“I CAN PURSUE MY LOVE FOR CHEMISTRY ABROAD - WHICH IS AN UNREALISTIC DREAM COME TRUE”

A very exciting curriculum, lots of hands-on laboratory work, high-end labs and a scholarship opportunity –

those were the things that sealed the game for MDP for Research Chemists at the University of Eastern Finland, says a first-year student Le Phuoc Thao Nguyen (May). However, the chance to study abroad was not handed to her on a silver plate. Now May is determined to accumulate all scientific and cultural knowledge possible and take it back to Vietnam to contribute to the chemistry expertise in her home country. 

GOALS, DETERMINATION & HELP OF A SCHOLARSHIP

May comes from Vietnam, a ‘developing country’ according to her own words.

–The level of education in my country is not as good as in Europe. It is one of the reasons why I wanted to study a Master's degree abroad. I have cherished the dream of studying abroad since I was in high school, but I think the Master’s degree stage is the most suitable time to experience and confidently overcome all the difficulties we meet when we start studies in a new country. At that time, we are mature enough, but still full of youth, dynamism and the desire to explore the world.

In her home country, May graduated from the University of Danang with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry teacher education. The choice of study field was clear for her ever since she was a teenager.

–At the age of 14, I found it was incredibly magical each time my teacher performed her colourful chemistry experiments. It sparkled my passion and motivated me to study hard.

However, the chance to study a Master’s degree in a country with a highly developed education system seemed unrealistic at first.

–When I grew up, my parents had to work very long hours, seven days a week to provide us food and accommodation. That is the reason why I have been seeking different scholarship options that can help me financially in my attempt to fulfil my dream.

Actually, this year there’s exceptionally good news to students outside the EU/ETA area: to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the University of Eastern Finland, all new students admitted to the MDP for Research Chemists in 2020 (September intake) are eligible to receive a partial tuition waiver of 80 %.

LABORATORY WORK IN HIGH-END FACILITIES

What attracted May to take a closer look at the MDP for Research Chemists was the strong focus on practical laboratory work. So it’s no surprise that her favourite course so far has been the Advanced Laboratory Course.

–I’m very impressed by the university's laboratories and their state-of-the-art equipment. Doing practical experiments helps me apply the theories quickly and easily. Of course, we were first thoroughly instructed on safety issues in the lab and in the building, as there are dangerous and flammable chemicals that require special handling. After that, we had to pass oral exams with the assistant before doing our own experiments. The assistant is also always present in case we need some help.

In a larger perspective, May’s goal is to conduct chemistry research, and ultimately contribute to the chemistry expertise in Vietnam.

–My goal after graduation is to return to my country and become a teacher. I will take the knowledge that I have accumulated during the two years in Finland to teach students in Vietnam.

The teachers of the programme have left a mark on May, as she praises them for their friendliness and willingness to help.

–If I had to describe the programme with three words, those would be kindness, high quality and internationalization.

FROM HOMESICKNESS TO A BALANCED LIFE

For May, life back home in Vietnam used to be very different, compared to a new life in a much smaller city of Joensuu, in the east of Finland.

–I come from a big city which is always crowded and the shops are open until late at night. When I first came here, I was unfamiliar with the sparsity here.

The difference in lifestyle led to a little bit of homesickness in the beginning. But May was prepared.

–I was so excited to move to Joensuu. I anticipated all the difficulties I would face, which helped me not to get stressed or depressed when I was in trouble. Instead, I bravely confronted and dealt with them. Understandably, there were some moments when I was homesick and lonely, but my friends and family have been beside me, and I call my mom every day. Now, my life is quite balanced and I control everything.

May has also found new hobbies such as walking in the forest or reading books at the library.

–If you love nature and prefer a peaceful life, Joensuu is a great choice. But that doesn't mean it's boring here. UEF has many activities and clubs for students, and there are many kinds of events. I also like listening to music as well as cycling around the city on beautiful days, which helps me relax after stressful classes or exams.

One of the greatest things about an international programme is that you don’t actually have to travel to see the world.

–My fellow students in the group come from many countries around the world. They are just like me: they have left their homelands and families to study in a new environment, so we have mutual sympathy and understanding. They are very friendly and always happy to help me. We often talk about the lectures, our families or cultural differences during the break times or over lunch. You learn a lot all the time.