A steep learning curve and dancing with grannies at Changshu

23 October 2015

Tiia Muhonen, fascinated with Chinese culture, saw the UPM Bioforce Trainee Program as a perfect chance to immerse herself into the culture while strengthening her expertise in process engineering, her field of study at the University of Oulu.

Muhonen was ready to apply her fresh knowledge at the UPM Asia R&D Center in the summer after finishing her studies at the University of Oulu during spring. She worked in a team developing lignin based products.

“Nothing would be greater than to see the product I helped to develop in the market later on. The summer as a whole was very educational to me, both from the viewpoint of my studies in mass and paper technology, laboratory work and my interest in the Chinese culture and language. I was also eager to learn more about the whole UPM Biofore concept,” Tiia says.

The internship wasn’t Muhonen’s first China experience as she had already been an exchange student in the country in 2012 and after that, worked for six months at FinPro in Shanghai.

“I would recommend to learn a least the basics of the language before moving to China. But the people are very nice and are sure to help,” Tiia says.

Learning, working, dancing and napping

During her internship Muhonen stayed at the quarters provided for the workers by the UPM Changshu mill. Lunch was provided by UPM and dinner was eaten at the canteen or cooked at home together with Chinese interns working at the UPM mill.

“There was no strong sense of hierarchy at UPM as there is in many other companies in China. Everyone talked to everyone and got along with each other. One thing I couldn’t learn during the summer was the employees’ habit of eating their lunch really fast and then napping the rest of the lunch break on the couches!” Tiia laughs.

In the weekends Muhonen travelled to nearby cities and surrounding natural parks. There is one downside to China – despite many improvements the air is still quite polluted.

Tiia Muhonen
During her traineeship Tiia taught English to her co-workers and some of their children too.

“I don’t feel like jogging outside when in China, so there weren’t many opportunities for exercise. I joined a group for traditional Chinese dancing. All the other participants were quite a lot older than me. It was a good opportunity to learn the language as they didn’t speak a word of English. I would advise anyone to take the chance to travel abroad, you’ll regret it later if you do not. At the very least you learn to know yourself better,” Tiia says.

This fall Muhonen has started her studies for a Master’s degree in Economics and Business administration at the University of Vaasa.

“Combining my first engineering degree with e degree in business and my interest in China should provide me with interesting job opportunities in the future. The Biofore concept is definitely something I could see myself work with in the future as well,” Tiia says.

Read more about the UPM Bioforce Trainee Program here.

Saara Töyssy

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