Student Albert Rehnberg ended up to his dream programme by accident
I knew early that I wanted to become an engineer and then I found the perfect Bachelors programme for me; Energy and Environmental Engineering back in 2016. It was one year after the Paris agreement, so the topic was highly relevant.
I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and I have switched Master’s once already. In the same way as for my Bachelors, I selected the double degree Master’s in Energy storage at EIT InnoEnergy, because it sounded the most interesting. I think faith, coincidence and earlier twists and turns brought me to my current programme, which is truly suiting me both as a person and as an academic!
Going international is probably the coolest thing about my programme as I’ve always dreamt about an international career, but the likeminded people, who have become my family, are probably what I appreciate the most. Also, especially when studying renewable energy, it feels like we are in this together, as we are the ones who should come up with brilliant sustainable solutions for the world. We have that kind of team-spirit in my programme and I enjoy that.
I find such a simple thing fascinating, that the people studying with me all have done their Bachelor’s in totally different places around the world, and yet somehow, they have ended up here, with me. Getting to know these people has taught me the most so far. Double-degree programme means seeing two new universities and to live in two new countries, so it is indeed interesting when the very fundamental daily things that is usually have taken for granted become new and unknown. To understand what is required from you and how you are understood is very interesting. This means for example that, eventually you “get good” in exams and projects in Aalto, because all courses have sort of the same kind of requirements, but abroad everything is new all the time.
So far, I have enjoyed most Engineering Project management course. It is a course where you practice the very core thinking of an engineer. Most topics covered are daily things, like going shopping groceries or planning a road trip with your friends, but there is plenty of research about how to think when doing these things and how to plan everything in advance to get the cheapest/fastest/most convenient result. The course is also full of “aha-moments” as most things are very logical and makes sense, but you need to see those things once in order to add them to your “repertoire of thinking”.
I appreciate the Nordic straight forwardness and organized approach more, as the southern European style is rather different. From the partner university Instituto Tecnico Superior in Lisbon, I was actually expecting an easier time since Finland and the North is known for its high degree engineers, but in the end, I was not too surprised to see that there is some serious knowledge elsewhere too, and I have really needed to put my head down to get the job done, which is charming in a way. When putting your head in the books, most universities all look quite similar (pun intended).
I start my regular days by waking up in my co-living apartment by the constant sunny weather around 8 and have a quick snack before walking up the hill to university. Here 1,5h lectures in economics, energy or project management are varied with multiple coffee breaks at the outdoor café, including fascinating discussions with my classmates about school, about some interesting energy technology, business idea or just where to bike on the next bike ride. After coffee breaks and lectures the rest of the days are usually spent in one of university’s study rooms, where course project and deadlines are fought until sunset. In the evenings only rarely, you must eat dinner on your own as the local prices allow eating out rather frequently. After a session at the gym or other outdoor sports activity the day is finished, and it is time to round up the day with some Netflix or at home duties before going to bed around 12.
My current university does not have much student activities due to the pandemic unfortunately, but the umbrella organization of my double master’s, EIT InnoEnergy, is hosting all kinds of events. We did a one-week trip to Milan in October to attend Enlit, an expo where tons of energy transition companies were represented. Networking, developing of business ideas and exchanging of ideas made that week crazy exhausting.
I also attend “Battle of green talent” Which is an online competition between startups. Students create startups on a platform with their own business concept and products, and then the platform have players in the role of “Investors” that grade these ideas based on a bunch of criteria. The battle is ongoing and will converge in April when the finalists will fly to Stockholm for an intense real-life pitching of their companies to a real audience before the winner is revealed.
I also play in the Handball team of the student union at Tecnico which is nice. We are playing in a league against the other universities in Lisbon. The level is quite high but I would say I get along nicely!
Finally, EIT is also offering this “Entrepreneurship Journey” where the task is to create a startup over the course of the year. That is very exciting as I have a crew of three likeminded people, one Portuguese, one from Dubai and one Italian, and we have a crazy fun “sandbox” experience when trying to build a company that would have potential to make it in the big scary world, all from scratch!
I still don’t know what I will be when I grow up and I think I never will, but one thing I’m sure about is that I never want to stop learning! I already see myself studying other things than what I’m studying right now, which might be good in the future work market, where re-educating will be inevitable. Right now, I want to solve renewable problems in the battery industry, but it would be awesome to come up with an own innovation at some point, and to keep meeting inspiring people that keep blowing my mind.
I guess I have a lot of advice for the student’s starting their studies, because I’ve taken so many wrong steps and turns along the way haha! I guess it is essential to have fun regardless of what you do. Also, I would say it is key to recognize that you can only work with the resources that you bring to the table yourself. Some might be able to build a great boat with only Lego pieces and you can’t, but you can build a car instead. Just work with what you got in your hands, that’s what engineers do.
I have changed my Master’s two times already and currently I study something completely different to what I was thinking during the time as late as when I wrote my Bachelor’s, so don’t stress about getting decisions right directly. I would put it like this: You might not know how to get to that dream place 10 years ahead from now, but you might see where you can place your very next step. Then focus on taking that step and only after focus on the next one.
I have for a long time worked with being honest with myself (not the easiest thing I promise), so things I like, I have recognized that I like, and things I don’t like, I have stopped with. When you go with that mindset, that you attend events that are interesting, talk to people that you want to talk to and do things that are fun to you, one day you might send an “off the hip” (lonkalta heitetty) application to your dream Masters’ programme without even thinking about it (like I did), just because you felt “this feels like something I could do”.
Remember to take it easy during the pandemic too! I took more or less two skip years during my Bachelor’s, because studying tasted like cardboard (“smaka trä” – Finlandssvenskt utrryck) and I think those years really educated me about myself. When I returned to studying, I had new motivation, new insights and other experiences that in the end made studying way more fun, but also more targeted on things I actually wanted to study, so think about that!