Bioproduct technology student Meri Pekki has done a lot. In 2022, she was the Chair of the Youth Forum of the Finnish Forest Products Engineers’ Association and, through that, a member of the Association’s Board of Directors. The same year, she was chosen as the University of Oulu’s Student of the Year.
“The recognition was mostly for being active. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, we at the Process Engineering Guild tried to create a sense of community in remote learning and to be creative in order to organise events within the bounds of the restrictions. It was rewarding to work in the Finnish Forest Products Engineers’ Association – students were listened to and the students’ perspective was highlighted. At the same time, I got the opportunity to meet students in the same field from other universities,” she says.
Pekki has work experience in the forest industry from three previous summers, but unlike usual, an internship opened up in Germany this year.
“I was in Singapore as an exchange student this spring, and did not know exactly when I was coming back to Finland. That is why I became interested in Metsä Group’s international engineer internship – it was a two, three-month-long job that was suitable for me, where I could start a little later than summer jobs usually do,” she says.
For the first time this year, Metsä Group sent a Finnish intern to nearly every one of their mills in Europe, and Pekki got to go to Metsä Tissue’s mill in Düren. She got her very own project, in which she learned about the mill’s water circulation and the operation of the paper machine, among others.
“The mill’s process engineer guided me in my work tasks and told me about their own projects, so I learned a lot this summer. It was interesting to see how problems are solved and what it is like to work abroad – it was great to get a peek of that already as a student.”
English was enough
In Meri Pekki’s opinion, working at a German mill was very similar to working in Finland, although it should be kept in mind that the familiarity was likely highlighted more than usual having just come from Singapore.
It helped that she has a solid grasp on the basics of German, but English was also enough to get by.
“It was educational to be able to use English so much. I learned the technical vocabulary in German and English very effectively,” she says.
Settling in Germany was also helped by the fact that a Finnish intern at another mill lived in the same city.
“We spent a lot of our free time together. I did not have the chance to get to know the locals very well in such a short time, apart from my co-workers to some extent, of course.”
Being an exchange student in Singapore was a more exotic experience.
“Studying differed a lot from how it is here. The teaching was of high quality and the teachers seemed genuinely invested in the students learning. On the other hand, lectures could be late in the day, and group work, for example, might start at ten in the evening. The local students work really long days, but we exchange students at least got to go on small trips and see more of Asia. Singapore was a good base, from where we visited Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.”
Although Pekki enjoyed both the exchange and internship, she only had enough time to visit Finland in between the two, and by the last week of work, homesickness was starting to kick in.
“Now it is nice to come back to Finland, but I will not rule out the possibility of going abroad again,” she says.
“I am very thankful to have received this opportunity. Hopefully, the international internship will keep going and other students will get to try out working abroad.”
Pekki still has a year left of studies for her Master’s degree, and then it is time for her thesis.
“I would be happy to do my thesis in a forest industry company – it would be a natural fit.”