Finland and UTA – a dream come true

Studying abroad is a dream that many students would love to fulfill during their lifetime. I was no different in this regard. Once I was done with my Master’s degree in Biotechnology in India, I was keen to apply for a doctoral program at a university abroad. The initial plan and wish that I had in my mind was to go to Germany. Unfortunately, due to some lack of admission requirements that plan could not materialize, and I was asked by the German university to study a Master’s degree in Germany for another two years. At this point came a turning point in my life, which I should attribute to one of my best friends, who currently resides in Italy. We were chatting on Facebook and he was asking about my future plans. I told him the story that I may end up in Germany for my second Master’s degree, and then he made a suggestion to me, which changed my life for the better. He said in Germany I might have to pay fees, and recommended applying to countries like Finland and Sweden where education is free. Hearing this, I was shocked because in Germany there was tuition fees then and my other friends were paying huge sums of money for tuition fees in the US. Though I agreed with him that I would look into Finnish universities, I still had inhibitions about the quality of education. I started researching studies in Finland and realized that all my prejudices were wrong.

Finnish education is the best in the world, and it is inspiring some other countries to adopt a similar education system model. From the application process to arriving in Finland was a very smooth experience for me. There was no hassle with respect to the application process because the instructions given on the University Admissions Finland webpage were quite lucid and straightforward. I applied to three programs in two different universities in Finland and I was successfully accepted to two of the programs: the Master’s Degree Program in Genetics at University of Helsinki, and the Master’s Degree Program in Bioinformatics at the University of Tampere (UTA). The only hurdle for me was to select one university from these two, because both the majors were quite interesting and advantageous for my future career.

I decided that I would go to Tampere for my Master’s and I have no regrets about choosing Tampere over Helsinki! I arrived in Tampere on a nice autumn evening and my tutor was ready to meet me at the bus station. Tutoring is a wonderful initiative utilized by almost all Finnish universities, in which current students help new international students to get accustomed to their new study environment and student life at UTA. My tutor was constantly in touch with me from the moment I received my admission letter, and she helped me until I settled in and became accustomed to Tampere. This is the first positive and inspiring aspect out of many during my studies in Finland.

2_Nirmal_photoThe education system is quite different in Finland with respect to other countries, but easy to become accustomed to. Though I’m a student at UTA, I’m free to take courses from other universities in Finland by virtue of signing an agreement. I have done two courses, one from University of Turku and another from Tampere University of Technology. Another wonderful aspect is the relationship between students and teachers in Finland. I come from India and there is a practice in my home country that we address our teachers and principal investigators of a research group with respect by using the titles ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’. I followed the same custom when addressing one of my lecturers at UTA at our first meeting. He said there is no need to use such titles, and asked me to call him by his first name. It was my first experience of culture shock here because I can’t imagine calling my lecturer in India by his first name. Another interesting incident during my studies has been discussing my thesis with my supervisor on Facebook and sometimes even in a bar!

The state-of-the-art research facilities at UTA is one of the best in my opinion. The two campuses provide students with all sorts of services – microlabs, restaurants, cafés, student associations… The university also has two libraries, which are open 24/7 for students who are willing to study there. The university always tries to provide very good facilities and take care of their students in the best possible way!

– Nirmal

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