Category Archives: Natural Resources and the Environment

Forestry

Annyeoung~ Greetings from Seoul, Korea

Annyeong, folks~  I am having my exchange study in Korea, at SeoulTech university. Half of my exchange period has passed, and I have quite many tales to tell.

The lake in SeoulTech, during cherry blossom season

My major is environmental engineering.  I only study four courses which adds up to 12 Korean credits or 60 ECTS, while most of Korean students take six or seven courses , which is an equivalent of 105 ECTS per semester, crazy right?

Classroom setting between Korean uni and Finnish UAS are quite the same. There are black or white board, projector and projecting background. In Korean classroom there are built-in computers though, so professors do not have to carry laptops.

Classroom in Korean University

Contrary to my initial fear, professors speak clear English, and I understand perfectly. However, I have hard time communicating with Korean team mates. During our group meeting, they usually discuss in Korean, and then I ask one  to summarize in English for me. If one fails to come up with the English expression, we will use Papago – kinda like Google Translate created by and for Koreans.

The use of textbook is something different from Finnish education. Korean students use textbooks for both contact learning and preparing for exams; professors put contents from those books into their teaching slides. Korean students holding one or two textbooks around the campus is a common image. I feel like textbooks are bibles here. Yet, I do not feel the need to pay 30,000 Won (23 euro) to purchase a heavy textbook, so I download PDF instead.

Korean students engross in studying. There are studying rooms open 24/7 and, trust me, there are always students occupying those studying space 24/7. During the mid-term exam period, it is common to see all rooms are fully vacant even at 2AM. The pressure of getting good grade is  severe in this industrial country.

Not only do they “love” studying (it is a sarcasm),

The gang went out for some Korean BBQ and Soju

they LOVE drinking. When we head out of campus and walk around, we can see a myriad of diners offering good food and alcohols. My Korean pal teaches me how to mix soju and beer together, calling it somaek (“so” for soju, “maek” means beer). The golden ratio mixture is 3 soju : 7 beer; my Korean pal usually go with 1:2 for simplicity, or probably because he is so tipsy that he cannot deduce math anymore. Then the mixing part is considered an art itself. He places a pair of chopstick inside the cocktail, setting each chopstick a part, then slap both chopstick together to create turbulence and thus mix two type of drinks into one. If done properly, somaek turns fizzy and  rises up with bubbles, and the mixer is bestowed with the title “somaek master”.

 

We bust our arses in school by week days, then going on adventures by weekends. My gangs have gone to spots like Gwangmyeong cave, Han River, Gyongbokgung palace, De-militarized Zone (DMZ).  And then Avengers: End Game released, I went for the movie at 2AM. It was a lovely surprise to know in Korea cinema is opened throughout the night. Hey, whatever it takes, right?

Smaug n Gollum displayed inside GwangMyeong Cave
Whatever it takes

Work hard, Party hard is undoubtedly a fitting motto for Korean locals. My experience in an Korean university brings me more insights on students around the globe, their behaviors, and mindset. Despite language barrier, I have enjoyable time in Korea. My exchange study is definitely worthwhile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

日本はすてきですね!With kindest greetings, from Sapporo, Hokkaido

Just a month ago, I arrived at Japan for an internship exchange in Hokkaido University in Sapporo. Time flies so quickly when you’re having fun, and the last month was a wonderful time for me and probably the Golden time of my academic journey.

I came here as an intern student for Water Reclamation Laboratory in Department of Environmental Engineering. The aim of the researches in the lab was to improve performance of pre-existing treatment methods, or further develop it. At first, I thought my task was to conduct measurements, lab works and do errands in the lab. However, as soon as I spoke to the Head Professor of our lab, the situation was totally different from what I was expecting. Each student here has their own research project, and since I join as an intern student, I should choose a project that I am most interested in and work with it. Thus, the first week of my internship was basically just talking to everyone, getting familiar with the working environment, and getting ready. Therefore, my recommendation, if you decided to conduct an internship here, is to be clear of what you want to do before coming.

Besides the work here, everyone was super friendly and kind. I have really fun lab-mates who held a welcome party for me, which I didn’t have to pay anything. We also had a barbecue party to enjoy the cherry blossom, since in Hokkaido they bloom later than the rest of Japan. My lab-mates English skills are not so good since Japanese people overall do not excel in listening and speaking. However, they are always eager to learn and very patience when they try to communicate with me. A guy even told me he wanted to practice his English with me, and I was thrilled that I could also help them like they have helped me here.

My lab-mates enjoying Sapporo cuisine, soup curry
e3 welcome party

In Hokkaido University, there are many student clubs and organizations. One of them are e3, which are the students studying their master and doctoral in English Engineering Education program. This student organization held many events for members, including a welcome party and barbecue in a park. Even non-e3 students can join, if you contribute to the club by paying for the event you participated in. I joined both of the party and made friends with plenty of international students of Hokudai. It really helped me with my time here, since I don’t have many friends besides my lab-mates. It was great to be able to socialize with other international students and share with them your experience in Japan. I highly recommend that you join events like this one.

Last week was the Golden week in Japan, when they have a 10 days holiday to travel or rest. During that time, people often travel all over Japan for sightseeing, hobby, and to relax after months of hard work. However, the ticket price was very high during this period, so I decided not to go too far and just travel around Sapporo. I went to hot spring in a small town near Sapporo and visited some sight-seeing location there. This was also a good time to enjoy Japanese food, as I got the chance to try real authentic sushi!

Cherry blossom season
Seafood rice bowl, my favorite Japanese dish

Japan has always been the country on the top of my bucket list, and I finally made it. All the experiences, good or bad, will be something that I cherish. Japan is such a lovable country, that I look forward to returning here again, either for business or vacation. So, are you ready for it?

 

To be home – Vietnam

This is the last week of my internship in Vietnam, which is my home country. It has been two months, and I am finishing up with my documents and also this course. Since it’s my home country, I’ll try to write this from the most open perspective as possible and makes it easier for you to understand my culture, my job and my life in Vietnam.

My internship started from the middle of January for approximately two months. It’s done in Goshu Kohsan Vietnam held in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and is also my home town. Goshu Kohsan (hereby GKVC) is a leading company in Wastewater and Water Treatment and is very well-known among industrial companies such as Panasonic or TOTO. They were all our clients and we have installed wastewater treatment systems for them so that the discharge wastewater meets the national quality. My job is based in the Sales department where we receive orders from the clients and forward them to other departments, although I prefer working with the Laboratory department. In the laboratory, I was able to practice the skills I learnt from TAMK and learnt so many other techniques that has not been taught in TAMK. The ladies who work there are very friendly and they answered every question I had, because there were so many things that were unfamiliar to me.

 

My workplace/office

To be home, is the best feeling ever, and that is also why I wanted to do a short practical training in my home country. I wouldn’t lie, I have gotten a bit bored with the coldness of Finland, so I decided that I want to do my internship at home. And it was worth it, I had mom and dad always there to support me, and being home also relief a lot of stress. I work from 8am to 5:30pm, which requires me to wake up at 6 to go to work in time (since my workplace is in an industrial park that is 15km away from home). Working the whole day and return home late in the evening, I don’t think I would be able to do it if I were in another country. I don’t really have much time for other personal issues since in the evening I can only have dinner and go to sleep to get up early. If I were in Finland, I don’t know if I could cope with that as easily as I am now.

During my free time, I maintain my habit of going to the gym. I usually go after work, thus I go home very late. But in the weekend I am free, so I love roaming around the city on my motorcycle. Hanoi is a very big and eccentric city, so there is always a lot of things to do at anytime of the days. The movie ticket is very cheap, will blockbuster movies released all year round. There is a free walking street where people display all sorts of cultural activities and play folk songs. It’s a really great event to get to know Vietnamese culture. If you’re interested in museums, you can always check out the Museum of History, or Museum of Women. There are also plenty of historical monuments that scatter around the city as proof of our independence. Vietnamese people are very proud that they have defeated the Chinese, the French and US to defend for their freedom. Therefore, the monuments are a great example of our courageous past, and is something that we are all proud of.

My stay in Vietnam is soon coming to an end and I must continue my journey to Japan for my next intern exchange. But no matter how far I am, my soul remains in Hanoi, the heart of Vietnam.

See you soon!

Sverige är bra

I went for exchange to Sweden.

Not the obvious choice to go to from Finland, but I guess – I just like nordic countries.
And want to visit them all 😉

Sweden greeted exchange students (and first years) with 10 day event called Nollning, during which we are considered zeros and basically nobody 🙂
Nollning is full of fun activities, games, parties and many many more. It is hard to describe this experience – you just need to take part in it, cause it’s just amazing 🙂
We were even greeted by the Mayor of the city himself. Touching.

Nollning was probably the best part of my stay in Sweden, cause I met a lot of amazing people and got to hang out with them. That event definitely helped to kick off my exchange in a right way and with the right people.

BUT they made us try Surströmming – canned fish that feels more like a nuclear weapon!
If you ever will be suggested to try it – do it at your own risk. Just a warning 🙂

Some pictures of Nollning:
  People who made it happen. And me hanging out with the bear 🙂

Studies there I don’t want to cover much, cause it is about the same as in Finland. Although, sometimes I had so free schedule that I had to figure out what to even do.

Great thing about my courses is that I had project work and study trip to Copenhagen, which is win-win: visit this beautiful city and get some knowledge and credits from it.

Here is me with other exchange students in Copenhagen 🙂

In my free time, I organised the futsal team to participate in the Student League. Even though we did not get high place after all, we enjoyed our time together, that’s for sure!

My futsal team, good boys 🙂

I liked as well to go to the beach in my free time – just sit there and enjoy the view 🙂

Another good thing about my stay in Sweden is that I got to visit Norway and Denmark, interestingly enough. It is just so close from there, that it would be a crime not to go travelling around! So I did.

Copenhagen is beautiful and has a lot of places and thing to go to and to look at.
In Norway I took my time I went hiking to Preikestolen. If you have never heard of it – it is not great at all. Everyone should visit this amazing place, I’m sure of that!

View from the Preikestolen is just breathtaking! Pure joy to experience it!

 

As a small conclusion, I must say that I went to the exchange in Sweden for new experience and meeting new people. And I got exactly what I was looking for.
It was just right. Sad that it’s over though.

Scotland, oh Scotland. You beautiful country.

I did go there to study, which I did, but I also went to travel. Not being a ‘city girl’, Glasgow was crazy big (it’s the same size as Helsinki, roughly) and the weekends were not spent in the city. The studies did not have a lot of contact teaching, and I was lucky enough to get all of my contact teaching scheduled Tuesday-Thursday, which meant me and my friends often left Glasgow on Fridays to explore the countryside. (I think we spent only 1 full weekend in Glasgow…)

The studies were very different, a lot more individual than at TAMK. This was not an issue for me, since I like working individually, since then I get the grades I work for and do not get judged based on somebody else’s work. What did confuse me is the grading system. Apparently 70 % is very good. In my head that sounds like 30 % from a full grade = how did I do that badly? Just be aware of the difference in grading criteria, and you will not be sad when you see your score.

Many might wonder about the language. They do speak English, and the Scottish accent takes some time to get used to. How I solved this problem was by binging the TV-series Outlander before going. Without subtitles. It took a few episodes before I started keeping up and by the end of the first season I understood almost everything. But do not fret, the teachers do speak a very clear English, since they are aware of their accent being difficult for non-Scots.

In conclusion, travel around (it’s worth every penny), make sure you understand your university’s grading system, and do not be afraid of the language.

Greetings From the Land of Hurricanes

I’m doing my exchange studies in Raleigh, North Carolina which is in the east coast of the United States. North Carolina is a diverse state: going from east to west, you will travel from beach to mountains and there is everything in between. Raleigh is located inland. Nevertheless, my postcard is about hurricanes and how I experienced them!

You have probably heard news about the two destructive hurricanes that took place this fall. Due the unusually warm summer, America’s east coast has unfortunately faced two disastrous hurricanes that also had an effect to the town where I’m studying. Hurricane Florence struck in the mid-September and hurricane Michael struck in the mid-October. Both left behind aftermath of deaths and destroyed homes and buildings.

September 14, Florence made landfall in the North Carolina, and weakened further as it slowly moved inland. The State was early alarmed, and people started to prepare. Schools were closed, stores ran out of water, people were evacuated. It was forecast to hit the cost on Friday evening. North Carolina State University was closed on Wednesday till Monday. Students went back to their homes, buildings were secured with bags of sand, trees and branches were cut. Rental bikes and all the small loose things were removed from the streets.

When it finally struck after all the preparations, the hurricane had weakened to category 1. We were so far inland and survived from the biggest damage, however we had heavy raining and wind for a few days. Which felt like eternity for someone who was in the dorm the whole time. They threw a hurricane party across the street from my apartment, just that students that didn’t left town, could enjoy the extra vacation together. Basically, the time was spent watching Netflix, going to the gym, hanging out with friends and doing some homework. So we had a lot of fun. Luckily in my area there weren’t power outages and nothing more than a few fallen trees and small flooding on the streets. We got back to school on Tuesday and we needed to catch up the studies.

In the mid-August hurricane Michael did great damage to Florida and Central America. It moved up with heavy rain and wind. When Hurricane Michael struck, I wasn’t even aware of that we would be affected. School wasn’t closed, or classes weren’t cancelled. It was normal Thursday with a cloudy morning. I went to a class and during that, the skies broke. It was a lot of rain and the wind just blew the rain from every possible direction. I was wearing a rain jacket and umbrella which both had no use. It just wettened everything. My shoes were like sponges and my backpack with all my stuff got wet on my 500-meter way from school to library. I had to dry everything and pack my stuff into plastic bags before heading home. It rained the whole day and night, but it went over fast. The next morning was sunny and beautiful. It caused small flooding and few fallen trees and branches. For me hurricane Michael was worse.

People asked me if there were hurricanes in Finland and I always answered that we certainly do not have them. I experienced two Hurricanes in just a small period of time which is rare to even have that many hurricanes. It is a cultural experience that I don’t need to face in Finland. We were lucky to only get heavy wind and rain.

Working life of Moscow

At this point I’ve been working in Moscow for over two months and it gets slightly tiring. First of all, I should say that I was born and grew up in this city, so I was already familiar with how it works and I knew what to expect.

(a crane operating on our construction site) 

I would like to know what the situation is like in other major cities, but here everything is quite far away, no matter where you go (though communications and public transport of Moscow are fairly convenient). Currently I spend about two hours to travel each way every day. That, plus a normal working day of nine hours gives us 13 hours daily spent for working purposes. Thus, I don’t have much time to spare, but I have already visited most interesting places of Moscow in my life. This is vastly different from my usual Finnish life-style, but humans adapt.

But enough of that. My practical training itself is very useful for me and rather interesting. In my opinion, for the first practical training ever – this one is ridiculously good. I have enhanced my professional skills – environmental management, became noticeably more responsible and somewhat improved my MS Office and AutoCAD skills.

My job responsibilities include creating environmental procedures for a company that carries out construction supervision, monitoring the site and some other ways of enhancing encironmental performance.

(our object – “Park Huaming”)

Additionally, I spend some of my time on a construction site, supervising occupational health and safety and environmental aspects of the works, while learning about how construction is generally carried out, which is actually pretty insightful.

(a serious ocupational health and safety issue in one of the buildings – this shaft is not closed properly)

Russia just held a world championship 2018 in Moscow and other cities, so naturally the infrastructure of the capital has seen some improvements. It was nice to see so much joy and celebration with all the nations that came to my home city. Unfortunately, I was unable to join any of that due to a rather tight schedule (I’m not a fan of football anyway), but I heard some positive feedback from my friends.

(football fans)

Can’t wait to get back to cozy Finland and sleep it off.

If you ever come to Moscow and see plenty of grumpy people – that’s because they are tired. But don’t hesitate to greet or ask us something, as communicating with a foreigner is quite refreshing.

The Netherlands, why not?

Last Autumn semester, I had a chance to go to the Netherlands as an exchange student. I lived and studied in Breda, a city in the southern part of the Netherlands for five months. As a big part of the study program that I chose at Avans University of Applied Sciences was designed for distance learning and  the schedule is quite loose, I had a lot of free time for exploring the city and traveling.

Grote Kerk Breda

Breda is a peaceful city surrounded by river, yet it is always social due to students from two universities. In the weekend, I enjoyed walking on the main street, did some shopping then had lunch at either a cosy lunch place or a snack bar.  One distinctive feature that I love in Breda was that it was very easy to find a lovely coffee shop where you can have a drink or a light meal.

Sandwich at JanenAlleman

Fries with meat fritesaus and bitterballen at a snack bar

Because Breda was located near the Netherlands – Belgium border, it was convenient to travel to Belgium. From Breda, you can make a day trip to Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog,  where the border is just a single line run through houses. Antwerp, Belgium is only  a half hour away by train and by the same direct intercity train you will arrive at Brussels after one more hour. There are also other cities such as Ghent and Bruges that are the most famous destinations in Belgium. I visited them all when I had a few days off and it was worth it. Regarding to destination in the Netherlands, Amsterdam – the capital – the canal city is a must. There are also many attractions in this lively city such as the canals, Rijk Museum, Anne Frank House.

View from Museum aan de Stroom, Antwerp

Back to study topic, because all of the subjects were designed for distance learning so I did not have to go to school everyday. I could attend classes from home through an online platform. This was a new learning method that I have not experienced in TAMK. I felt more comfortable by attending class this way. However, as an exchange student, this caused a communication problem for me. Because I did not have to go to school, I did not usually meet people so it was hard to socialize with other students. Although the class schedule were quite comfortable, I still needed to devote a lot of time for studying. There were assignments every week and a project that sometimes had several reports due in the same day. The grading system were quite different from Finland’s. It was very hard to get 9 or 10  out of 10. There were some subjects that was impossible to get a 10. However, it might depend on the subject or the teacher, so just tried your best.

A meeting with client of a project

During my exchange semester, I learnt a lot about Dutch culture and also environmental related subjects. I really missed the days and the food after leaving this city. It is always nice to experience something new. So go on an exchange program in the Netherlands, why not?

 

 

 

Greetings from Japan!

I am working as an internship student at Hokkaido University in Sapporo. So far my journey has been amazing. Luckily I still have some time to have adventures and experience wonderful things. When I arrived I didn’t have much knowledge about Japan. I just knew sushi and Studio Ghibli. But now I know so much more. I know more about the culture and the people and their weird habits.

I am working in a laboratory doing some research about forestry in Japan. I also attended two courses just for fun. Sounds probably weird that I took two courses when I don’t get any credit for them but I wanted the full experience of university life in Japan. Now I know what kind of education system they have here. It differs from the Finnish education system a lot. Here they do a lot more research independently in the lab than in Finland.

I have been doing other things also, not just sat in the lab and lectures. I’ve eaten amazing food and also not so amazing food. My favorites are salmon sushi, okonomiyaki, yakitori, and ramen. The not so great food for me is the seafood. Especially raw seafood. I tasted some sushi with octopus and squid and they were not so good. We barbecued some scallops on a field trip. Definitely not for me. I missed sausage at that moment very much.

 

Okonomiyaki                                                                   Ramen at University café

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sushi

 

Yakitori

Barbequing scallops

 

At first, it was very difficult to get along since I don’t speak Japanese. But luckily there are translators on smartphones. And when shopping I know that the cashiers always ask for some bonus cards and if I pay with cash. So actually it is quite easy to get along. I just smile to people when I don’t understand them. The grocery shopping is quite difficult though. But I just buy what looks good even though I don’t always know what it is.

So far my best experiences have been meeting new people and as Disney fan the lion king musical and a trip to Tokyo Disneyland. I was so happy that I could just cry. The musical was amazing. I had glasses with subtitles so I could understand the dialogs. But like I said the best part is the people. I have met students, scouts (I am a scout myself) and people who work (yes I mean the guys in their suits). It is nice to meet all kinds of people in all ages and see that they all treat me the same way. They are so friendly and excited to meet a foreign person. I met one older lady scout who was an exchange student in Helsinki 40 years ago, she still knew some Finnish. I also met an older man who asked me where I am from and after I told him I am from Finland he started to hum Finlandia. I made friends with a Japanese woman the same age as me in a pub. It is such an amazing thing abroad that you can make new friends anywhere. And I feel that I can tell her everything even though we have known for a very short time. The worst part of making new friends abroad is that I know that my time is limited with them. It is sad to make new friends knowing that I won’t probably see them ever again. I know this because I have already experience from it from my earlier exchange period. Luckily I have made friends with one girl who I can again see back in Finland.

Disneyland

 

This experience has taught me so much about myself. Sounds a bit corny maybe. But I think I have really changed here. I hope that I will keep my new features when I go back to Finland. I have been braver and got more self-confidence. I have had adventures here that I would have probably refused before. So I would definitely recommend everybody to go for exchange or internship abroad, you can’t get these experiences at home.

 

Here are some photos from my journey

Kisses from a walrus and greetings from Japan!

-Miia

日本へようこそ! Welcome to Japan!

First of all, I have to tell this one: not many people in Japan can speak English, preparing some basic Japanese phases is definitely must-do.

I go to Hokkaido University at an intern student. I work in Solid Waste Disposal Laboratory, and basically my work is about researching and supporting master and doctor students in the same laboratory.

After spending two months in Japan, there are many differences between Finnish style and Japanese style in working. The most obvious is Japanese people always are overworking, they always stay in the office although the working time is already over. In large cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, it is common to see many people wearing vest and leaving workplaces at 10-11pm. On the other hand, in studying, the study-load is much more lighter. For graduate students, they have only 2 or 3 courses per semester. Most of the time they do researches and experiments in their assigned laboratory.  However, when talking with my lab-mates, for master and doctor students, if they want to graduate, they have to have at least 3 academic papers on scientific papers or newspapers, which means that they have to do at least 3 experiments and researches during their study. Doing researching is common for doctoral level, but it is the first time I have heard about doing research for master level.

As an intern student, my schedule is not to tight, I can decide what I want to do, when I want to work, and my professor always tries his best to support me in my research and study. However, there are some differences between Japan and Finland obviously:

  • In Japan, they won’t use card. Every place accepts cash, only some very big shopping mall accepts credit card. However, withdrawing money in Japan is easy because you can withdraw money in convenience stores, which are available everywhere. However, remember to contact your card issuer before departing because my friend can’t withdraw money although she use the same card as mine.
  • Not many Japanese people know English, then it would be better if you know some basic Japanese phases.
  • There are not many trash bins in public. One time I had to carry my plastic bottle for 3km for finding a trash bins.
  • Vending machines everywhere. You can find vending machine for each 3-4meters away.
  • When you stand on an elevator, standing on the left side. However, in only Osaka, when using elevator, you have to stand on the right side.

For me, going to Japan for my practical training is one of the best decisions in my life because Japan is always my dream country. Luckily, I have a long vacation after arriving in Japan which are called “Golden week”. I spent my time to travel to a tradition area in Japan – Kansai, including Osaka, Kyoto, Himeji, Kobe.

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Sakura road

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Fushimi-inari in Kyoto

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Children’s day decoration

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Whale shark in Osaka aquarium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most famous castles in Japan – Himeji Castle