MSc European Forestry: Gaining experience through internships

Did you know that as you are completing the program, you can do internships at different institutions in Finland to gain more professional, relevant experience?

In applying for this programme, you are presented with the benefits, experiences and knowledge you could gain. This includes networks, international and professional work settings, quality education, relevant forestry experiences and more outdoor activities.

In this post, you will see how some of our batchmates were able to get some internships that will surely gain you the international work setting you just always imagine, and maybe some tips on student-work life!

Photo credits to Luigui Ramirez

First, we tackle internships at the European Forestry Institute. Two of our batchmates (Mahtuf Ihksan and Ajdin Starčević) were able to get into EFI as interns for different projects.

Mahtuf, who started his internship in Mid-October 2020 shared that his involvement is in researching the interface of governance and trade: trade risk and log export bans. His main tasks are creating governance composite index and map for 200 countries/territories worldwide derived from nine different indicators for the period of 2014-2019 and compiling grey and scientific literature on international log export bans.

As for Ajdin, he shared that among his tasks were updating data and graphics for a report on timber trade between China and six Voluntary Partnership Agreement countries. He also shared that he had to go through different databases and acquire trade data from those, which would later be organized, presented graphically, and interpreted textually.

I bet you’re wondering how they were able to joggle their time as they are full-time master students, as well. For Mahtuf, as overwhelming as it could be at the beginning, as he says, through time, he was able to adapt to the lifestyle and eventually, learn valuable experience. For Ajdin, he said that the internship gave him an overview of what the professional working life could look like after finishing this MSc program, which motivated him to study more in this lethargic online study period.

We all know wise and effective time management is the answer but it’s more than that as per Mahtuf and Ajdin. I think with the right motivation comes effective study habit that results to wise time management.

Now, we move on to another institution, the Arbonaut Oy Ltd.

(Photo credited from Arbonaut Oy Ltd.)

If you are not familiar, it’s one of the few companies in the world that can provide full-service covering every aspect of forest information collection and data management (Arbonaut Oy Ltd.) and one of our batchmates, Solo Remonatto Rizzi, was fortunate to get hired as an intern.

According to him, employees at Arbonaut are very comprehensive, respectful and flexible. He also shared that at first, there were no vacancies applicable for him. But then, after some weeks, he got a call and they offered him a trainee position.

As a trainee, he usually works with GIS tools, process and analyze the data.  His main function was processing geographical data using QGis, analyze the quality of the data and also help his supervisor in different activities of the project. With the conditions of his residence permit, he could work around 20 hours per week, and then attend lectures and exercises from the university. In general, he told us he could manage well both his studies and his responsibilities as an intern.


With the considerations of this pandemic situation, we asked them of their internship experience and how the institution managed their duties and responsibilities.

My internship is kind of combination between work in the office and work from home, but mostly I am working in the office. Meeting with my supervisor is usually done through online platforms and most of the EFI staff also prefer to work from home as well (so little interactions in the office). Overall I enjoy working with EFI until now and managed to finish my first work package at the end of last year. ” – Mahtuf 

“In general, I am more than satisfied with the experience because I had the opportunity to work at the EFI headquarters. The offices were open, and I could interact live with my supervisor and colleagues which was a breath of fresh air during the whole pandemic situation.” – Ajdin

“Without live teaching and the reduction on the interaction between professors and students, for me the internship contributed to communicate and be introduced to the forestry community in Joensuu. For me this experience was of great importance, since I could build a network and also learn complementary and important information about forestry in Finland.”Solo

If you’re wondering how they were able to know a vacancy, check the Arbonaut Ltd. and EFI bulletin and website and you’ll see that you might be one of the next interns they would want to have.


This post was written and developed by Fellice Catelo. If you have any inquiries, you can contact fdcatelo@uef.fi/lramirez@uef.fi/mkrukjag@student.uef.fi.

Into the Forest

We can all agree that this has been rather an unusual year. In many aspects of our lives, this pandemic has changed our plans and shifted our ordinary university life. Although my friends and I were all looking forward to the one-month field trip throughout the European forests, adjustments had to be made. Instead, we completed assignments from the comfort of our homes, missing the experience of studying and working in the forests.

However, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. The new semester at BOKU university provided new challenges, and most importantly, new opportunities. We were suggested by our second-year coordinator to participate in the Field Camp which takes place in the Forest Demonstration Centre – Rosalia. Without hesitation and wholeheartedly, we, the MSc EF students at BOKU, decided to take the course. The decision has been proven to revive and somehow partially compensate the missed field trip experience which was unfortunately cancelled.

The Field Camp is designed to introduce new students to mountain forestry and forest-related issues in Austria. The course lasted for five days. In order to follow the protocols and ensure safety before the trip, we were all tested for COVID-19 and negative results arrived by the time we were ready to leave to Rosalia. When we arrived at Rosalia, we chose our rooms, got into some comfy clothes, had dinner together, and professor Kirisits gave us a short presentation about forests and forestry in Austria.

Starting with this, we stepped into a week of exploration, enjoyment and most of all, further understanding of Austrian forests. The following day was in the Rosalia centre where we got to know each other, attended lectures and walked into the forest where we were presented the experimental plots which are dealing with drought stress and its effects on attack by the spruce bark beetle.

Like every other day we had dinner together in the evening and on our second day visited the National Park Danube Flood Plain. The excursion at the National Park involved discussions about various issues found in this specific area, but also other parts of Austria. We also got to try some edible plants on the way, before lunch was served.

On our third day, we presented different case studies concerning our respective home countries and went for an excursion to the Forchtenstein castle. It was interesting and exciting to learn about different countries and hear various perspectives on the presented topics. We also got to explore the exhibition at the Forchtenstein castle which provided insights on the history of the area but also the history of Austria. After the visit, we were joined by the students from the second year of BOKU’s MSc Mountain Forestry program where we engaged in nice conversations and barbeque.

On the fourth day, we had an excursion at the Rax mountain area where we visited the Water Pipeline museum in Kaiserbrunn. The workers there explained to us the importance of multi-purpose forest management strategies for the protection of the drinking water reserves of the city of Vienna. We also got to see the demonstration of a cable crane operation in the mountain terrain. Professor Kirisits showed us examples in the field of ash dieback caused by Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. Moreover, we got to visit the house of forester Georg-Huebmer (Raxkönig) in Nasswald and get an insight of how the wood was transported years ago through the mountain to reach mills.

And at last, on our fifth day, we had an excursion and hiking tour at the Rax mountain area in the Northern Limestone Alps. The mountains were full of snow and together with interesting details and information given by professor Kirisits about the various topics concerning this area, we got to enjoy the snow and end the Field Camp in high spirits and looking forward to a successful second year.

We are so grateful for the joyous times we all had during the Field Camp. It gave us some sort of normality in times when online teaching and social distancing is a norm. The forest, the mountains and above all the sense of human connection allowed us to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 😊

The text has been written by Amina Derlić and photographs were taken by Aine Parlade, both second year students at BOKU university. If you have any questions, feel free to reach them at: derlic2106(at)live.com and aineparlade(at)gmail.com.

The Autumn Semester in a nutshell (MSc European Forestry Batch ’20-’22)

The title says it all! This entry is about the experiences of our batch for the Autumn Semester – from getting accepted to the programme and ending the first semester for the first year. The semester started and ended online, so you’ll see here how it all went, including our struggles and success. Happy reading!


Getting accepted into the MSc EF programme

You would be lying if you said that getting accepted into an international university (with a scholarship, if you’re super lucky) didn’t make you cry in both excitement and fear. I believe this is everyone’s reaction when they got that “email” from the program coordinator. Fortunately for you, reader, some students from the batch shared their experiences!

“Hi, I’m Luigui Ramírez from Bogotá (Colombia), currently living in Joensuu. I have been working as a forest engineer since 2017, and last year I decided to apply in MSc European forestry program under the Erasmus Mundus. Although it was a long process, with a lot of paperwork, it became an opportunity to broaden my knowledge as well as my experience in a place totally opposite to my country. When I received the letter of acceptance, a lot of emotions arose, the emotion of something so unexpected and at the same time so unknown comes with happiness and nostalgia for starting a new and very important stage in my life.”

“Hello, I am Marcel Jagnow, one of Brazil’s representatives in the ’20-’22 batch of MSc EF. I have always heard so many great things about the multicultural character of the program and its forward-looking, which kept echoing in my mind after I graduated. After years of working in the international lumber trade, I decided to pursue an international career at a broader level and the MSc EF was the perfect fit. There are no words to express how I felt when I received the e-mail approval right before the deadline, but I knew that I was being given the biggest opportunity of my life up to that moment.”

“Hi, I am Fellice Catelo, first year student of MSc EF at the UEF. I have started my autumn semester here in my home country, the Philippines, through online classes and self-study. Let me sum up and tell you my experience. Applying for this program was one thing, but getting accepted in it, during a pandemic (which we did not expect) was on another level. Ever felt that moment where you were up all night, wondering, of all the things you want to do, which will you do first? I was more than happy because it was the sign I was waiting for. With everything that has been going on, this was my silver-lining.”

It sure gives you that different kind of feels when you receive an opportunity like this one!


The first online semester

We all have expectations of how the semester could push through during this pandemic and, it was definitely online. Not everyone got the chance to travel and start their semester in Joensuu, hence it was a challenge to deal with the time zones and schedules of meetings. Some students from the batch started immediately in Joensuu, then a bunch started in their home countries and later on continued in Joensuu, and then, there were a few who had the entire semester in their countries. Again, you’ll see how it was for us through the different testimonials!

“I am amazed at the diversity of backgrounds and nationalities within our group and the enriching discussions that emerge from it. Of course, we feel sorry for not being able to go to all the outdoor activities that were planned and interact with our classmates and professors. However, I would rather face this as a chance to reinvent ourselves, which I believe we all have done well.” –Marcel

“Starting the semester in my country was quite a challenge, and the biggest one was undoubtedly the difference in timetables, in addition to the fact that I was still working from home which made for long days behind the computer.  In spite of this, the organization of the contents, and the quality of the information surprised me, and opened up the expectations of what I was going to start living once I moved to Finland. We know that one of the axes in our career is the practical part, and although the demonstrations and field work were suspended during the pandemic, it is understandable and I am sure that there will always be an opportunity to experience what was missing in this semester.” –Luigui

“Starting the classes online wasn’t so bad but, it wasn’t as good either. Learning by yourself, studying on your own accord, and not being able to communicate, personally, with your classmate was a major challenge for a sociable person like me. To top that, the forestry course is essentially full of outdoor activities and operations and it was sad to have missed it because of the situation. Nonetheless, I have my hopes high up as I became friends with some of my classmates and looking forward to meeting them personally very soon.” –Fellice

It is incredible how you can meet amazing people from different countries of the world and it’ll be a spectacular moment when we can all share this wonderful race together. In hopes of being in a better situation next year, this semester was all it was and we believe we have learned quite a lot. We all have made it  as we ended this semester, happily and peacefully.

To end this post, here are some random photos to give you a glimpse of how we have been doing! (P.S. There are bonus pictures of UEF Library and EFI Facilities!)


This post has been written and developed by Fellice Catelo. Photos were by Luigui Ramirez and Marcel Jagnow. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us (fcatelo@uef.fi/lramirez@uef.fi/mkrukjag@uef.fi).

MScEF Experience: Life in Joensuu

It was my dream coming true when I first received the e-mail from our coordinator saying that I had been selected for the scholarship. Student life in Finland was a lot of fun for me. I was thinking how I could adapt to the new environment and study life specially in Europe. By being a resident of a Southern Asian country, it was not easy for me to merge with the new environment. But everything went well when I met with my classmates, teachers, coordinator, and tutor. We have students from 13 nationalities in our batch. They were always helpful whenever I needed them.

Joensuu is a place which comprises a lot of activities for students besides studying. Biking, ice skating, canoeing, swimming, outdoor camping, eating together etc. and we took every opportunity to do those whenever we got some leisure time. Below there are some pictures of our outdoor activities.

Shared by Md. Rayhanur Rahman from Bangladesh.

MSc EF more than studies: an internation expierence. By Lauma Elza Miezīte

Hello! I am Lauma Elza Miezīte MSc European Forestry second-year student from Latvia. I am currently studying at my second-year university – the University of Lleida. I will share the experience I had in this program from the very beginning.

When I was planning to apply for this program, my worries were not only about studies but also about life outside the university.  I was worried about many different aspects. How will be the people from my program? Are we going to be friends? How is my apartment going to be? Will I get along with my flat mates? How is it going to be staying away from home for this long period of time? Will I like my studies? These are only some of the questions that were circling around my head. In this post, I want to share my experience mostly outside the university in Finland.

Before coming to Finland and my first month in Finland

Before going to Finland, my biggest worries were about the apartment. I received my offer at the end of June. At first, I was not very happy about it. It was in Karjamaentie, which is far from the University and there were five rooms in it. Now I can say it could not turned out better. The apartment itself was very nice and cozy. Almost half of the people from the master program were living in that area. I can only thank Elli and the apartment location for friendships that started with common dinners and crying on each other’s sofa.

I am a shy person and making friends is not an easy task, so I was worried about that aspect as well. Now I can say that the people I met in this program are just amazing. Everyone was open-minded, eager to get to know each other and start a new chapter in their lives. In addition, it was very nice that program coordinator organized get to know each other trip and dinners. It was a very nice experience with two days of getting familiar with Finland and each other.

 

Daily life in Finland

Finland is an amazing country. Living for almost a year there I had a great experience with beautiful nature and serenity you feel within its beautiful surroundings. Whenever I felt a bit down or I needed to think things through I could go for a relaxing walk in Joensuu’s forests.

In addition, Finland is a very safe country. I never felt unsafe on a street or anywhere else. My home country is not very far from there, I had no problems to adjust to culture or food. Comparing to my first weeks in Spain, in Finland everything was very easy for me. However, I cannot say that it was as easy for all the people in the program. Some of my friends coming from ‘’warmer’’ countries were struggling with how “cold” Finnish people seemed to them at first. For me, it is normal to keep distance, my own space and not to kiss and hug when I meet people for the first time. However, for them it was quite hard to get used to it.

One more aspect I have to mention is daylight hours. Basically, in wintertime there is no sun and daylight lasts for five to six hours. Even though it can get a bit hard and depressing, with friends around you everything is bearable.

Daily life in Finland was very nice, including (with) bike rides to university, walks in the forest, and get together dinners. One more thing that it is important to mention, in my opinion, is the financial side. In theory, Finland is always listed as one of the most expensive countries in Europe. However, I did not find a huge difference in prices between Latvia and Finland. Yes, some things were more expensive, but at the end of the month my spending’s were quite similar to the ones in Latvia, which was definitely under those 1000 euros.

International experience: benefits and struggles

In Finland, I spent only 10 months, but this time has changed me. I have been worried how will I adapt to such an international environment, but it was easier than I thought. This was the most international environment I have ever been in and it opened my perspective. I enjoyed meeting people from different countries and with different stories. The stories and experiences of different people I met made me look at the world differently. The key I found to good communication is understanding, respecting, and listening. We came from so different countries, different backgrounds, and values but managed to get along. Now I can happily say that I have friends in many different countries and one great advantage of that is when the Covid-19 crisis end I can go and visit them.

However, there were also some difficult moments. In my experience, good time outweighed my struggles; however, it is something that should be taken in account. Sometimes it was hard to be away from my friends and family in Latvia. I missed them. Sometimes when I knew that they were struggling, I felt helpless. In addition, sometimes I missed my culture, language, and food (Finnish food is quite similar but definitely not the same). I have found it a bit hard sometimes to go a long period of time without having somebody to talk to in my native language face to face. While I was in Finland this was not an issue as I had a colleague from Latvia, but now in Spain, I am struggling with this. There was so much I could learn from my peers in the program. For example, my background is in environmental science not forestry, therefore, sometimes I felt I was behind others but my friends always helped me to understand.

To sum up, I would like to say that I find my first-year experience in Finland and UEF great. I would not trade it for anything. There were some tough moments, but I think that’s life. I know how cliché this sounds but life is more beautiful outside the comfort zone, as I can justify it with my own experience. I had many doubts and fears before applying and before accepting the program. Sometimes I was changing my mind three times a day. Now, I feel extremely lucky and thankful for this experience. I have met people and learned things I would not have if I had stayed in my home country. I am also incredibly grateful for my family and friends back at home and their support.

I hope this post helped to get a glimpse of life in Finland and MSc European Forestry. I have attached some pictures of nature and us having a nice time. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me on my personal email: lauma.elza@gmail.com. 🙂

Applied period experience of MSc EF student Shaohui Zhang

 

Hello readers!

My name is Shaohui Zhang and it is my turn to share the experience of my Applied Period (AP) at the French National Institute of Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE) in Nancy, France. My AP was relocated to France due to the interruption caused by COVID-19 but I will never regret this relocation!

The institute 

As its name indicates, INRAE is a French public research institution that focuses on issues related to agriculture, food and environment. The institute aims to carry out science dedicated to life, humans, and the Earth and contribute to the goals of sustainable development. It is a top-tier research institution in the world and has a particularly strong influence in the fields of agriculture and forestry. Completing my 2-month internship (July-August, 2020 ) here was certainly my honour and pleasure. 

My tasks and what I learnt 

I was working closely with the Laboratory of Advanced Research on the Biology of Tree and Forest Ecosystems with three major tasks of science communication.

1). Study and synthesise research reports from the last three years;

2). Maintain and update the content of the lab’s official website (English version);

3). Interview influential researchers and create a short video that can provide a holistic picture of the lab.

I have to say that I gained a lot from this internship. Firstly, studying recent reports certainly helped me gain a better understanding of both the lab and its cutting-edge research, i.e., what it dedicates to and what is the latest development in forestry. Secondly, it trained me my ability of website management and aesthetics. I used to care little of this skill but I was proved wrong. Now I think being able to manage websites well is definitely going to be a plus for my future career. Most importantly, through interviewing influential researchers, I built up some networks who helped me secure a internship starting next year. It was not expected but luckily it happened.

Cultural experience

Nancy is a beautiful city with many cultural elements embedded in its architecture. It is also not far from the Vosges Mountains if you fancy a weekend escape away from city life. I had many activities with my co-workers and students from the same university. Learning French had always been on my bucket list so of course I started learning and practising the language. I am not a big fan of taking pictures but below you can find some snapshots of my experience so far. Enjoy!

 

 

PS: I am currently doing my second year of MSc EF at AgroParisTech in Nancy, France. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email at shzhang@uef.fi

 

Applied period experience of MSc EF student Md. Rayhanur Rahman

 

Despite the current pandemic situation, my Applied Period took place under the Chair of Forest Growth at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany. I joined as a trainee in KonKlim Project which aims at the suitability of three most economically important coniferous tree species (Norway spruce, Silver fir and Douglas fir) regarding their growth increments to predict climatic changes in Black Forest. 

My responsibilities were divided into two parts:

Field work:

  •       Sampling of microcores to assess cambial activity and cell differentiation during the growing season
  •       Participation in numerous field excursions to the Black Forest

Analysis work:

  •       Analyzing high resolution scans with semi-automatic image analysis software (ROXAS 3.0, Image ProPlus 7.0) to measure cell anatomical parameters.

During my internship period I learned a lot about institutions, professionalism, office works and techniques, which I think will be lifelong lessons for me. Most importantly, I improved a lot of my interpersonal skills through regular interactions with professors, researchers, and staff from different sectors.

Regarding life apart from work, the Freiburg city is the great place to live, as there are plenty of options for outdoor activities.  In addition, I really enjoyed the sunny weather in Freiburg during the whole applied period.

Experiences shared by Md. Rayhanur Rahman from Bangladesh who is currently doing his second year of MSc EF in the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany. Feel free to ask him any question at rayhanur.rahman@students.uni-freiburg.de

Applied period of MSc EF student Lucas Abreu

What is the applied period?

The applied period is a part of the MSc EF programme that takes place between the first and the second academic years. It is a great opportunity to put in practice the knowledge we gained during our studies, and also to get to know a new forest institution and to improve our professional network. Below I will tell you a little bit about my AP in the CTFC!

The institution

The CTFC (Centre de Ciència i Tecnologia Forestal de Catalunya – Forest Science and Technology Centre of Catalonia) has headquarters in Solsona, Catalonia, Spain. The CTFC is a public consortium under the Catalonian administration that was founded in 1996, with the University of Lleida and the Solsonès County Council being the founding members. Later, more organizations joined the consortium. Its mission is to contribute to the modernization and competitiveness of the forest sector, rural development, and sustainable management of natural resources, through research, and knowledge and technology transfer. The CTFC works through three programmes: multifunctional forest management, landscape dynamics and biodiversity, and bioeconomy and governance. My AP position belonged to the first one of those, and was carried out from July 9th to September 21st 2020. I was under the supervision of Dr. Míriam Piqué-Nicolau and co-supervision of Jaime Coello and Mario Beltrán.

The work

The main activities I carried out can be divided in two parts: field and office. On the field, I participated in pruning of broadleaves in experimental stands, aiming at the production of high-quality hardwood. This was a rich experience, especially because of my interest in the subject and because up to that moment I had only experience with pruning of conifers for high-quality wood production, and not of broadleaves. The two techniques are quite different. Another part of the field work was with forest inventory under the MixForChange project. Although the inventories for this project have several components, I participated in the ones involving deadwood, tree regeneration, and the shrub and herbaceous layers. In the office, I worked the totality of my time on the MixForChange project (mixforchange.eu). The work consisted of planning and carrying out data analysis, with the objective of understanding and visualizing the changes caused by the silvicultural treatments applied in the forest within the project. Inventory data from before and after these interventions was used as a data source.  At the end, a scientific report was produced collaboratively with my supervisor and co-supervisors to communicate our results.

My AP experience was very enriching, both in professional and personal terms. On the professional side, the field work was great to learn to prune broadleaves for high-quality wood production and to have contact with the different types of forest in the region. In the office, I improved my knowledge of the R language, especially of packages for data analysis (dplyr, tidyr) and visualization (ggplot2), and also learned about the regional context of the project – which is very comprehensive, it is definitely worth to take a look at the website if you are interested about the topic. Also, it was great to be involved with this level of depth in a project and to be able to obtain nice results even though my AP was only 10 weeks long. I am grateful to my supervisor and co-supervisors for the opportunity they gave me and all the support I received at work. Also, a special thanks for the field technicians from whom I also learned a great deal.

Personal considerations

On the personal side, it was great to live in Solsona, which is a small but very insteresting town. It was also a great opportunity to improve my Spanish. People from the CTFC are very friendly and we would always do something as a group outside of work. We spent many good moments in the region, which offers many options for outdoor activities. You can see a bit of Solsona, the work we did and the beautiful nature of Catalonia in some of the pictures below!

Lucas Moura de Abreu is a forest engineer from Brazil. He’s doing his second year of the MSc EF in the University of Freiburg, Germany. You can reach him at lucas2708@gmail.com.