British Alexander Spicer has been living in Turku for almost a year. The initial culture shock has changed into affection for the city and the countryside surrounding it. Now Alex says why exactly he chose Finland and Turku as a place for his master's degree.

ALEXANDER SPICER

  • Alexander Spicer comes from England, originally from Cambridge. He has been studying in Turku since 2020.
  • Alex is doing a Master's Degree in Drug Discovery and Development in the University of Turku.
  • He works in business development at Faron Pharmaceuticals.

When Englishman Alexander Spicer started to consider Finland as a place to study for his master’s degree, he already had a job in Turku. He had worked for two years in a Finnish drug discovery and development company called Faron Pharmaceuticals.

"I used to work at Faron from England so I was already familiar with Finland. I had also visited Turku once and it didn’t seem too bad, although it was the winter 2019-2020 and there was no snow, only darkness", Spicer says.

A friend of his had visited Finland multiple times and told Spicer that Finland was a lovely country.

"So when my bosses suggested I move to Finland and do my master’s degree there, I said all right, packed my things and went for it", Spicer laughs.

Turku - a science hotspot in the middle of nowhere

Previously Spicer had also considered Holland and Germany as places to study but he preferred the way in Finland there were no big boundaries between the cities and the countryside.

"In central Europe they do have that boundary. And for me it’s nice that you can easily switch off here. You just ride your bike for 20 minutes and you are in the countryside."

Out of Finnish cities Turku was a natural choice for Spicer since his workplace, Faron, is based here. He also likes the science vibes of the city. He thinks that Turku, as well as whole Finland, has really good science.

"I wanted to go somewhere where there is good science and decent education – and here it’s free too. For science Turku is a weird little hotspot in the middle of nowhere", Spicer laughs.

The first impressions

Spicer arrived in Turku in August 2020, and although us Finns consider August still a summer month, he thought the weather was cold – and maybe the people too.

"People were so silent. They didn’t speak unless they needed to. At first, I thought they were mad at me but I’m used to it now and it’s fine. Finns are quiet but they don’t care what you are or where you are from. Finns care if you are kind, honest and yourself."

Sauna is something Spicer really liked since the very start. He strongly prefers wooden sauna to an electric one - just like a traditional Finn.

"I loved sauna straight away, I couldn't get enough of it!"

Spicer could see himself in Finland in the future too.

He likes Finnish seasons, especially the summer which he describes as incredible because “You never get storms and compared to England, where is the rain?”. Winter is an experience of its own.

"I was supposed to visit the UK for 10 days last winter but got stuck there for six weeks due to Covid. When I left Turku there was no snow but when I came back it was all covered in snow and it was -20 degrees. My face was frozen, everything was frozen, my beard had icicles", Spicer says.

Studying at the University of Turku

So what about studying at the University of Turku? How has that been for Spicer? He thinks the Finnish education system is nice although sometimes he wishes the studying pace was a bit faster.

"In England if you fail, you fail, there’s no redemption. Here it’s like “You will pass and we will get you there”. It’s a completely different style, supportive in the best ways. I just want to get my degree done, to get in and get out. But since I’m trying to balance work and university, it’s nice that I can pick the amount of work I do."

He also likes the way students can do elective studies in Finland.

"I haven’t seen it anywhere else. For me being able to do a business or law school course on the side has been a nice option. If you want to do a bit more than your degree requires, you have an option to do that. You have the option to make your studies fit what you would like to do in life."

"When people come here, they often want to stay"

Spicer will finish his studies in a year and next year he’s moving to U.S. for work. He could see himself in Finland in the future too - and he would definitely recommend Finland and Turku to other international talents.

"The challenge Finland has is to get people to come here in the first place. Many people simply don’t know enough about Finland. I was the same: before starting my job at Faron, I didn’t know anything about Finland. But when people do come here, they often want to stay. I do, and so do many of my international friends."

Everyone speaks English

Spicer thinks that more foreigners would come to Finland if they only knew more about the country and its study and work opportunities. The same is true with Turku.

"Everyone here speaks English. In my company, we recently did English tests, and I got one of the worst scores. That is how good their English is. This is their third language and they are beating me in my one and only", Spices laughs, embarrased.

"And there's so much to do. You can take a bus or a train anywhere, and the archipelago is stunning. I also feel that Finland has given me a lot of confidence", Spicer describes.

At the end of the discussion me and my interviewee cycle through a typical landscape of Finnish countryside: large fields bordered by trees, hay swaying in the wind, some old barns standing in the middle of it all.

"This is why I chose Finland. I actually can't think of anywhere else in the world I'd rather be", Spicer remarks.