More Than the Degree

Students of Aalto, Oana from Romania, Master’s Programme in Water and Environmental Engineering 


My name is Oana and I’m a Water and Environmental Engineering master’s student originally from Romania. This is the story of how I’ve come to call Finland my home and Aalto University my school. It is a thrilling (hopefully!) adventure spanning several years and three countries. 


Once upon a time (or to be precise, 4 years ago), a friend asked if I wanted to spend Christmas in Finland. It sounded like a most inspired idea, so I said yes. It was the first glimpse I got of this country. It was a glimpse because we ended up running through Helsinki Airport trying to catch a plane to Tampere. It was a glimpse because there was a blizzard outside. Nonetheless, that glimpse told me I had arrived in a wonderful and warm place, despite the snowy evidence. That Christmas was full of new friends, hot chocolate, and skating. And I returned home full of stories from Finland. 

Winter view from the window

But that was all there was, right? A holiday. Good thing this was just the beginning. Two years after that, I was studying Civil Engineering in Southampton, UK. It was my third and final year – that anxiety-inducing but also exciting moment when I had to choose and complete my final major project. I decided to concentrate on food waste issues and after a discussion with my adviser, we decided to follow a case study in Finland. Once again, I packed my bags, and I flew to Helsinki. After that visit, it felt like fate that I kept returning to this country. Not some idyllic unrealistic fate either – but a very practical one. From my research at the time, Finland had amazing study options in the engineering domain, it was free for an EU citizen to study here, and the general atmosphere was so open. 

I took some time off to consider the major for my master’s studies, but I knew the place where I wanted to go. When the answer from Aalto University came, I shouted for the whole world to hear (for a week at least, that’s all anyone heard). There were uncertain moments and a lot of planning involved, but I finally moved to Finland during the summer of 2020. My favourite memories include travelling by boat from Savonlinna to Lappeenranta, visiting the Olavinlinna Castle, and walking random streets in Helsinki and Tampere.  


Choosing and being chosen as a student at Aalto University has been fulfilling. But for me, it is also about choosing a place to live while studying, and I made the right choice in choosing Finland. This is the place that I first set foot on a boat that took me on a week’s long journey. It is the place that I even considered jumping into a freezing lake after the sauna. This is the place where I found a home. And now that I have survived my first Finnish winter, I can’t wait to go explore this country again! 

Oana Iliescu 

Water and Environmental Engineering Master’s student 

Aalto study options

Contact email: aaltosquad(at) 

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