My name is Ali Vatanshenas. I used to live in Tehran, a crowded city with around 15 million residents. However, I had only 3 close friends, but they were like siblings to me.
I am a science enthusiast – I think the most important aspect of my personality is being curious and eager to figure things out. So, no surprise that I decided to pursue research as my career.
I started doing research without any supervision and funding from a very young age. My first paper was published in an international peer-reviewed journal during the first semester of my master’s degree studies. This paper created a wave into our department and gave confidence to my classmates. They asked me for help, and soon we created a friendly research team including only master’s degree students who were not supported from anywhere.
I remember having scientifically important meetings in strange places, like a restaurant, because many times there was no empty space to book. We were just young students that no one took seriously, but we had a common dream and that kept us going. The only requirement for entering our team was having a collaborative personality. I believe everyone is talented, but character is more important than skills. You can always learn new skills but developing character is not that straightforward.
Long story short, hard work paid off. One of my friends is already doing his PhD in the US, another one is studying in England and I got accepted for two PhD positions in two countries, and I chose Finland. It was one of the most difficult decisions in my life. I gave up an English spoken country with perfect weather and selected Finland for two reasons:
- My current supervisor at Tampere University was more experienced.
- Finland is part of European Union, so I assumed there might be more opportunities for my future.
New Beginning in Tampere, Finland
I arrived in Finland to start my PhD at Tampere University at the age of 24. The first year of my residence in Finland was not easy at all. Everything changed overnight. I had not lived abroad before, and I used to live with my parents until then. I had to start everything from the scratch, but I believed in my ability to figure things out. On the one hand I felt lonely and eager to seek new people, but on the other hand I was conservative with my choices, I did not want to make wrong decisions due to lack of information or join wrong communities.
I joined a unit in the Tampere University where at that time, everyone except one researcher was Finnish – that helped me to adapt myself with the Finnish culture better and faster. My best friend in Finland is Ossi Liukkonen and his family. I was lucky to find these amazing people. Ossi’s wife is also a foreigner so they understood my challenges and helped me to overcome them. I truly appreciate Ossi’s assistance and company during my residence in Finland.
To give a gist about the problem I am trying to solve, I can tell that my research focuses on realistic estimation of soil behavior and designing safe infrastructures. The models presented so far are often quite complex which demand too many input parameters. Moreover, soil is one of the most problematic materials and its characteristics change from place to place. Therefore, studies available in the literature are not fully applicable for soft sensitive clays in Finland. In short, the goal of my research is presenting a simple but robust model that will be suitable for both theoretical and practical issues.
Adapting to a New Culture
I believe that there is a very good potential for international talents to start their career in Tampere. There is quite a lot of support for people with out of the box ideas. They should be active and find proper channels to gather sufficient information about the market. Moreover, in my opinion it is very important to get familiar with Finnish culture as well. Since, 100% of the team members you work with are humans and 100% of the target group benefiting from your work are humans as well – as a rule of thumb, if you do not understand the culture and existing demands in the society, you do not understand the business at all. But of course, it takes time to adapt with a new environment and patience plays a crucial key in this regard.
To conclude, I find Finnish culture unique and I am happy that I got the chance to come to this beautiful country. What I personally like about Tampere is the perfect combination of modern life with nature. Moreover, lakes, saunas and most importantly, honest people are the elements that make Tampere a good place to live.
However, I believe there is still room for enhancement and I am glad that as a Tampere Talent Ambassador, I have the chance now to share my ideas with decision makers of my city to make Tampere even a better place to live than it already is.