Sabrina Luff, a German exchange student studying landscape planning and nature protection, chose to come to Finland to connect her studies to farming. Sabrina arrived Finland in 2022 and has now been in HAMK Mustiala for two semeters and one internship.
Oshani came to Finland in October 2022 from Sri Lanka for bachelor’s studies of Smart Organic Farming (now known as Climate Smart Agriculture) She has now been in Mustiala for a year.
Both Sabrina and Oshani had the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills during their summer internships. Sabrina focused on research, while Oshani engaged in practical field work.
Enjoying Fun and Engaging Agriculture Studies
Both Sabrina and Oshani think the studies in HAMK are fun and interesting. Sabrina initially encountered some repetition in the beginning of her studies. “We learned about photosynthesis and what is soil and soil structure. So, stuff that I already learned through my former studies”, says Sabrina, “But in general the studies are very fun. We have good teachers, and we do a lot of like field work. I think once a week we go out and either check something on a field or do something in the laboratory. We (HAMK) have a soil lab and a plant lab, so we spend quite much time there.”
Oshani agrees that the field work is one of the best things during the studies, but she also enjoys the study pace. ”The best thing is that we don’t have backlogs. For a week, we have one thing to study, and after that, we move to the next topic. So, it’s easy. And fun, like when we were doing the animal husbandry. Every week, we were on some field to see pigs, horses, and so on. In Sri Lanka, we never have this kind of big farms, that’s the best,” Oshani commented.
Journey to Finland
Sabrina came to Finland through her German partner university. The partnership between these two universities was new and had just begun when Sabrina embarked on her exchange program. ”I think the partnership had just started that year when I arrived here. So, I felt it would be quite flexible in setting my learning agreement with everything,” Sabrina explains. She had contemplated between Sweden and Finland, but she was certain that she wanted to study at a University of Applied Sciences rather than a traditional university. ”I wanted to have that practical aspect in my field of study. That’s, that’s why I chose Finland and I’m very happy that I chose Finland In the end.”
Oshani was teaching science before and now wanted to have a bachelor’s degree that is related to science, but she does not like sitting and static work. Recognizing that farming offered the dynamic environment she craved, she decided to pursue Organic Farming. Oshani emphasizes the significance of applied science in her chosen field, as it allows her to actively engage rather than being confined to a desk. “So for me applied science is very important because I felt like I don’t want to be seated”, says Oshana smiling.
Summer internships – Research and Field work
Sabrina is currently undertaking her internship at HAMK Bio, the research unit of HAMK. During her internship, she has been working as an assistant to a HAMK Bio researcher. Together, they are conducting research on heritage fields in Mustiala, as well as studying the national hop collection of Finland. Sabrina’s responsibilities include tending to the hops garden and cultivating various varieties of barley and oats.
One aspect of the internship that particularly fascinates Sabrina is measuring the growth of the plants. She explains, ”We have a barley variety that was bred in Lapland. It’s a small, dwarf species that ripens in a very small amount of days. We’re measuring how long it takes it to ripen. It’s very interesting to measure plant growth and to see how much how they react on different environmental impacts. We also measure if they are affected by fungus infections or other things like pesticides and stuff”, says Sabrina.
Oshani adds to Sabrina’s experience “This was totally new for me because in Sri Lanka we were always using pesticides, herbicides, weedicides to save the field. But here we always using mechanical stops to control the weeds and the pests. Basically, if you have weeds that means there will be pests. So, we have to remove the weed. We never do it in Sri Lanka, we use chemicals to destroy the pesticide. So, it’s kind of new thing”, says Oshani and then continues telling about the field work in the beginning of the summer, “We were plotting, harrowing and rolling the ground, as that is kind of water controlling method in Finland. I never knew these things before but now I’m doing it with the machines and it’s fun”. Oshani thinks it is very rewarding to see the plants ripen,” it’s so great to see it because, we did it, wow!”
Peaceful life in Mustiala
The studies that Sabrina and Oshani take part in are in HAMK’s Mustiala campus. Mustiala is located in southern Finland, in the town of Tammela, a 1.5 hour drive from Helsinki, Tampere and Turku, 40 minutes from Hämeenlinna. Most services and leisure time activities are found in Forssa, around 10 km from Mustiala.
Mustiala is quite far from any bigger cities, but both Oshani and Sabrina enjoy their life in Mustiala.
“I was living in medium sized cities before and I like Mustiala because of its peacefulness and it’s just rural area. It is the oldest farming camp in Finland, so it’s quite nice to live in this heritage area, with all those old buildings and nice park area. That’s quite lovely”, says Sabrina and continues laughing, “But I’m also very glad that I brought my car. So, we are a bit more flexible with traveling to the bigger cities”.
Oshani does not live in the campus area, but one kilometer away, in the center of Tammela. Oshani has hated big cities ever since she was a child and thinks Mustiala and Tammela are peaceful. “I don’t like cities, I like to have bird sounds and trees around with shadows”, Says Oshani. Then she looks and Sabrina and continues, “And we’ve had so many fun moments together. We celebrated Juhannus (Finnish Mid-Summer festival) together and when Finns are having some celebrations, we celebrate it in our own way.”
Navigating the Road Ahead: Plans for Life After Graduation
Sabrina has quite clear image what she will be doing next, as her exchange period is coming to an end in March. She would like to work as a research assistant for a research project and find out if research is right match for her. “I mean, this is applied research now, at HAMK Bio, which is quite nice. So, I already know that is fitting me” Sabrina says and continues, “I plan to work for a bit and then do my master’s in whatever country.”
Oshani has a clear image of continuing her master’s degree next and after that plan jobs as currently she does not feel like setting into a job.
What would you say to the new students?
Sabrina, “Welcome to HAMK. Your time here will be fun. It’s worth it.”
”What I would say is, that you have done the best choice because you have the coolest teachers and like most friendly staff everywhere and they are helpful in every way. For example, when you have issues with the apartments and stuff they are really helpful. Both professionally and academically, you can make good friends here.” Oshani Says.
Sabrina laughs, “Yeah, Probably applying was the hardest part”.
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