Roshan Bhandari from Nepal, a recent Master’s graduate from our School of Environment, Resources, and Development, talks about his life-changing experience in an exchange program at a European university. Here is his story:
Experience of a Lifetime
As a graduate student, getting an exchange opportunity to Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland, one of the world’s prestigious institutions, was an outstanding achievement. In particular, receiving the Rafiul Ahad and Frances Kesala Ahad AIT student exchange scholarship, which supported my stay in Finland, was a matter of pride.
Passing through the rigorous selection process from AIT and LUT, I made my dream of studying exchange semester at LUT a reality. I was very excited and hopeful about this new phase despite the uncertainties caused by the covid pandemic.
For economic reasons, I had chosen to fly to Helsinki with transit to Germany, which caused a few concerns to the airport authority. But eventually, I arrived at LUT in the city of Lappeenranta in mid-January, in the middle of the winter season in Finland. I had a hard time adjusting to Finland’s -20℃ climate, coming from more than 30℃ plus tropical weather in Thailand and lovely 25℃ back home in Nepal. I was amazed and shocked by the weather; January to March is dark and cold. I had never experienced snowfall nor seen roads and trees covered in snow before. The sight of white snow everywhere was stunning and felt like a whole new world. I enjoyed playing many popular snow games in Finland. Eventually, I adjusted to the cold weather and could complete my studies without difficulties.
Working on my thesis in AIT and doing the coursework of LUT was not easy. Still, motivating myself to work extra hours every day and getting encouragement and support from my advisor, Dr. Wenchao Xue, made all this possible for me.
Since the COVID pandemic had affected previous student exchange programs, the highest number, close to a hundred students, had arrived alongside me at LUT for the January 2022 semester. We were treated very warmly at LUT, and they arranged our accommodation in the military buildings of Lappeenranta, which was an exceptionally new experience. Meeting with students of LUT and exchange students from over 40 countries allowed me to broaden and strengthen my knowledge and provided an opportunity for networking and diverse cross-cultural friendship. My LUT friends were from all over the world, marking a new and exciting time in my life.
This exchange opportunity was very memorable as I became familiar with the European education system and different environmental technologies, which enabled me to differentiate, learn and adopt the technologies of Europe and Asia. The well-equipped and advanced technology adopted by LUT in research and education, as well as the supportive and highly experienced faculty, was engaging. I was able to bolster my horizons on environmental technologies and climate change research.
The periodic field visits to Tallin, Estonia, and several practical sessions were fruitful. They provided more clear insights on the ongoing environmental issues and the potential ways to tackle the observed issues.
At the beginning of my exchange program, the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia caused a matter of safety concern. Fortunately, the situation was normal around LUT. I am very thankful to AIT for always caring for me as a guardian.
Focusing on my studies while simultaneously enjoying the Finnish culture and society, I graduated timely in May 2022. I still remember people questioning how I would graduate with my thesis and exchange program in May. All I had was my firm determination, motivation, and zeal for what I wanted to achieve, no matter how rigid it was. Finally, I did it.
Upon my arrival in Finland, I was pretty sick for some time. But the social service of Finland mostly covered my treatment expenses. Finland is a beautiful country with commendable harmony, services, and facilities. The people here are one of the most polite, humble, and trustworthy I have ever met. It is one of the leading countries in Europe in terms of sustainability, governance, and innovative research. The ‘Clean and Green’ country taught me a lot in academics and a sustainable lifestyle that I will always try to implement in my life.
Finland is well known for its sauna, which people most commonly take during the cold winter, and there is usually one in a building. The most exciting part about sauna is that it cures flu-like diseases, and people usually go to the sauna in groups. Another exciting aspect of Finland is that Fins are typically shy and do not speak much. However, once they start drinking, you can never imagine how open, friendlier and talkative they become.
My thirst for exploring Europe began as soon as I completed my studies, and I started my summer trip from the Netherlands and ended in Paris. My friend from AIT, who was on a dual degree program at IHE DELFT invited me to his place. I spent a few days exploring Amsterdam, Delft, and many beautiful places in the Netherlands, one of the most beautiful countries, with its well-managed natural resources, advanced technologies, and traditions.
After the Netherlands, I went to Brussels, Belgium, which felt like I was reading a history book. My trip would have been incomplete without visiting my sisters in Paris. I managed some time to see the magnificent Eifel tower, PSG club, and several other renowned places in Paris. After the summer trip, I was able to visit Stockholm in Sweden, a neighboring country of Finland for a few days. I realized that although they are similar in many aspects like peace, culture, development, greenery, and cleanliness, Sweden is relatively larger, and the people there are more open and talkative than the Fins.
The exchange program at AIT gave me an excellent opportunity to broaden my knowledge in academics and research and discover new places and cultures. It was an adventure of a lifetime. I plan to continue exploring more countries and gaining insights, accelerating my knowledge of their development, technology, culture, and traditions.
I would like to thank my faculty members and staff at SERD AIT, OIA AIT for their nomination, OAAA and its scholarship selection members for believing in me, scholarship donor Rafiul Ahad and Frances Kesala Ahad and LUT for this exciting exchange opportunity and unforgettable experience.