After studying in three different countries, our ambassador Jayaruwan Gunathilake moved to Finland to do his Master's degree at Åbo Akademi University. In this article he shares his observations on the Finnish academic experience.It’s been nine months since I moved to Finland, and it’s almost time to finish my Master’s degree. Before moving to Finland, I had been educated in three different countries on three different continents. Considering the differences in education systems and the academic experience, it’s definitely worth putting into words what it means to study in Finland. It’s no surprise that Finland is renowned for its education!
This has probably been the most intensive year of my academic career. But with the support you receive in Finland from your supervisors and peers, it has been nothing but an enjoyable experience. I used to be anxious and nervous about starting my thesis because of the horror stories my friends would tell me about their own experiences in graduate school. Now, at the end of my degree, I realize I could not have asked for a better support system.
It’s not my intention to discuss and compare each and every education system I have experienced. However, depending on where you come from, you might have already experienced the extremely long extensive examinations and the unrealistic burden that many education systems put on students. Don’t be too hopeful though, there are exams here in Finland too! But you are given multiple chances to succeed. There is no unrealistic expectation for you to become an expert overnight.
Over the past several months, I have spent quite a lot of time in the laboratory doing research for my thesis. Flexibility is one of the best things I’ve experienced at Åbo Akademi. I get to choose a time that is convenient. If it works better for me, I can even come during the weekends to work in the lab. I know that sounds extremely nerdy and tedious, but it means I get to take the day off during weekdays if the labs are too busy! Everyone here has their own rhythm and schedule, and almost nobody is restricted by exact time slots.
When I started my thesis, I realized that nobody here is looking over your shoulder and there is no one to shadow you all the time. This absolutely does not mean that you are on your own! Help is literally next door for me. My supervisors – as busy as they are – always make time to come and ask about my progress and discuss the problems I encounter on a daily basis. It’s an excellent place to learn how to work on your own, and it feels really good knowing that they have confidence in you. I cannot speak for all Finnish universities. But I am certain that my colleagues from other institutions in Finland will completely agree with me on this.
Does this mean that studying in Finland is absolutely perfect? Probably not. There is always room for improvement. Perfection is a dynamic target. The difference I have experienced here though is that there are always people constantly working towards that target. I wish I could bring all the people who are responsible for education in my country here and show them what education means, and that it goes way beyond paying teachers to follow a curriculum.
But that is a long story reserved for another time. For now, I invite you to come and experience the difference in Finland.
Learn more about studying in Finland
Finland University serves as a gateway to one of the finest Finnish multidisciplinary Universities on offer. If you are interested in studying in Finland and would like to find out more, the downloadable Finland University guide provides a quick starting package about how to apply for International Master’s Degree Programmes and Scholarships at the member universities of Finland University.
Interested? Download the guide and learn more!