Arthur Rocha Palmeira from Brazil worked at UPM Lappeenranta Research Centre in the summer of 2016 through a student trainee exchange programme between the Brazilian Pulp and Paper Technical Association (ABTCP) and the Finnish Paper Engineer’s association (PI). What did he think of the Finnish summer, Lappeenranta and working at UPM?
It was late December 2015 when I first heard about the Student Exchange Programme. I was conducting a project of process simulation about pulp production in Brazil and thought that a summer at a pulp and paper company in Finland, a country recognized for its innovation and leadership in the industry, would be a great opportunity to enhance my knowledge on the subject. In addition, I was very excited to experience living in a different culture. I didn’t think twice about applying for the programme!
In April 2016 I received the news that I had been selected to work at UPM’s Research Centre in Lappeenranta and less than two months later I started my journey to Finland – involving three flights and a bus ride.
The first week in Finland was challenging. Because of the language barrier, routine activities such as shopping in the supermarket and doing laundry seemed troublesome tasks (not even Google translator could handle the laundry machine instructions in Finnish). Getting used to the amount of daylight during Finland’s summer was the most difficult. In my hometown in Brazil, the day has a duration of more or less 12 hours all year round. So imagine arriving in a place where the sun is up until 11 PM! It took some time for my body to adapt to the bright nights. Nevertheless, it was an incredible feeling watching the sunset and sunrise almost at the same time.
Interesting Finnish sporting opportunities…
Before arriving in Finland I had done some research about Finnish culture. One of the things that drew my attention were the very curious sports. Brazilians may be famous for their talent in soccer, but if the field is a swamp I believe that no one can beat the Finnish. Or how about running – while carrying your wife on your back? I believe this would lead to some relationships ending in Brazil…
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to practice these sports but at least I could enjoy Finland’s nature. Lappeenranta is located in the Lake Saimaa region. Lake Saimaa is the largest lake in Finland. It is surrounded by forests and the combination creates a stunning landscape. It was great being able to do kayaking and cycling during the weekends to explore the area. I could never have imagined that I would be playing beach volleyball after work in Finland either. Maybe with some more practice I and the other summer trainees could represent UPM in some volleyball competition. Actually, I would say that we would need a lot of practice.
A very important part of Finnish Culture is the Sauna. At first I thought it a strange idea to be totally naked in front people I didn’t know very well. It’s hard to explain. I believe Finnish people have this special connection with the heat, the sweat, the beer and a cold lake. It was definitely a remarkable experience.
Sharing industry knowledge and fun coffee breaks
Regarding UPM, I can say that all my expectations were met. I really felt welcome from day one. Everyone was very friendly and helpful and the workplace ambiance was great. The coffee breaks were also important in getting to know more about my colleagues and about Finland.
Moreover, UPM’s Research Centre is a place where people are open to new ideas. They like to share their knowledge and are always available to teach you how to use any equipment correctly and safely. By the way, UPM stands out for its concern in ensuring employee safety in the first place. For example, my first week was all about safety inductions. I found my work at the Research Centre very interesting and had the opportunity to learn new things every day. My task was to conduct a literature survey about chemical modifications in the pulp and to perform some laboratory tests with the most promising studied technologies.
I am very grateful to UPM, ABTCP and PI for offering this traineeship position and I want to give thanks to all the amazing people I met during my stay in Finland, especially my summer trainee colleagues and my supervisors Pasi, Matti and Harri.
I definitely recommend applying for this programme. It is a great learning opportunity and a good way to experience new things.