“I’m fascinated by the very contemporary studies on AI”

For George-Cosmin Porusniuc, a first-year student in the International Master's Degree Programme in Information Technology (IMPIT), moving to Finland for studies was at the same time the first-ever trip abroad. He says that the first fall has been a rollercoaster of emotions – and mainly positive ones, as the studies have turned out to be super enticing, and learning a new life in a new country offers countless opportunities for challenging your ways of thinking.

After completing his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering in his home country Romania, George wanted to go global. He was looking for AI programmes and wanted to learn from the most developed countries in this perspective: Belgium, Netherlands, maybe the Nordics… Then came the day when a Romanian Early Stage Researcher Radu Mariescu-Istodor had a presentation about the University of Eastern Finland at George’s home university – and his decision was sealed.

The IMPIT programme of the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) was the perfect fit for George, since as a EU citizen he could study without paying tuition, and the versatile study modules enabled him to transition from the mechanical aspects of computer engineering to software development and AI – just like he had hoped for.

–I noticed that outside of Finland, Master’s Degree programmes tend to be very specific, or at least named very specifically e.g. MDP in AI. Therefore, I have to say that the name of this programme, MDP in Information Technology, doesn’t give full justice to it, since by tailoring your studies, you essentially become a Master in AI, for instance. There’s a lot of room to pick courses that suit your personal interests.

First time abroad

Finding the perfect Master’s programme can be challenging enough, but starting a whole new life in a foreign country when you have never travelled outside your home country, as was the case with George, is extreme.

–I don’t deny it, it’s been overwhelming. It’s been difficult, interesting, but ultimately amazing.  Like a rollercoaster of emotions, to say the least. When you don’t have your friends to rely on in the beginning, you learn to find a way yourself and you evolve. You don’t put yourself in a situation like this at home, so you don’t challenge your thinking the same way as outside your own circles.

The confusion in the beginning transformed into curiosity and admiration on how well things are organised in Finland.

–What I like the most about Finland is that every single Finn I’ve met has been really helpful and happy. Even though they didn’t know English, they try to help even by pointing me to the right direction. However, most Finns speak really good English. The stereotypes of Finns being really introverted made me shy to bother people with silly questions in the beginning – but then I realised that it doesn’t hurt to ask and that those stereotypes might not even hold true. Finland is really a country where you see how things should be done – you shouldn’t complain about high taxes when you see what you get in return.

George was also surprised that he paid for the housing in Finland the same amount that he would pay back home in Romania. Also, the generous tuition waivers and student discounts help a lot in organising finances.

–Oh, the campus cafeterias here are so good! Lunch here is even cheaper than back home, and the food is really good. If someone complains about it they must be over-pampered, George laughs.

Too many interesting courses – a positive problem

Now life and studies are flowing smoothly.

–I have found many courses super interesting, especially the course “Artificial Intelligence”. Even though I had taken a course that covered some of the same topics back home, the AI course here in the IMPIT programme really stood out by how well the concepts were outlined and explained through relevant real-world examples. The programme content feels very contemporary.

George appreciates, for instance, that the ‘hot topic’ of the ethical aspects of AI is an integral part of studies. On top of that, the topic for the final home project that the students did really surprised him.

– I chose to implement a special type of neural network called GAN (Generative Adversarial Network) to learn how to change the intensity of facial expressions in images. I found it really amazing that after getting acquainted with so many interesting AI-related topics, we got to work on a real cutting-edge project.

However, the highly interesting topics have caused one problem – that George’s schedule is getting almost too full.

–Back home I had no freedom to choose my courses, so here I kind of went overboard with it and took too many. So, this is maybe one piece of advice I would give to a new student – don’t try to fit everything in.

Another thing George wants to say to anyone who’s considering applying to the IMPIT programme is that “don’t be shy to ask questions”.

–I exchanged probably something like 50 emails with the programme coordinators prior to my arrival. Even though there’s a lot of information on the website, you can always ask.  It took only between 10 minutes and 1 day to get an answer every time, so I want to thank our hardworking coordinators Oili and Laura for their amazing job!

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