More Than the Degree

My Journey through Human-Computer Interaction

Greetings, I'm Chenyu, a second-year master's student delving into Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). The genesis of my Aalto University pursuit traces back to a captivating hackathon (Junction) held here in 2019. The vibrant convergence of design and computer science disciplines in this enriching atmosphere attracted me toward HCI. From my tech-driven inclinations during prior university escapades, I recognized HCI as the ideal fusion of my passions. My trajectory transitioned from software engineering in my bachelor's studies to delving into human-robot interaction during my thesis writing phase. The more I delved into this, the more I uncovered about HCI, eventually leading me to Aalto University's HCI program.

Why HCI at Aalto University?

The allure of Aalto University for my studies rests on its stature as a technology and design pioneer, coupled with its interdisciplinary focus and research-centric HCI approach. The dynamic campus and diverse student cohort added to its charm. I was further fortunate to secure the Aalto University Scholarship, which covered my tuition entirely, a boon for non-EU/EEA students.

Most Captivating Course or Project

The HCI journey's allure lies in its hands-on learning. While theoretical courses remain pivotal, they're just a fraction of the curriculum. The highlight for me was the "Data-Driven Concept Design" course. Here, we ventured into prototyping, transforming abstract concepts into reality through a methodical month-long process. This fusion of theory and practicality rendered the learning exceptionally rewarding. Besides, we can take plenty of project courses or seminar courses. Their topics may vary for different periods.

Contrasts with Previous Experiences

Aalto University stood distinct from prior experiences in manifold ways. Collaboration and teamwork were emphasized, urging us to engage closely with peers from diverse backgrounds. The university's research and innovation thrust materialized through cutting-edge technologies and methodologies embedded in courses. The freedom in course selection was liberating, allowing me to bridge disciplines, a stark contrast to my previous university's more rigid course structure.

Surprises in the Studies

Studying in Finland and specifically in the HCI program at Aalto surprised me with its student-centric approach. Professors and faculty members are approachable and encourage open discussions. The inclusive and supportive learning environment also fostered creativity and independent thinking, which was refreshing and beneficial. Though there will always be problems in life, in some ways, Aalto University is trying to provide a sustainable and systematic way to help international or local students find their interests in studies and societal positions.

Tools for Professional Life

My HCI studies equipped me with many valuable tools and skills. From user-centered design principles to usability testing techniques, I comprehensively understood the design process. Moreover, analyzing user behavior and empathizing with their needs has proven invaluable in crafting meaningful and user-friendly digital experiences. Other focus areas in HCI, such as computation user interfaces, could require more machine learning skills. Many relevant courses and projects exist if you want to apply computational methods to user interfaces.

Highlights of Aalto Studies

The best part of my studies at Aalto was the opportunity to work with a diverse group of talented individuals. Collaborating with students and researchers from different cultural backgrounds and academic disciplines broadened my perspective and enriched my learning experience. The sense of community and the collective pursuit of knowledge made my time at Aalto memorable.

Future Endeavors

My current endeavor involves working on my master's thesis on user-centered design for marine information services. I aspire to channel my acquired skills into a design-centric tech company or pursue a Ph.D. to explore pioneering HCI concepts within research and academia.

Tips for Incoming Students

To fellow students embarking on this journey, I would offer these tips:

  1. Embrace interdisciplinary learning, marrying prior expertise with newfound knowledge.
  2. Explore various subjects to unearth your true passions.
  3. Engage in practical projects and internships for real-world insights.
  4. Cultivate a collaborative mindset by seeking diverse team collaborations.
  5. Fuel your curiosity, stay abreast of HCI trends, and remain open to perpetual learning and adaptation.

May your HCI voyage at Aalto University be as transformative and enlightening as mine!

- Chenyu, student in Human-Computer Interaction

Chenyu with friends on campus.
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