At the end of 2018, when the end of my bachelor studies neared, I started thinking about what should be the next step in my studies. For long, I thought I would continue at the Wageningen University to do a master’s in Earth and Environment, with a specialization in meteorology, after finishing my bachelor’s program there. Instead, I ended up doing a master’s in Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Helsinki, starting in August 2020. Read here why I chose to study at the University of Helsinki.
For people that know me well and frequent visitors of this site, it is no surprise that I already knew that I wanted to become a meteorologist when I was little. My interest in the weather never disappeared, so my decisions on what to study were based on that. In The Netherlands, I had just two study options to become a meteorologist: I would either have to start studying Physics & Astronomy in Utrecht or Soil, Water and Atmosphere in Wageningen. I chose for the latter one and in this previously written blog you can find out why I decided to study in Wageningen.
As said, I never really thought of doing my masters elsewhere than in Wageningen. Doing the master’s Earth and Environment is just the most common step after completing the bachelor program Soil, Water and Atmosphere. I was however not extremely enthusiastic about this masters, since the amount of meteorological courses in Wageningen seemed a bit limited, and I already took quite some of those courses in my Bachelor.
A life changing conversation
During my bachelor, I decided to go on an exchange to UNIS in Svalbard. One day during my exchange in October 2018, we went on a cabintrip with some house- and studymates (more about this trip you can find in this blog). On the way back to town, I had a conversation with my good friend Marjolein. We were discussing future study- and career plans. When I said I would probably do my masters in Wageningen, and mentioned the lack of meteorological study programs in The Netherlands, she asked me if I considered doing my masters abroad.
The moment she asked that, I realised I never considered that, or at least not to any serious extent. I immediately realised that the chance of finding a fitting meteorology program would increase massively if I would take foreign universities into account. The same day, I was looking at master programs abroad.
We will never know what would have happened if I hadn’t had this conversation with Marjolein. There is of course a good chance that the idea of doing a master’s abroad would struck me later in some other way. But I like to think that this conversation was the onset of doing my master’s abroad.
Looking for meteorological master programs at different universities
As said, I started looking at master programs in the field of Atmospheric Sciences/Meteorology the same evening. I was particulairly interested in the Master’s Programme Atmospheric Sciences in Innsbruck, since I have had the dream of living in Austria for a long time. Also, master programs in Bergen (Norway) and Helsinki (Finland) caught my interest. I also briefly considered Canada, but this was financially not feasible.
When I compared the different study programs, I found out that the masters in Innsbruck still had few wider topics than just meteorology, where in Helsinki almost all courses were directly related to meteorology and besides that, there were lots of optional courses for free choice. The study program in Bergen looked nice, but included quite some oceanography as well, and a smaller variety of courses in meteorology. Slowly, I started to get the feeling that the program in Helsinki would fit me better.
Contacting the University of Helsinki and University of Innsbruck
Bergen was not a choice anymore after considering the study program for a while. To get a better overview between the other two options, I emailed the contact persons of the master’s programs of both universities with specific quesitons about the study program, courses and university. I also got in contact with some students. While students of both universities were very enthusiastic (and gave very helpful information), the replies from both universities to my emails were very different.
The first person I got a reply from the university of Innsbruck was very enthusiastic and nice, but he couldn’t answer most of my questions, so he forwarded me to the head of the study program. This person did barely answer my questions, was very unenthusiastic and seemed rather annoyed by my questions.
The responses I got from the University of Helsinki were quite the opposite. All the people I e-mailed with, including a few professors, were enthusiastic, welcoming and providing as much information as possible to all my questions. The information I got, as well as the difference in response, and together with the preference for the study program, made it clear for me that I would like to study at the University of Helsinki.
Visiting the University of Helsinki
There was however one doubt remaining: I had never visited Finland before. I did not know what the university looked like and I knew little about the country. It is quite a big step to go abroad, but even more so if you barely know anything. When I discussed those doubts with my family, my supportive mom offered to visit Helsinki together as a birthday gift. In October 2019, we visited Helsinki.
We went to Helsinki, and I of course contacted someone in the University of Helsinki if it was possible to visit the place. The person I contacted was very nice, said that it was of course possible to come and visit and even made me a schedule to meet with several professors and a student who could give me a tour around campus.
Seeing the university gave me a very good impression and feeling. The place seemed comfortable, the teachers were very helpful and gave me a clear overview of their courses and other information about the university and study program.
Why I chose to study at the University of Helsinki
Despite the fact that there are several interesting meteorologcial master study programs in Europe, I chose the one in Helsinki. The study program in Helsinki seemed the most complete to me and it is possible to specialize in different kind of fields within meteorology. There is a wide range of optional courses and the University of Helsinki (and especially the department of Atmospheric Sciences) is ranked highly.
After visiting Helsinki, both the city and the university seemed great to me. I was looking forward to live in Helsinki, despite the fact it was not my dream country Austria. The things that attracted me about Finland/Helsinki, beside the university, is the amount of nature and calmness. Despite Helsinki being a capital, it is very spatial, way more than I am used to from The Netherlands. The social services are excellent and also, I like the Helsinkian climate more than the Dutch’. Unlike in The Netherlands, in Finland you still have real winters.
For those reasons, I applied for the master’s program Atmospheric Sciences, study track meteorology at the Univeristy of Helsinki late 2019. I got accepted in the spring of 2020 and I started to study at the University of Helsinki in august 2020.