A lake called Savojärvi at the national park called Kurjenrahka Kansallispuisto.

My two years of student life in Turku: new experience

Two years ago, I didn’t anticipate that this summer, I decided to apply for a residence permit to spend a few more years with a PhD position in Turku, Finland. Coming from a metropolitan city, Shanghai, my beginning of staying in Turku seemed to be a sharp turn in every means: culture, degree structure, language, weather, food, transportation, holidays, grocery, health care… But no need to panic, student life in Turku is easily manageable and much fun.

Climbing the stairs of knowledge to reach campus.
Climbing the stairs of knowledge to reach campus.

Studying in the University of Turku

For the first year of the MSc in Biomedical Sciences: in Drug Discovery and Development degree program, we had a variety of courses. Including practical laboratory courses, drug regulations, some bioinformatics, computer-aided drug design, general information in pharmaceutical industries, etc.

The one-year study offered a broad knowledge in drug discovery and development, which allows possibilities for students to continue pursuing our careers in any specific area. Due to the pandemic, unfortunately, we had a lot of lectures via zoom. But some courses were managed to be organized on site.

It was quite challenging to get this device work as it was designed to be. But it was rewarding when we finally made it!

If you prefer studying with more practical projects. The highlight of this DDD program was scheduled at the second year. This year, we could choose whatever topic we are interested in to do a thesis on. I spent the second academic year mostly doing cancer research in Kurppa Lab. This year of practical thesis project was like a package of everything I learnt in the past few years, including laboratory work, seminars and thesis writing.

It is definitely not easy to learn new lab techniques and get beautiful results within 6 months’ lab work. Neither is the following thesis writing as interesting as lab work. The thesis project still helped me to achieve better understanding of the topic, interpreting and presenting a new scientific result and developing independence of working in scientific research project. I believe that it offered a preview for my upcoming PhD student’s life.

Zejia's lab work with cancer cells
Part of my lab work with cancer cells

My leisure time in Finland

Studying a while on campus then enjoying an evening with new friends
Studying a while on campus then enjoying an evening with new friends

As a ‘small’ city (with my bias comparing to Shanghai), Turku may not have too many music festivals, tourists’ resorts, delicate restaurants and fancy bars, but it is so close to beautiful nature, which I consider very precious.

If you are a nature lover, I bet you will enjoy living in Turku, or Finland in general. On some sunny summer weekends, national parks are the best places to go and enjoy spending time with lakes and forests. Sometimes there are squirrels and ducks, too.

During summer holidays, from June to August, I would go to the beach in Ruissalo for swimming, kayaking, sauna bathing and beach volleyball. With bigger budget, sailing would also be fun and enjoyable (without getting seasick).

Savojärvi Lake, picture taken during a hike in a national park called Kurjenrahka Kansallispuisto.
Savojärvi Lake, picture taken as I was hiking in a national park called Kurjenrahka Kansallispuisto.

My living expenses while studying in Turku

Living in Turku is expensive? To some extent, yes.

In my personal experience, living expense in Turku is similar to living in Shanghai. Except for rent and coffee, everything else seems to be more expensive in Turku. Luckily, with student priced lunch at school canteen (e.g. Assarin Ullakko) and student housing price in TYS, Turku is indeed a student-friendly city.

In addition, it is possible to work part-time while studying. As far as I know, many students are working in restaurants, coffee/bubble tea shop, Prisma (supermarkets), university laboratories, and companies either part-time, summer jobs, or freelance.

Did I enjoy studying at the University of Turku for the past two years?

Sure, I enjoyed it.

I experienced life in another part of the world. Before I came to Finland, I didn’t know in Finland, I have to wave at the bus to ask the driver to stop. I didn’t know student lunch is a kind of buffet with limitations. I didn’t know that I need to weigh pineapple in the grocery store with a code to get the price tag. I didn’t know days are so short in winter while too long in summer. I didn’t know that in summer holiday, almost every cottage is booked. I didn’t know in front of Turku Cathedral, there is Jazz live almost every Wednesday in summer… 

Let’s finish this blog with a sunny and snowy day I filmed on the balcony of my rental apartment

Welcome to apply to the University of Turku and enjoy a lovely life y’all!

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