For me personally, I consider the internationalization opportunities at Aalto University one of its greatest assets.
Because of Aalto University, I have been able to experience university life in two different countries within the past year. Last fall I did my mandatory semester abroad for my BScBA degree. To take advantage of the wide range of partner universities globally, I wanted to go as far as possible. I ended up on a new continent for me; North America and the University of Victoria in Canada. I had grown up watching American tv-series and movies about high school and college life in the states and I wanted to experience it for myself. What I consider my biggest learning from this first exchange is putting things in perspective. No matter how nice the campus is or fun the student life seems, my appreciation towards the high-quality education we receive in Finland grew immensely. Without the comparison to Canada I never actually realized the quality of our university programs and contrary to Canada’s system, for us Finnish citizens it is even free to pursue these programs. Canada as a country surprised me in the sense that it oddly represented all the stereotypes I had heard before. In fact, people were even more friendly than expected. This is something that I truly missed when I returned in Finland, where you rarely face the same kind of friendliness towards strangers.
When I started my studies in Aalto University, I knew from the beginning that I would like to spend half a year abroad as an exchange student, and Japan always seemed like an intriguing destination. After a long application period and overcoming several challenges, that dream finally came true at the beginning of this April, when I arrived in Tokyo to study in Tokyo Institute of Technology.
View of Tokyo from Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City
This is part 2 of a blog post telling about my participation in the course Sustainable Global Technologies (SGT) Studio at Aalto University. To read the first part, scroll down.
The time in Dhungetar was valuable for all of us. It felt like we spent several weeks there and we became familiar with some of the locals. In the evenings after all the official tasks were done, we had long conversations on cultural differences and life with our fellow students from AITM and during the days we all tried to find some own time to reflect on the experiences we were having.
On Saturday we left Dhungetar and we spent a day travelling through Nuwakot, visiting the famous Nuwakot palace of the king Prithvi Narayan Shah who united Nepal some 250 years ago. We also visited a chaotic marketplace and festival in a town close by and had lunch on the way. In the evening we arrived to Kathmandu and on Sunday we had a day of rest and touristing around in Thamel where our apartment was situated.
This Spring I am doing the Sustainable Global Technologies (SGT) Studio at Aalto University, which is a cross-disciplinary course focusing on connecting sustainability and technology in developing context. As part of our studio course my team did a two week field trip to Nepal now in March.
The studio course started officially in January but I met my team members and our mentor already during last Autumn to learn to know each other and start applying and looking for grants and potential sponsors for our project. What is exciting and really interesting about the Nepal project is that we built it up from scratch. It is a pilot project, meaning that there is no earlier collaboration established in Nepal through the SGT course. We decided on our topics and partners ourselves and it has been really interesting to see how far 5 ambitious and motivated students can get (with a lot of help from others!) in 3 months.
Our main topic is to look into reconstruction practices after the earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015 and made 1 million people fall below the poverty line. We are especially interested in knowing how successful reconstruction projects have been conducted and how the information related to reconstruction has been communicated to the beneficiaries and inside the organisations.
Whether you are into technology or IT, or for that matter in product development, Silicon Valley is the one place that would come in mind as a work place which would definitely be a life event for you that will be really hard to check in the wish list of yours. Reason for this could be that stakes are high in the most advanced research tech companies and margin of failure is low. What would it take you to get this dream come true? Yes, you heard this right! Aalto University has the solution for you. ME310 is a platform where you learn to apply the product development concepts at whole new level with real life projects offered by companies which are looking for solutions to problems that will make the world experience more comfortable for all of us.
Day 1: Designers re-designing design during the workshop Breaking Ground: Laying a Foundation for an Intersectional Collaboration.
Beyond Change: Questioning the role of design in times of global transformations, was hosted from March 8-11 at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel. The conference brought together researchers, designers, student ambassadors, activists, feminists, environmentalists, writers, educators etc. The research summit’s aim was to shine a critical light on the complex interconnections of design – also as a response to the tendency of seeing global crisis as a worldwide design competition. The venue was a space for dialogue and for exchanging ideas. It offered me many opportunities to connect with people who intersect the design hub in a similar and critical way. Through workshops, keynote lectures, conversations, I connected with inspiring people from around the world, discovering professionals who are working towards fostering support, community and solidarity within and beyond the design community.
During my visit to my home country, I had the pleasure to introduce Aalto University’s master’s programmes to several students from Veritas University in San Jose, Costa Rica. My aim was to raise interest about Aalto’s study opportunities and build a stronger collaboration between the two countries as a student ambassador of the MA programme in Creative Sustainability.
National Theatre, San Jose, Costa Rica
Costa Rica and Finland are two very different countries. Yes, I’m sure you might be thinking about one having warmer temperatures than the other, but the truth is that they both share something in common: nature. By building on this similarity, I then introduced Finland and the master’s programmes of Aalto University to all the students. I wanted from the very start to literally “break the ice” and the fear of experiencing a cold country. As I once heard in Finland, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing”.
During my Christmas holiday, my family and I spent a month in the sparsely populated ‘city’ of Taos in New Mexico, USA. As an Aalto Ambassador seeking prospective American students, my aim is to recruit interested parties from all regions I visit for both business and leisure purposes. As a result of this, I am able to attract talent from parts of the country that would otherwise go overlooked.
It is not the first time that Aalto University makes connections with this one of the three oldest art colleges in China – Hubei Institute of Fine Arts(HIFA). In 2015, there was visiting professors giving lectures and organizing workshops at HIFA.
However, students and teachers from HIFA had a chance to get to know Aalto from a fresh and different perspective – a presentation given by Aalto Student Ambassador who come from current students at Aalto, me Yuzhou Wang.
Everything happened very fast. One day I was opening my mailbox and reading the message from Saara and Katri that I was nominated as one of the Aalto Ambassadors and in, what it felt like less then a week, I was sitting in the train, looking through the window and arriving at the crazy massive city of Tokyo. Since my departure from my exchange time in Tokyo in February of this year, I wanted to come back, but it didn’t cross my mind that it would be still in the same year. The feeling was amazing! Plus, I was filled with the thrill of being entrusted with the task of representing Aalto students. I was carrying my ‘thematic’ bag and heading to Tama Art University (my exchange university) and Sokei Academy of Fine Art & Design.
My ‘thematic’ suitcase