Jukka Pohjonen, a student of material technology at Tampere University of Technology, took part in the UPM Bioforce Graduate Programme in the summer of 2016. A suitable post was found at UPM Nordland paper mill in Germany. Pohjonen left Finland in late May and returned home in early September. His goals for the summer included active training of both German and English and the careful examination of the differences between Finnish and German working culture. His work assignments were related to research and development and quality control. The summer turned out to be rewarding: Pohjonen developed his language skills successfully, got to know the inner workings of the extensive Nordland mill area and also found the subject for his master’s thesis.
The UPM Nordland paper mill is located in northwest Germany. The mill area with its four paper machines employ around 1600 people. Pohjonen shared an office with the laboratory managers of the R&D department. In the beginning of the summer he had a comprehensive tour of the mill and all its functions. “I had never before worked at a paper mill, all practical experience in quality control and the general workings of the mill was very welcome. In my work assignment at Nordland I got to combine the physical and mechanical properties of paper with paper surface qualities and the functioning principles of the laboratory equipment,” Pohjonen explains.
Pohjonen stayed in the city of Papenburg about 15 kilometres from the Nordland mill. The area was very charming. An old windmill, the old dock halls of Meyer Werft, a carefully planned and upheld city park and the canals with their little cornershops and cafes made the small city picturesque. The views became familiar especially while riding a bike.
“From the very start I handled my logistics with a bicycle. It was going to be a very athletic summer! My colleagues surely remember me by my daily 30 kilometre commute on the bike. They could also often see me in my office at the end of the day waiting for a shower to pass,” laughs Pohjonen.
Communicating in the local language requires determination
After his days at work and on the weekends Pohjonen toured the surroundings of the mill and of Papenburg with his bike and the Westfalenbahn area trains. The shopping opportunities and restaurants of the city with around 40 000 inhabitants became familiar during the summer. It took some courage and to start communicating with the locals in their own language and special dialect.
“I didn’t know anyone in my neighbourhood and it took some time to grasp the local dialect of German. The biggest challenge was initiating a conversation with someone: it took a while before I felt confident enough to have “proper conversations”. Fortunately I did manage to communicate actively enough by the end of the summer, which was after all on of my goals,” Pohjonen says.
Pohjonen found his master’s thesis subject in Nordland. “I am writing my thesis for UPM on testing the roll-up resistance of high grammage wood-free uncoated papers. In practice it is about testing the physical properties of paper and about laboratory testing. It's also a good opportunity to apply my studies of wear,” says Pohjonen.
The graduate trainee programme strengthened Pohjonen’s interest in international assignments. “I certainly want to work in an international environment and learn about different ways of doing things in different countries. Research and development, leading people and developing production processes are still very interesting to me. In the future I hope to experience other assignments like this that offer both challenges and opportunities for development.”
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