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My study road wasn’t the most common one. So what happened?


I’ll start from the elementary school times. I was definitely an under achiever. I had much more potential than my school grades let me and other people believe. Also, I wasn’t the easiest teenager in the world. I told my parents that I will never ever go to high school. Period. End of story. Lock in an ocean, key on the moon. I liked to study arts and cooking. As a logical continuum, I went to vocational school after the elementary school and became a pastry chef (leipuri-kondiittori). The three years in the vocational school were probably the funniest years of my life. I graduated when I was just 18 years old.

After some years of bakery work I felt like I could do the job with my eyes closed and I started to miss challenges. Perhaps it was a destiny, but there was somebody at work who I call here Esko. Esko brought a local newspaper to work every day. One day, I had a couple of minutes time to look at the newspaper. There it was – high school for adults in the evenings. Hmmm… I had in mind that I could study the degree during quite many years just as a hobby.

So I called to the school.

Me: - Hello, is it possible to study the courses as many years as I feel like in an adult high school?

Lady at the school: - Yes, of course it is.

The truth: yes, you can study separate courses for as long as you like but without a diploma. This was something the lady didn’t say because I didn’t mention the word diploma either. So we talked about different things. Destiny again.

I went to the school to fill and sign some papers. At the hall there was a poster with rules. ”Your studies may last max four years to get a diploma.” Whaaat?!?! Beside the poster there was a man standing, probably a teacher, who said: ”welcome, you may go to that class room to fill the papers”. Honestly, I went to fill the papers just because I thought it would be too rude to turn around. What in earth I just did… Well, I’ll manage. I’ll buy a car and drive 25 km to the school and 25 km back four times a week. After full time work day, of course. No problem. On Fridays I worked usually overtime and on Saturday and Sunday I did school work beforehand for the whole following week, went to buy food for the week etc. I was surprised how well I performed in high school and I loved to study, especially biology. I get the best results when I’m  a bit stressed. However, too much is too much.

My grades were 10/10, 10/10, 9/10… Too good to be wasted. Giving up was not an option. I also started to dream about university studies. So what should I do? Luckily at that time it was possible for me to get ”vuorotteluvapaa” (free year from work). That was a solution. So the second school year I just studied and on a third year I worked less than on my first high school year. After all, I graduated in three years and I’m proud of it!

Why biology? What could be more interesting to study than life? Also, I had a good and inspiring teacher in biology. Perhaps most importantly, I'm good in logic thinking, and that is what one needs when studying biology and other natural sciences. It is rewarding when a lamp turns on above my head and have really understood something complicated by putting things together. 

The rest of the road is, I guess, more normal. I was accepted to study Biology, and I chose plant ecology. I like to see what I study and plants don't run away. Perfect! I studied perhaps even too many courses. There were so many courses that I just didn't want to miss. Field courses were the highlights. After my graduation I had an opportunity to do my PhD studies in Lahti about a topic that actually included two Academy of Finland projects.

Life is learning and learning is life.

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