Monthly Archives: June 2016
Finland is one of the northernmost countries in the world, and while it may be off the beaten track this Nordic country is anything but insular. Finland leads the world in education, government transparency, stability, and saunas. But what makes Finland the perfect destination for an international student? We asked Mats Engblom from the University of Helsinki to tell us what makes Finland special.
1. Natural Beauty
The entire country of Finland, barring a few islands of its southernmost coast, is located above the 60th parallel. Finland’s geographic location, as well as its stunning landscape, makes it an ideal location for students wanting to study and explore. Head north in the summer when the sun doesn’t set and hike around any of Finland’s 168,000 lakes. In the winter, Finland turns into a winter wonderland with cross country ski trails through Helsinki’s central park and northern lights that dance across the sky.
2. Vibrant International Community
Finland has a small population (just under 5.5 million people), but the country has a diverse international community, and international students will find a warm welcome. The University of Helsinki, along with the rest of the country, has worked to establish an “attractive and internationally competitive” profile and international students have a strong network of support.
3. Strong Local Culture
Finnish people may seem very reserved, but once you get to know them, you’ll find a warm, friendly population and cities full of life. Finns drink more coffee than any other people on earth (around 12kg per person per year!) and the capital city of Helsinki is “full of cafes, culture and clubs.” Spend your weekends browsing flea markets and art galleries, and check out the city’s dynamic music scene featuring everything from classic operas to a rock culture that makes Finland a leader in yet another area – heavy metal bands!
4. World-Class Education
You can hardly open the news without hearing about Finland’s marvelous education system, but the country deserves its reputation. Finland repeatedly ranks in the top five for PISA scores, Finns borrow more library books than any other country in the world, and in the “latest Shanghai ranking, [the University of Helsinki was] #56.” The university is working its way to the top of the ranking and employs instructors who are also esteemed researchers, making it a smart choice for ambitious international students.
If you’ve already been accepted to graduate school, we’ve got good news for you: your writing skills were strong enough to get your application past the admissions committee. But this doesn’t mean you can just kick back and coast on what worked during your undergraduate studies. Not only will more be expected of you during your pursuit of an advanced degree, but there’s also likely to be a thesis in your future. The takeaway? The time is now to sharpen up your writing skills. Let’s count down six tips aimed at ensuring that your writing is on point in graduate school.
1. Convey Your Expertise
Graduate students are training to be experts in their field. This expertise should be exemplified by your writing. Your language should be direct, confident and authoritative in order to foster a sense of trust with your readers.
Other ways to assemble a cogent argument? Avoid first person tense whenever possible; employ transition words and phrases; and pay attention to sentence structure. Two true hallmarks of graduate level writing? Clarity and control.
2. Make Writing Routine
We’ve all heard the expression “practice makes perfect.” This is no more true than when it comes to graduate level writing. Making time to write regularly will not only help you develop critical thinking and writing skills, but can also be an invaluable confidence booster.
Establishing a writing routine is particularly beneficial when it comes to working on your thesis. Many graduate students wait too long to start writing and end up rushing through the process. This can lead to everything from an underdeveloped argument to lack of proper formatting. Avoid this pitfall by setting a schedule for writing as you go…and by committing to stick with it.
3. Know Your Reader
Any piece of writing should keep one overarching question in mind: Who is the audience and why are they reading your writing? In addition to clearly presenting your ideas, keep in mind that your thesis is an original contribution to your particular discipline. Make sure your reader knows what to expect by including “signposts” — such as a table of contents, abstract, introductory paragraphs, etc. — along the way to help guide your reader. Each sentence should relate in some way to your overall argument.
4. Seek Feedback
While graduate level writing is largely an individual effort, there’s plenty of help to be found if you know where to look. For starters, your advisor can be an amazing resource when it comes to “big picture” issues, such as selecting a topic and refining your thesis. In addition to helping identify your paper’s strengths, your advisor can also help suss out your weaknesses thereby preventing you from venturing too far in the wrong direction.
Your fellow grad students, meanwhile, can offer editing and proofreading assistance. And while finding someone in your field can be particularly useful — especially if you’re writing about a complex or scientific subject — friends and family members can also offer a helpful second (or third or fourth) pair of eyes.
5. Embrace the Revision Process
No piece of writing gets it perfect the first time. In fact, research and writing go hand in hand with revision, but many writers still get tripped up by setting impossible expectations for themselves. The best way to avoid this trap? Make revision part of your mindset.
Also, keep in mind that revision is much more than merely proofreading for mistakes. Rather, it’s an act of complete “re-seeing.” While this often involves expanding on key concepts, it sometimes means letting go of good material if it doesn’t make an essential contribution to your writing. We can all learn from William Faulkner, who once spoke of the need to, “Kill all your darlings.”
6. Learn from the Best
One of the best ways to get a better sense of what your writing should look like? Immersing yourself in published work from experts in your field. Visit your school library to read top journals in your discipline, noting writers and writing techniques you most admire. Reading dissertations in your particular area can also help you familiarize yourself with the corpus of research while gaining a better sense of the language used to describe varying concepts.
You’ve already proved your mettle by getting into graduate school, but that’s just the start. These six tips can help you take your writing to the next level. The best part? Writing is a transferrable skill. In other words, you can continue to call on these skills to be a better writer, thinker and communicator throughout your professional and personal life.
You’ve got one camp telling you that an excellent thesis will help you make a name for yourself in your field. Another waxes on about the value of having an internship for landing a job. Given these dual imperatives, it hardly comes as a shock that many driven master’s students find themselves performing a daily juggling act. No one said graduate school was going to be easy, but it doesn’t have to feel like you’re always one dropped ball away from disaster. Let’s count down four ways to successfully balance your master’s thesis and internship.
1. Schedule Daily Time to Write
The fact that your boss expects you to be at your internship everyday provides meaningful motivation to show up. Unfortunately, the same element of external accountability is missing from the thesis scenario. The unhappy result? It often ends up getting moved aside and pushed back — ultimately leaving you in a bind when the deadline is suddenly bearing down and you’re weeks behind where you’d hoped to be by now.
The best way to avoid the last minute rush? Rather than letting your thesis become the thing you do when don’t have anything else to do, make it your priority by establishing a regular writing routine. Not only will this help keep you on track, but it can also get your brain in the habit of writing. Like any other form of “exercise,” the more you write, the easier it becomes. In fact, in committing to write every day, you’re likely to experience all new levels of productivity.
2. Prioritize Your Productivity
Do you work best in the earlier hours of the morning while it’s still dark outside? Or perhaps you thrive in the wee hours after everyone else has gone to bed? Do you find working in a coffee shop surrounded by hordes of other people invigorating, or do you need a more solitary environment in order to concentrate?
Not everyone finds inspiration in the same environment. Understanding where you find yours is extremely beneficial when it comes to promoting peak productivity. After all, making time to write is only part of the “big picture.” Also critical? Maximizing that time.
3. Keep Your Employer In the Loop
One of the good things about internships is that they’re often designed to accommodate student schedules. In most cases, your employer will be more than happy to work with you to come up with a mutually agreeable work schedule which allows ample time for thesis writing, as well. If you end up in a position where you need to cut back on your internship hours to devote extra time to work on your thesis, open lines of communication are key. Just be upfront in expressing your needs from the start in order to avoid confusion and/or bad feelings in the future.
One additional thing to keep in mind? If you’re planning on continuing to work for your current employer after you graduate, the completion of your thesis — particularly if it’s germane to the work you’re doing — can add to your marketability.
4. Accept Multitasking as a Myth
While much has been made of the benefits of multitasking, a growing body of research not only suggests that doing multiple things at once may not only be all it’s cracked up to be, but may actually lead to decreased productivity.
A recent study from McGill University indicates that in constantly shifting from one task to the next, the body uses up its oxygenated glucose stores — the very same fuel which would otherwise be used to focus. Concludes researcher and professor of behavioral neuroscience Daniel Levitin, “That switching comes with a biological cost that ends up making us feel tired much more quickly than if we sustain attention on one thing.”
While multitasking may no longer be of use to you, something else can be: Scheduling regular 15-minute breaks. Stepping away from your work — whether during your internship or while writing your thesis — can actually help you be more productive, but only if you let your mind truly wander. Just don’t let it wander over to the internet, however, as research also shows that online distractions can be particularly destructive. The takeaway? In order to make the very best of your time, stop checking your social media and shut off all of your automatic notifications.