The diary of a student visitor to Finland – week 2

This post is a continuation of my previous blog post: the diary of a student visitor to Finland – week 1. The blog post reports my little trip to Finland to collect PhD case study data.

Saturday December 9th 2017

It has been quite a busy day today given the fact that it was supposed to be my day off. I spent the day doing two main things: (1) working and; (2) vising some tourist places in Turku. I spent the morning working on a journal article review that I had been asked to do for a leading journal in Information Science. I had ben quite worried about doing this as it was my first review but my supervisor reassured me about it and said that I should be flattered that I was asked as a PhD student. It was not a difficult task, it just took time to go through the article, look at the literature, aims, methods and results. I also managed to write some of a report for the funding body that helped me get to Finland. You may recall that I was awarded a John Campbell Trust Bursary form CILIP and a requirement is that I write a shot report about my findings. I know I cannot write the findings yet, but my report is in draft form and I now just need to add in the results and findings from my data collection.

In the afternoon, I spent some time with one of the PhD students at Abo Akadmi University (Anu) and she showed me around. We took a trip to Turku City Library first of all and Anu showed me around the old and new parts of the library. It makes you realise how many people in Turku use this facility – it was packed with people of all ages! We then took a trip to the Christmas market and saw what was on offer. There was a lot of food luxuries, handmade items and drinks and Anu was kind enough to explain to me what things were and where they originate from. It was nice to have a bit of a tour and know what is going on 🙂 We decided to end our wander around with coffee and cake in a local café but came to the conclusion that we sold both return home to o some work. Clearly the PhD guilt got to s both when we were out and we both decided getting on with some work was the best plan.

Sunday December 10th 2017

This day was more chilled. I blogged and worked on the final parts of my report and that was all the work I did. I decided that I needed a day off work as I had worked all week and the day off would do me the world of good. I decided to take a wander up the river and see the marina, taking lots of photos on the way. I also needed to pop to the supermarket so that I could get some food for tomorrow’s lunch and some other odds and ends. I also made sure that I skyped home so that I could keep in touch. Sundays are perfect days for this as I can Skype my Mam whilst she visits my grandparents so I can say hello to everyone in one. The rest of my trip will be less-relaxed so I made the most of my time to myself!

Monday December 11th 2017

Monday was a day of more data collection – three interviews in three different places at three different (spread out) times of the day. I managed to pop to the office for 30 mins half way though just to show my face, say hello to my host and back up my data, but after that I was out an about all day. I woke up this morning to snow and you can tell from my pictures that this had been a little heavy overnight. In comparison to London (which I know went into some kind of meltdown due to 2 inches of snow), Turku cope very well and have small digger type vehicles clearing roads and paths so people can get around. It was nice to get some sold fresh air in my lungs as I had not been feeling great with a bad head, but this turned into a migraine type things and I had to spend a couple of hours in my hotel later after my interviews in a pitch black room to soothe my eyes and head. I think my body must be getting used to (or sick of) the types of food, drink and way of workings of Turku and maybe my body is just not used to this way of life. I felt a lot better after some decent food in the evening but possibly the lack of hot food and lots of coffee the day before did not help my head. Either way, I felt much better later on, got on with some work and prepared for my interviews of the next day.

Tuesday December 12th 2017

Tuesday was my final full day of data collection – another three interview ticked off the list. It was good to get to visit some buildings that I had not before and meet more people who I had not met before either. My participant provided me with some valuable data and I can now start to see differences between my UK case study data and Finnish case study data as well – this makes the data collection all worth it. The snow had fallen very heavily overnight and it was about 3 inches deep outside. All of the paths and roads were covered but as with yesterday Turku coped very well. Obviously my walk to work was full of photographs as people here enjoy the snow. Many people, however, get sick of the snow as they see it year in and year out so often it’s just the tourist in me that wants me to snap every picture I can. Turku looks very picturesque in the snow but I did not dare leave the hotel on the nigh given how slippery the place would be and how likely it could be that I fall on my bott. So far, this has nearly happened a few times but I have finally got the hand of walking at a decent pace in the ice and snow.

Wednesday December 13th 2017

Today in Finland it is St Lucia’s Day. This is the day (on December 13th) every year where many people (including those in Finland) come together to celebrate Saint Lucia bringing light over darkness. You can find more about it here but celebrations took place of the evening of 13th December including a precession of a young girl (dressed in a white robe and red sash) and the precession walks from the cathedral (or church) in Turku centre and towards the market place. This day normally symbolises a day in advent and signalling the official arrival of Christmas time in Finland and also its Swedish origin. IT was good to be here today as people kept telling me about what was happening so I just had to go and explore myself.

Oher than this, it has been my final day of data collection. I have 12 good interviews and am thankful for my 12 participants. My job now will be to transcribe and analyse the interviews form this and the remainder of case study 1. I spent the remainder of the evening packing up my stuff, making extra backup copies of my data and making sure everything is organised for my trip home.

Thursday December 14th 2017

This day is dedicated to my travel home. I am expected to arrive back in Edinburgh about 11pm if my flights are all on time. I am taking the same route as I did on my trip here so it takes a while longer than I had hoped. I have decided not to blog about this trip home. It’s dull, boring and quite depressing to think my trip is over

Learnings from my trip to Finland

I have learned quite a lot from my trip to Finland. It has been wonderful to see another place in my PhD and visit a different university for two weeks. I have learned that things are done differently in Finland both in terms of the way they live and the way doctoral degrees are delivered and assessed. The food over here is also so different too – lots of herbs and spices! I have found it quite easy to get used to the types of food and the differences in cooking, but found it hard when I have just fancies something plain (oh how I have missed my beams on toast and roast dinners this trip!). I have also missed a bath as most Finnish hotels only have showers in them. This means that you can’t soak your feet after a hard day’s work and you can’t just relax. I have missed this very much and will enjoy the moment I can have a bath back in my flat in Edinburgh.

I have learned that experiences like this in a PhD study are the most valuable and I have been able to collect a good amount of data for my PhD case study. I have learned that if you don’t take chance and apply for things like finding, you will not have the opportunities to go elsewhere and visit places never seen. I have also learned that two weeks is the perfect amount of time. I have not really felt homesick, although I have missed home slightly. I have coped by Skype, FaceTime, calling and texting my family so that I can keep in touch.

Overall my trip to Finland has been a complete success and I would recommend taking this kind of opportunity if anyone ever gets the chance! I would like to finally thank Prof Gunilla Widén for hosting my trip and also Anu (one of the other PhD students) for looking after me whilst I have been here! My trip here would not have been successful without you both.


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The diary of a student visitor to Finland – week 1

So I have just returned to my hotel after my first week vising Abo Akademi University and also collecting data for case study two. I successfully carried out PhD interviews and managed to talk in detail about my topic, so now my job is to transcribe, analyse and write up the results (when all data is collected). However, I thought I would give you an insight into what has happened in the past week and I thought I’d do that in the format of a day to day diary – sort of!

My visit was made possible as I won a John Campbell Trust award which enabled me to travel abroad for data collection. My director of studies encouraged me to apply as she believed that I would be successful in winding the award and so I was. My school also agreed to pay part of the amount of my trip so that I was able to travel there for a substantial amount of time, enough to collect some data. So we decided that Finland was a good place to visit as we could combine my data collection with a trip to see Professor Gunilla Widén and her research group. I am thankful to all of these people, especially Gunilla who has provided an office and work space for me, a computer and organised access to the buildings I needed – for this I am grateful!

Whilst in Turku, I have discovered many things. Firstly, it is colder than Edinburgh but the weather is quite the same in terms of rain and wind. The first day it rained a lot and then we got a couple of days of snow. This was short-lived as it was washed away by even more rain that followed (but I did get some lovely pictures of it all!). I have also found that Finish folk are really quite friendly, but only if you make the effort. If you ask for help or something like that then they are more than happy to help, but if you don’t then they don’t. Finnish people also walk very fast and travel a lot my foot and cycle (especially by the riverside). You need to be careful not to get knocked over by a bike as they cycle quite fast but this is something I got used to quite quick. I’m quite enjoying the Finnish culture, the quietness of the place, definitely the coffee and also my work so this could definitely be a place that I return to in the future should I get the chance! J

Saturday December 2nd 2017

This was my day of travel. I had to get three flights: (1) Newcastle to Heathrow; (2) Heathrow to Helsinki and; (3) Helsinki to Turku. I must admit that when we first booked these flights, I was very concerned about the lack of time between each flight and the lack of time to board the flights. I managed to check-in at Newcastle without a hitch and got to London with no problems. However, I only had time for a toilet stop and to eat a bag of crisps before it was time to board my next flight. The flight to Helsinki comprised a screaming child, one who would scream every time the plane made a bump. This was not good considering I was wrecked and needed to sleep and every time I shut my eyes she moaned. I was glad when this flight was over. We then had a total of 15 minutes to get from one arrival gate in Helsinki airport to our departure gate in the same terminal, and this was achieved with just seconds to spare. As soon as we boarded the Helsinki-Turku flight, the doors were closed and we were off… finally on our way to Turku. Now days before I left, my supervisor advised me to take a change of clothes in my hand luggage so that I had some for Sunday if my baggage did not arrive. I’m glad I took her advice as coincidently our bags did not arrive in Turku with us and our entire first full day was sent with nothing but our hand luggage – joy!

Sunday December 3rd 2017

This was our first day off before I began my work on the Monday. In true Turku style, it rained all day and we got absolutely soaked through. However, we enjoyed a walk around the riverbanks and a wander into town to find some emergency supplies. When finally got our bags late afternoon and were relieved that we had clothes to spare… I had however, bought an emergency set just in case so that I would not look like a total scruff on my first day at the university the next day (happily I did not!). It was in the evening that we discovered that most places close early for dinner (including the hotel). We searched around for a while to see what we could find and we were baffled that not many places were open. We decided to embrace the North East England heritage and pop into a takeaway for a kebab. I have to say that this was a pleasant experience and something I thought about doing again, but I just did not have the time. Unlike the UK, the kebab tasted fresh, the meat was not greasy and the sauce was just yum. I did realise that I would need to plan ahead on the Sunday to follow unless I wanted another emergency kebab!

Monday December 4th 2017

The two days to follow were interestingly fun and I enjoyed my first two days at Abo Akademi. I was welcomed very warmly by Prof Widén early morning on the Monday and she showed me my desk, facilities and associated things I needed to know. I was able to meet some of the staff and students at the university and settle in quite nicely with my surroundings. I quickly got comfortable and got on with some data analysis of case study 1 at my desk, and awaited the arrival of my supervisor soon after. Hazel is a Docent in Information Studies in the department so she has yearly visits here, so it was quite nice for me to schedule my data collection around this trip to so that I could participate in activities scheduled.

On the afternoon we participated in a paper review meeting where some of Gunilla’s researchers requested feedback on a paper they had prepared. Hazel and I had both read the paper before our visit and prepared questions / comments to ask. The paper was well presented and we both has comments we thought could be changed. It appears that the authors have had the same issue as me when I first started writing my recent theory paper in that we have all found the literature structure difficult. I really like the statistics in the paper and though this has bene presented well. It’s lovely to see a paper in this area with quite complex statistics in it and I was able to questions some of the reasons behind the statistical choices. This meeting gave us the opportunity to discuss a valuable paper (in draft) in the fired and for me to practice my paper reviewing skills. These are skills that are invaluable when you are a PhD student and I am thankful for being able to have the opportunity to use these skills in a university where I would not normally be based.

Tuesday December 5th 2017

This was Hazel’s second and final day of her visit to Abo Akdemi and we had more academic things planned. Most of our time was spent with some of Gunilla’s colleagues in a workplace information literacy meeting. This gave all of us the opportunity to discuss our work, and Hazel and I resented ours in PowerPoint form so that our audience had something to take away. You can find my slides here and Hazel’s slides here too. I found this experience to be quite beneficial both to me and my research. I was able to talk about my doctoral study in relation to information literacy but then explain the aims, methods and purpose of my research (including what I hope to get out of it). I also received quite a few questions which I enjoyed answering… normally this is the part I dread! The questions of methods, future research and the use of Social Cognitive Theory surfaced and it was good to know the theory had been heard before. I was also able to show the group a copy of my recent submission to the Journal of Librarianship and Information Science which discusses the use of SCT in Information Science research like mine. I am pleased to say that this publication has now been officially accepted so it will be published sometime next year! J During the afternoon, we heard about the research of Gunilla’s research group and discussed relevant issues in the field. These include the use of different methodologies, concepts in questionnaires and the literature review process which we all know is major part of all research. It was good to get to know that other research projects in this group actually do align and actually overlap with mine. It’s not surprising that I felt very comfortable in talking about my own research to this group and I could see where mine fitted in.

Wednesday December 6th 2017

Today was the 100th celebration of Finnish Independence so all university campuses were closed and we had a day off – kind of like a UK bank holiday. It was a day for celebration and you can find more about what was on offer all over the country here. We saw Turku Castle lit up in blue and white and had a walk up the river (in the snow!). Plenty of photo’s were taken up to now and some of them can be seen in this blog post.

Thursday December 7th and Friday December 8th 2017

These two days were dedicated to data collection for my PhD case study. In the run up to my trip to Finland, I was able to arrange 12 interviews with people who had openly volunteered. This was a good amount for European case study and my participant did not disappoint. I was able to interview a variety of staff form my participating organisation and ask their views on my topic. I brought all practical things with me (consent, info, schedule etc) so my main focus of the days was to travel around and meet me participants at their location of choice. It was a good to get to know how organisations work in Finland and also what influences the learning of employees. From carrying out only 5 interviews so far I can see a clear difference from my first case study data and this will be something I discuss in my work.

The most interesting thing of the day (Friday) was meeting someone who already had a PhD. This person explained the process of obtaining a PhD in Finland and also showed me copied of their ‘book’. You see, in Finland (and other similar countries), the doctoral programme is much different. The programme is usually 4 years compared to our 3, and there is a public defence involved. I have spent the day explaining the UK viva process and what this means for the candidate, and exploring how this differs from the processes elsewhere. I found a really interesting blog post here which explains the process of the public defence and the idea that many doctoral researchers are required to publish their own through the process before it can be passed. The doctoral thesis is still externally examined like ours, and you normally need permission form your primary supervisor to submit this for examination, although I have been informed that this is not always the case! I really could not imagine submitting my PhD without my supervisors being happy with it.

I finished my working week by blogging (this blog post) and feeling content that my data collection was progressing well. I also made plans with one of the Turku PhD students for over the weekend. I do not think the weather is particularly good though!

My next blog post will surface soon, probably when I return to Edinburgh!

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