More Than the Degree

Say WAT? - Water and Environmental Engineering Master’s programme impressions

I know there’s a lot of you out there impatiently waiting for the new academic year to start. While you hopefully enjoy a better summer, here is my experience during my first year as a master’s student to give you an idea of what to expect this autumn. Whether you are a new WAT student or any student in Aalto, obviously welcome and congratulations ❤️.

The last Teams meeting with all my course mates and teachers ended less than two hours ago. We all took a moment to reflect on what we’ve learnt and our hopes for the future. I realised I have come a long way this year, both as a person and on a professional level. But I can still remember the night before I started my courses last September, and the weird mix of feelings, the anticipation, the enthusiasm and even the dread. Of course, it all went by too fast. But hopefully I can tell you a bit about the programme, my favourite moments, and a tip I wish I’d known before starting my studies here.

Favourite course

Just as a quick recap, the programme has only one common course in the beginning (15 credits). In my opinion, it is a cool concept because each week we had a different topic related to water and the environment. After this, I had a much better idea of what courses I wanted to take. Then, there’s 45 credits of major studies (related to WAT subjects), 30 credits for the thesis, and another 30 credits for elective studies.

It does take some time to decide on a favourite course. Do I choose it based on my preference for the subject? Do I choose one because it had great teachers? In the end, I think I’ll choose the course which came as a surprise. This spring, I took Design and Management of Water and Wastewater Networks. I had no idea whatsoever what it involved, and I was apprehensive about the modelling exercises. But it turned out that we worked with a software on real-life projects, designing the water network of a Finnish town – everything from the pipes to water treatment. It was a hands-on experience with the help of people who actually designed the software.

Favourite exercise

Portfolio, most definitely. This is a really useful way to keep track of everything I have studied and figure out where I am going. We can use almost any format, a journal, a mind map, or a website (I chose this method, so that later, I can attach it to my CV).

Favourite experience

During a year where everything has been online, at times, it felt a bit difficult to connect with the other people. My schedule meant a lot of lectures running one after the other (or even worse, one during another), occasionally having Zoom meetings with course mates to work on projects, and quite a lot of time spent by myself. I admit that for a 9 a.m. start I would barely have my coffee ready. That is why one of my favourite course-related activities has been an Ecohydraulics lab exercise. In very small groups, we had a chance to be on campus and spend some hours in the Water Lab, working with plants and studying their behaviour in the flume. It meant seeing and learning about current environmental issues and the latest research on the topic.

Holding a sample

Quick tip for a smooth start

Make a study plan as soon as possible!

It might seem a bit overwhelming to choose all the courses at the beginning of the programme. I came from a university that did not have a lot of course flexibility. So, I felt a bit confused by the idea of making my own schedule. It took some time to go through so many course descriptions and decide on my path. But once finished, it did give me a sense of accomplishment that I knew what my future studies are going to look like. There is a lot of support at this stage, mentor meetings and the portfolio process I mentioned, so no worries.

I hope you found some useful inspiration for your studies. Have a great summer everyone, and hopefully see you this autumn!

Oana Iliescu 

Water and Environmental Engineering

Aalto study options

Contact email: aaltosquad(at) 

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