Irin Rony - Master’s student at the University of Jyväskylä

Irin, where do you come from and what is your educational background in your home country?

I come from Bangladesh where I did my Bachelor’s in Agrotechnology with a major in Plant Pathology. I also did a Master’s in Plant Pathology before applying for my studies here. Now I’m doing my Master’s in Biology and Environmental Science with a major in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

How did you find out about your current degree program and the possibility to study in Finland in general?

Actually, I was searching for different universities abroad on my own as well as got to know about the possibilities to study here because of a friend of mine who had studied here himself. Then I just looked for what kind of degree programs I could apply for here and was a bit worried that there were no study programs closely related to what I had studied before. Fortunately, I found out later that I can select almost any kind of program I want and I decided to go for Biology and Environmental Science at JYU.

What do you mean by “selecting almost any kind of program”?

Well, here it doesn’t need to be very similar to your previous studies as long as the general field is more or less related. That is why I was a bit confused, for example, between which major to choose between Sustainable Management of Inland Aquatic Resources and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, so I just decided to go with the latter one. When I compare this system to the system back home, the path taken can be much broader in the sense that you can change the direction of your professional path quite a lot after completing your Bachelor’s.

Okay, so when you say that you were looking at different universities and possibilities before coming here, were you looking everywhere or did you start with some specifics in mind, such as the Nordic countries, for example?

I had selected three countries – Canada, Denmark and Finland. I decided to leave out Canada for certain reasons and then started looking for scholarships. That was one of the main considerations as the tuition fees seemed quite high. At last, I ended up applying only for Finland as there were also some visa restrictions and immigration difficulties between Denmark and Bangladesh.
You have been here for a couple of years already, what are some positive aspects about studying here?
This is a quite student-oriented study system, which allows for independent learning. If you are here to do your best study-wise, the teachers are supportive and your strong interest in some area is often much more important than the previous experience.

How about some aspects about living here?

Living here is very secure when compared to my home country. Regular citizens here, even outsiders, don’t face racism or anything like that, so it’s better for me.

Do you already have some plans for after you graduate from here?

Yes, as I’m working on my thesis right now, its title is “Are Patterns of Parasitic Infections Influenced by Host Heterozygosity?” I have two alternatives in my mind – I can continue with a PhD here in my university or try to go somewhere else to continue my academic career. I feel like I have gained enough knowledge and skills here to feel confident in that respect.

So you would like to stay in the academia after your graduation?

Yes. Also, I have something else in mind. I like administrative work and at this point I’m considering if I should choose one over the other or find a way to combine them. Obviously, I would like to stay in my professional field.

What would you recommend to other international students before coming here?

Hmm…That’s a tricky one.
For example, something that you think would have made your life easier by studying or researching before coming here?
Okay, in my study area, it is very useful to have at least the knowledge of wet-lab work. What you read in a book is very general and theoretical. There are some steps and precautions that we all learn to take but proper hands-on experience helps immensely. I know many people here who come from countries where writing a Bachelor’s thesis is not required for getting the diploma. This is one of the worst things, I guess, I can think of in terms of my studies.

Students come here from different countries, different circumstances and they come for different educational goals. What are some things they could prepare for when it comes to moving to Finland and living here?

Yeah, I know that many international students have the mindset of “well, I’m moving to a new country – will I get a job as soon as I move there?” But that’s not the thing you are coming here for as your original purpose, you are coming here for your studies and I advise you to give the best you can to your studies during the first period of your life here and focus on that and then you will understand the system and how to balance your studies with a possible job etc. Also, students come from completely different environments and have expectations about what the university should provide but my opinion is that you should research how the study system works, its flexibility and keep an open mind without worrying about getting a job immediately and give yourself some time to settle down and figure out how this system works. Your first months and your first semester here are very crucial. Many students that come here don’t have the habit to constantly read scientific articles, textbooks etc. to supplement the required tasks at the university but this is how things are done here. You have to get accustomed to rely not only on your teachers’ notes but develop a habit to study on your own as well.