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By guest blogger Kim Abrams

Using Technology to Stay Competitive

On May 11th 2015, the adventure of studying abroad in Finland had just begun for twenty seven students and two faculty members in the Department of Forest Biomaterials.  The experience is known as the Paper International Experience (PIE), where 3rd and 4th years students travel abroad to see the paper industry in a new context.  This valuable experience enables the students and faculty to be more aware of what is happening internationally in papermaking technology and culture.  The main focus of the trip in terms of comparing the United States paper industry to others was analyzing the major challenges that Finland faces and acknowledging how the industry compensates using new and evolving technologies that are the future of the industry.  The motto that encompassed the broad spectrum of the PIE experience was “using technology to stay competitive”.

Culture, tours and more

The first city the group visited was Helsinki, which is located in the southern region of the country and is known to be the capital of Finland.  The group spent the first couple of days visiting and touring Aalto University’s Department of Forest Products Technology, touring Valmet’s pilot plant facility, and visiting the VTT Technical Research Centre.  Aalto has the leading unit of research in the field of forestry in all of Europe.  The students were privileged to observe the phenomenal undergraduate and graduate research laboratories that sets this university apart from the others.  During free time, the group rode a water ferry to Suomenlinna Fortress, took a day trip to Estonia, and explored the local night life.  During the time at the university, we were able to interact with students which gave us more insight to the Finnish education system and culture.  After the adventure in Helsinki came to an end, the group traveled to Jyvaskyla, which is in the center region of Finland.  On the first night in Jyvaskyla the group got to experience a traditional sauna boat and explored the Jyvaskyla night life.  The following day, students toured JAMK School of Applied Sciences, another prestigious international higher education institution in Finland.  After the JAMK tour, students experienced another piece of Finnish culture, the smoke sauna and banquet.  The last two days in Jyvaskyla were filled with informational tours of Metsa Board, the Institute of Bioeconomics, Valmet Automation facility, and another location of the VTT Technical Research Centre.  The last city on this study abroad experience was Tampere.  During our time in Tampere, students visited UPM Raflatac, Valmet Fabrics facility, UPM Tervasaari, and TAMK School of Applied Sciences.  On the way back from Tampere to Helsinki, the group visited their last paper mill SAPPI Kirkniemi.  Each company that was visited had an asset that keeps them highly competitive in one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.

Career Building Block

Being able to see high end cutting edge technology in action from multiple companies allowed the students to gain an experience of a lifetime and allowed them to be able to see the industry in many new ways.  Aside from the industry, the students were exposed and immersed into a new culture that adaptation would be essential.  From the beginning planning of the trip to raising funds by writing letters to industry companies and alumni, and executing the highest professionalism, the students were able to work together to make the trip a success from every aspect possible.   The Paper International Experience is a beneficial and advantageous building block of the students’ educational career and will let them branch out and share their experiences in the future.

Read our daily blog posts and see our photo gallery from the trip.

A TREMENDOUS thank you goes out to all of our donors and partners that made this a reality for each of us.