Learning from the Finns and Norwegians

Soon, I’ll finish my second semester in Universitetet i Sørøst-Norge (USN), a part of my two years Erasmus+ program in Smart Systems Integrated Solutions (SSIs), where I study in Aalto (Finland), USN (Norway), and BME (Hungary). Although both Finland and Norway share some similarity, there’s a slight difference in the educational system. Both offer free education up until Master’s for their citizens, while Norway’s universities are also free for foreigners.

In USN, there is a quota of 50% reserved for those with a Bachelor’s degree from Norway. In Aalto, with all students concentrated in Otaniemi, Espoo, we see a more diverse student community and exchange students, while in USN, you don’t see many international students. In both countries and in both cities (Horten and Espoo), virtually everyone speaks English, so there’s never any language barriers, and in case of Norwegians, you can actually pick up some Norwegian words on your first day. Finnish, on the other hand, is much harder.

In both universities, it feels like the curriculum has been polished in a way that it’s beneficial for the students to understand basic concepts and apply them. Proper care has been made by the professors, with practical projects and lab works, feedbacks and report writing skills that may be a good arsenal for our future career. I would highlight Aalto’s close ties with the industry where we can learn practical MEMS design and case studies from actual industry leaders. This was very insightful and provided the necessary motivation for the subsequent studies, e.g. in USN, where we study more practical microfabrication, measurement techniques and multiphysics modelling. In Vestfold, Norway, there are many electronics industry such as GE Vingmed and Kongsberg, leading in acoustics for medical and maritime purposes, respectively.

Education in Norway, or what we went through in USN was nothing to scoff at. It’s the spring semester, we have evenly spread lectures and assignments, so more time to study and also travel. However, the hard part was the exam week, where we sit for four hours in the final exam, which accounts for most or 100% of our grade. They take the exams very seriously in Norway, there are external examinators and papers are handed in anonymously, minimizing bias. Plagiarism and cheating is also punished severely here. In Aalto, we had more and tougher assignments than USN, but they also contribute towards the grade, making the exams less horrifying.

With harder exams and lesser assignments burden than Aalto, I knew that I had to change my strategy for studies. Particularly in the measurements class, after a quick look of the syllabus and the plethora of different measurement techniques, there was no way to study them all in the final week before exam. For this, I decided to frequently take notes and revise them and review with problem sets and discuss them with peers. For multiphysics modelling, we had many maths and physics to go through, deliberate practice and understanding the assignments were crucial to apply the concepts and the design project was also a big plus. All in all, notetaking during lectures and reviewing often was my key strategy and wouldn’t be possible without my iPad that I decided to buy early in the first semester.

As an Indonesian, these two countries’ educational systems were new to me, but in a good way. Higher quality teaching through industrial ties, well-defined curriculum, maintaining a good honesty policy, and a good student culture provides us the tools to network, building up knowledge, and practical skills for our future careers. Electronics industry, specifically MEMS / microsystems industry is thriving in both of these countries. As someone who is passionate in sensing, electronics, and micro/nano fabrication, the studies have been interesting. My SSIs journey has been a joyful ride, and I’m looking forward for my summer internship in Aalto and my next semester in Hungary.

Published by josefmtd

Electronics Engineer

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