Studies in a new language, a gap year with mathematics and new friends - this is what it’s like to study at the School of Chemical Engineering

In this interview series we meet our students. Mikaela Kumlin started her studies at the School of Chemical Engineering in 2019.
Mikaela smiling in front of the SChool of Chemical Engineering
Photo: Aleksanteri Kupi


Were you nervous to start your studies at Aalto? 

I was, because I didn’t know anyone else who would start their studies at the same time as me. However, I found new friends quickly. I connected with new people through my fresher group and at all the different events we attended during orientation week. Everyone is in the same situation when school starts, so everyone is as excited as you to make new friends. 

I was also nervous about my new studies. I had gone through high school without that much effort, and now the studies would be harder and require more work. The studies have been harder, but that’s also why you’d go to a university. Nothing has been too hard, and you can always ask for help or do the tasks with your friends. 

What are some differences in studying at an university from high school studies? 

Personally, my study language changed from Swedish to Finnish when I started my studies at university level. I could have taken certain courses in Swedish and all the exams so far could have been taken in Swedish as well. But since most of the teaching is in Finnish, I decided to take everything in one language from the beginning. So, I have had to learn the chemistry terminology in Finnish.The facts are the same in both languages, so the exchange has not been so complicated. 

I also feel that at university you have to take a lot more responsibility for your own studies and in general have more knowledge of what is going on. There are so many students at the university, that no one has time to run after someone to ask if all the required courses have been completed, or if they have remembered to sign up for a retake exam.

Why did you apply to Aalto? 

I had always been interested in science and mathematics. I also wanted a field of study where I could influence the future of our climate crisis. With these things in mind, I explored different possibilities and concluded that the field of technology would be the right choice for me. Choosing a school after knowing what my interest are was easy, as I knew people in Aalto who had spoken only good things about their studies and persuaded me to apply. My parents also thought Aalto was a good choice and I didn’t want to leave the Helsinki metropolitan area. However, I didn’t get in on my first try, so I ended up studying math for a year at the University of Helsinki.

Why did you apply to Aalto for the second time? 

When I first applied to Aalto, it didn’t cross my mind that I could apply to more than one bachelor program that interested me. I only applied to one and when I didn’t get in. But I got accepted to study mathematics at the University of Helsinki. I didn’t want to have a gap year because I graduated from high school at Christmas, meaning I had already had a partial “gap year”. That’s why I wanted to study somewhere, and math seemed like a good choice. I learned a lot that year and it gave me credits that I transferred to my curriculum when I started my studies at Aalto. However, I didn’t feel the University of Helsinki was the right place for me. I still wanted to influence the climate and in some wayhave a more concrete approach to the studies. I applied to Aalto again and got in to study chemical engineering. I am very happy with my choice and I feel that I have found my place here. 

What is your favorite memory from your first year at Aalto? 

Of course all the events where I have been able to party and relax with my friends, in-between the studying. My own successes on different courses are also good memories. When all the hard work has finally paid off and you get a good grade in an exam or from a group project. 

What has been the best and the most challenging parts about your studies? 

The best thing has been when you have been able to apply your previous knowledge and build on it with the information you get from the new interesting courses. Also, the feeling that I have now found the place where I belong, has been wonderful. 

The most challenging thinghas been learning to write a laboratory diary. This is something we never did in high school, so I have had to learn the writing style and remember what kind of information is relevant and needs to be written down. However, this is the kind of expertise that I came here to learn, so I appreciate the challenges.

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