Meeting point of many fields
It was all or nothing when Nevio Ammendola applied to the Master’s degree programme in General Toxicology at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF). He had returned back home to Italy after his previous study exchange period in Oulu, Finland – which truly was a life changing period for him, as it convinced him that he had to come back to this wonderful country to study a Master's degree. He graduated as a biomedical lab scientist in Naples, filled out the application forms to UEF – and only UEF – and waited anxiously for the results.
– I’m the type of person who focuses on one thing at a time, so I didn’t want to apply to anywhere else. Getting in was a dream come true.
Ever since Nevio chose a technical track in high school, he has been into science and lab work. Therefore, toxicology is an intriguing choice for him, because it combines elements from so many different fields of study.
– We study the effects of toxic compounds on both human health and the environment. Though both sides are equally important, I’m more into the human aspects. I love it because it’s kind of a mix of pharmacy, medicine, physiology, chemistry, biology and physics. Although I have to say that the studies felt somewhat challenging in the beginning, maybe because I don't have a background in pharmacy like many of my fellow students. But it didn’t take long that I caught up and got used to the field and topics.
Study life in exceptional times
In the first year, Nevio has been busy finishing compulsory courses. He was also supposed to start doing practical work in the lab for his thesis, but due to the Covid-19 precautions, all teaching went online.
– Even though I really prefer contact teaching, I have to say that we survived from the exceptional spring semester pretty well. I’m already accustomed to the Finnish study system, where we study for a few weeks and then take an exam, whereas in Italy we have exam periods and also oral exams. Even though I first thought that the Italian system is better, now I prefer the Finnish one as we are always focused on the topic and gradually preparing for the exam day by day. I fully agree with people who say that the Finnish education system is the best in Europe.
In his thesis, Nevio will try to find out what happens to cells when they are exposed to radiofrequency radiation. And the enthusiastic lab worker gets to do a lot of hands-on work.
– In my experiments I get to see whether the cells are under stress or dying or if they have produced some compounds. Hopefully the research will produce some precious results – besides, in this kind of research even a negative result is a result. If everything goes well, this project might also get published.
Also, the future job opportunities seem interesting, as Finland is home to the European Chemical Agency that is located in Helsinki, along with many other research agencies and companies who are constantly on the lookout for skilled toxicologists.
– I would definitely love to stay in Finland after graduation, although this degree gives me the freedom to apply for jobs anywhere in Europe or in the US – wherever I would like to go.
"In Finland, everything is in the right place"
Besides the educational system, Nevio has learned to appreciate the highly functional society and the safe environment.
– Here you feel really safe in every possible aspect. At the university there’s always someone who is ready to help you, and you’re not left alone. The professors and lecturers are down-to-earth people who always answer your questions. Also, everybody speaks good English, and you won’t have any problems in your daily life even if you don't speak Finnish.
However, as Nevio’s goal is to fully experience the Finnish culture and lifestyle, he will be taking more Finnish language courses in the second year.
– I love Finland and I want to be able to speak Finnish and fully experience the country. I have international flatmates but I practice my Finnish for instance with my neighbours in the sauna of my apartment building, Nevio laughs.
Also, the Finnish nature has charmed Nevio.
– If I feel stressed, I go out to nature and all the bad things go out. Here it’s green everywhere and people are active as they are walking and cycling around. I really feel at home here, like everything is in the right place. Even though at first it was harder to make friends here than back home, I have come to realise that a Finnish friend is a friend forever. I love how Finnish people speak the truth and say what they really think.
Nevio will soon start his second year enjoying Finnish student life that – according to him – is ‘cheap and comfortable’.
– You can get a reasonably priced student flat, eat student-priced meals, use the very affordable health care system and enjoy the events and services offered by the Student Union.
There’s only one thing that Nevio misses.
– When I was in Oulu on my previous study exchange, I got to experience the awesome tradition of ‘Vappu” which is the biggest student celebration in Finland. This year all the festivities went online due to Corona, which obviously didn’t feel the same. Hopefully next year it will be different and we get to celebrate together, Nevio laughs.