Fine arts student: Freedom of choice supports my creativity

Read an interview about Nóra Somos, a second-year fine arts student who finds that at Uniarts Helsinki, students can tailor their education as they see fit. She says that nothing feels better than being encouraged and getting into a good workflow.

Nora Somos standing in her studio space.
Photo: Eeva Anundi

Please tell us about yourself. How did you realise that you wanted to study at Uniarts Helsinki?

I was born and raised in Székesfehérvár in Hungary. I always loved drawing and I studied graphic design at school. When I was in high school, I really wanted to study abroad. We have some family friends here in Finland, who helped me organize an exchange year in Helsinki. Throughout that year, I experienced a true sense of freedom that was unfamiliar to me. That is probably why I first started painting here and opened my eyes to the endless variety of artistic practices. I was determined to come back to study at a Finnish university after I finished my matric studies in Hungary.

My journey back to Finland took a bit longer than expected, since I only passed the Academy of Fine Arts entrance examination the second time I applied. During the gap year, I studied painting at a university in Hungary, which had old-fashioned educational methods that I found restraining and suffocating. I got the impression that at Uniarts Helsinki, the students can tailor their education as they see fit, and that is what really attracted me to the school.

Please tell us one thing you remember about your entrance examination.

Before the admission exam, my plane landed in Helsinki late at night and I was so anxious that I could not sleep. The next morning, I went to the exam feeling like a nauseous zombie. In retrospect, I really should not have worried so much. I encountered only kind, helpful and respectful people there, and the work process itself was super relaxed and enjoyable for me. We were left unbothered to do our own projects for the whole week. The experience reassured me that I want to be part of this school and this community.

What has been the best thing about studying at Uniarts Helsinki and living in Helsinki?

I find Helsinki a friendly city, where nature is always relatively close. I have learned that I really enjoy snow! I have also made meaningful friendships here and I have even found love.

What is your most memorable study experience?

During the first term, our class went on a fun, community-building study trip to Copenhagen. Also, I will never forget the building of the first exhibition I had a chance to be a part of, or some of the studio visits with great teachers and artists. However, the best time I have had is right now in my second year, during which I have found a renewed passion and excitement for painting. Nothing feels better than getting into such a good workflow, and being encouraged and reminded that this is why I am here.

What has been the most challenging thing about your studies?

Moving to a new country on my own and having to get accustomed to everything very quickly was challenging. Starting new studies at the university was in itself a major change in my life. It took a toll on my creativity, motivation and energy. This second year, now that I have settled in, has already been much easier and I have been able to focus on my studies properly. However, time-management is something that I often struggle with. I have to find time for my own artistic work while also going to classes and completing courses. It can be quite hectic and exhausting.

What do you dream of doing after you graduate?

At the moment, I imagine I will paint for the rest of my life. However, I am also ready to see how my artistic practice develops. I am planning to stay in Finland after my studies, because it feels like a good place to try to make a living as an artist. After graduating, I hope to have more free time for painting wooden furniture and gardening.

What preconceptions did you have about Finland? What do you think about them now?

At first, I had this idea of a perfect, utopian, Finnish education system, which has broken down a bit in my eyes. However, I still have a very high opinion of it and I still think Finland is a great country to study and live in, with all its imperfections.