having a look at our article which helps you in this process: Finding a suitable thesis subject: master Information Management.
Finally, since you will be away for some months and you are writing a part of your thesis in another country, an internship within a company may not suit everyone. It means that you will have to find a company which wants to accept you as a thesis intern where you will be less physically present than ‘regular’ thesis internship students. We as well as ITEM students from previous years have encountered that not every company likes this structure. We eventually found internships at BDO and Govers, however, since we really wanted to do an internship other than ‘just’ writing our thesis.
Supervisors for the ITEM thesis
Writing a thesis for two universities also means that more people are involved. You will receive one supervisor from Tilburg University and one from Turku University. One of them will become your first supervisor, the second will be the “second reader”. The actual final grade is decided by both supervisors, however.
Writing a thesis for the Uni versus an internship
Writing a thesis for the University and not having an internship both have its different pros and cons. The pros and cons have been listed in the article mentioned before as well: the “finding a suitable thesis subject” article. We suggest taking a look at this article to decide if you want to do an internship or not for your thesis. The most important differences are not receiving any compensation if you write for the university, and having to apply to different companies to work after you graduate. This won’t be a problem with two master degrees in Information Management, however :).
What to expect in part two of the ITEM experience
In part 2 we will take you with us on the first month of living in Turku. This will include how to travel to Turku, getting your keys and starting package, our initial thoughts on the courses, some useful tips and apps, and of course all about the student life. Stay tuned!