IT-studies focus on hands-on experience

My name is Tuan (Tuan Tran). I am from Hanoi, Vietnam. I am currently living and working in Mikkeli. I came to Finland in August 2018 and started my study at Xamk. I graduated from Xamk, Information Technology degree programme, in June 2023 with a +1 year extension compared to regular students.

When deciding my future education choices, which was near the end of high school, many countries and schools stood out for me, and I was given a few options. It was either Finland or the Netherlands. And the deciding factor was how well the education is known in Finland, both in academic progress and student’s physical/mental life.

As for why Xamk in particular, I was impressed with first and embarrassingly the school color tone. When I saw the school’s degree with its black cover and gold details, it legitimately made me want to actually earn an education here haha… Apart from that, and maturely speaking, I am satisfied with the way the school describes the study content and its correspondence career path.

I was a high school student, and we did not exactly have any career counseling; the only thing I knew was that I was decent with computers. Therefore, after reading through the degree’s description, I felt like I could trust the school’s reputation and guidance when it comes to making more significant moves in my life.

Granted, I was offered to study IB (in the Netherlands) and IT. However, I know my limits, I am not that great at math and, in the grand scheme of things, business studies. Plus I grew up with computers, I tinkered with them a lot and already knew my career path would involve computer science at one point.

Hands-on experience and joy of success

My whole impression has always been lectures, documents, and books. What I did not account for was that Xamk emphasizes hands-on experience equally. I thoroughly enjoyed sessions on classes that involved configuring network equipment instead of just “learning/remembering it in my head”. Not only that, the IT-degree also has exercises and tasks that require experimentation/development at home as a sort of personal project instead of just novel-long reports.

The best way I can describe what has been the most rewarding about my studies is that there is an immense amount of satisfaction/happiness whenever I manage to solve something/come up with something. Sometimes, I would be so frustrated that I just decided to sleep on the problem before I messed up even further. But then in bed, I would come up with some potential solutions and I’d be so eager to try it out that I have to note it down or I would forget it when I wake up. It’s like a lightbulb that is so broken/tired inside my head has managed to light up haha.

Or during practical exams and I would be missing 2% out of 100%. I would be trying all sorts of solutions and I would sit there for a while. Normally, if it was 80% or something, I’d probably give up and accept my incompetency. But the 2% missing out of 100% is really what makes me motivated cause it gives me the confidence I need to know that I am capable in a certain field/aspect instead of average/passable.

Teachers always help

I articularly enjoyed my networking teacher’s Matti Juutilainen courses. I consider myself to be a fairly thorough person which is contrary to the fact that I am not that fast when it comes to understanding hard topics compared to my peers. However, Matti has continuously helped me understand topics in class and outside of class. He never seemed frustrated, bothered, or annoyed at my question, no matter how hard/simple it was. And he made a bigger effort to explain it in a simpler but more thorough manner so that I could fully grasp the topic.

The amount of support I got from the teacher was amazing!

During my first year, I was definitely a bit overwhelmed by all the courses. But a few months in, I can start to “segregate” in my head progress bars of each skill and how well I am doing in those classes versus how much effort I need to put into them more. This is probably a repeat, but I loved doing all the practical tasks of the courses. The freedom they allow in the topics but also the amount of support you receive from your teacher, no matter how unique your topic, is equally considered.

During my third year here, I suffered some pushback, and my study was somewhat “delayed.” Around that time, I received a lot of support from my homeroom teacher and I was allowed to progress at my own pace, which is something I highly appreciate. Around the time of my thesis, I was very lucky to receive a lot of feedback/suggestions from my supervisor teacher, Matti Juutilainen. He gave me directives to start when the thesis only had a few lines of words. And he helped round out many corners and angles that were steps away from finishing it.

At what point I was even nominated for an internship position, which surprises me a lot cause I didn’t even realize I was even remotely considered to be qualified for such a nomination. But the fact that the teacher thought of me makes me genuinely grateful.

Study for your career, not for what others think of you!

At a point in your study, the topics will become a lot more broad. You will be given the ability to decide a lot of things, which include your major (what you will be especially good at). It was very demotivating to see all my friends pick up programming since it is a very common field and career path. However, my teacher assured me time after time that my pursuit field, network engineering, would still be recognized as a desirable career (well, he was right).

Therefore, my advice is that when it’s time to pick up your field, follow what you are good at and ask your teachers for support/suggestions. They can explain to you what it means to major in a field, and what kind of career you will have or what kind of position will you see from such? Sometimes, it’s okay not to pursue the mainstream, and you are studying for your career, not for what others think of you.

The skills provided by the studies for working life

When the things you do have meaning and responsibility, and I was working with real-life situations, I realized that the IT program helped me have the foundation to do the job. Of course, experience comes with it, but most of my experience has been in such a simulated environment that I took it for granted while studying. But working at my job as a junior gave me an understanding that I wouldn’t even get this job had it not been for prior education, let alone “real-life experience.” The feeling of working with actual production equipment and knowing what I am doing instead of messing around is something very surreal.

I am currently happily working in Mikkeli at Mipro Oy, a railway traffic company, as an ICT specialist. I am expected to continue to gain more experience here, and I would like to see a version of myself that is successful enough to maybe move to a metropolitan city.

I think that I fortunately scored my current job. Most positions in this major tend to expect people with more experience, of which I have none. But what’s even more at hand is that it’s probably harder to find a better company even if there are more benefits. My colleagues are nice and friendly, my supervisor is extremely thoughtful and caring, and I can’t ask for a better starting position.

I am also happy to see new Vietnamese students still choose Xamk even after I graduated. If I were to recommend the IT-program, it would probably be for students who like/are interested in computer science. Once you start your study at Xamk, you can then hone that topic into your major, which the school definitely supports a huge variety of.

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