Tell us about yourself and the reason you joined the Finnish academia?
I have chosen Finland, particularly the University of Eastern Finland, to pursue my PhD for at least two main reasons.
The first one is the study programme. I went through the website, and I found the curriculum to be excellent. I decided that this programme was what I preferred to do. For example, I have two options whether to work with a monograph or an article-based PhD dissertation. I preferred to work with the second option. With four articles published during my PhD, it would be easy for me to continue my career in Indonesia. I also learned that my expected supervisor, Professor Irmeli Mustalahti, had a wide scientific publication in various journals based on her research in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. I was motivated to learn from her. For me, it was not easy to get published in top journals, indexed as JUFO 1 and 2.
Second, I was 28 years old when I started my PhD, I had never actually seen snow until then. It has been my dream to see snow ever since I watched the American Christmas movie “Home Alone” as a kid. It was a good idea to come to Finland to see the snow. When I came to Joensuu, it was not easy to adapt to winter for the first time. Little by little, I was able to adapt to the changing weather and deal with extreme temperatures like -20 C in Joensuu. Now, I enjoy living in Joensuu, playing in the snow with my kids in the winter, doing adventure skiing on the frozen lake, and having a sauna after a busy day. This is Finland, the happiest country in the world where we cannot live without having a sauna.
What have been the challenges and opportunities affecting your life and work life in Finland?
I have many experiences, but I would like to share the best one. It was my first in-person teaching experience. In my case, I prefer to do research by conducting fieldwork study and then writing a scientific article on it. I always avoided teaching because it was not easy to spend two and a half hours in front of people. However, my supervisor asked me to do teaching to improve my skills. Finally, my first lecture came, about environmental conflict. I spent two weeks preparing the lecture. I talked about the oil palm conflict in Indonesia, and I managed to handle the two-and-a-half-hour lecture, thanks to students’ active participation. When I left the class, two students were waiting for me in the corridor. Both students stopped me and said: “Thank you for your lecture; it was a fascinating topic, and we enjoyed your lecture”. I had no words to express how happy I was then. Because of that experience, I am happy to teach, share my research, and learn from others.
The most challenging situation for me was during my first year of study when I lived here in Finland without my family. My wife lived in Indonesia to care for a toddler and a baby who was just born. We could not come here together because I needed more than my funding from an Indonesian institution to cover our living. We had so many misunderstandings during that year because of the time zone differences. For example, she called me in the morning (Indonesian time), I was still sleeping here. If I called her in the evening, she had already was already sleeping. Indonesia is five hours ahead of Finland.
However, in my third year of study, I got an opportunity for a shared PhD researcher position, where 50 per cent of my salary comes from UEF and the other 50 per cent from an Indonesian institute. Finally, my family came to Finland in the third year of my PhD. We are happy here, where many opportunities support my life and my family's life. For example, my wife attended an adaptation programme provided by the municipality employment services, where she learned Finnish and working skills to engage with society. In addition, our kids went to day-care where they learned social skills to communicate and play with their buddies. So, we were happy living in Finland.