Interviewed in his third year, studying Mechanical Engineering
Having moved from Finland to the Netherlands at the age of 13, I spent five years at school in the Hague where I found myself fascinated by the science courses. After choosing to do Higher Level Maths, Physics and Biology in the International Baccalaureate (IB), I was well on my way towards a career in science. The decision to study Engineering, however, did not happen until a few months before applying. Even then, three of my six UCAS choices were to study biology-related subjects rather than Engineering. By the time I was invited to an interview in Cambridge, the doubt had faded away. I realised that not only did I want to study science, I wanted to use what I learned to design and create.
While I found my first year at Cambridge very challenging, I was comforted by the realisation that I quite enjoyed working on the assigned problem papers. I think the IB science and maths courses work well as preparation for studying Engineering because of their focus on the importance of clarity when working through problems, explaining what you are doing and applying learned concepts to some more abstract problems.
The Cambridge course is a special one because of the nature of the first two years. I always felt that studying a broad range of engineering areas suited me well, but it was not until the end of my second year that I came to fully appreciate this system. Giving students two extra years to choose their specialisation is invaluable. The range of topics and the depth in which they are covered is very impressive and provide what I feel is an essential appreciation and understanding of fundamental engineering principles in many areas of expertise.
Applying what you learn in lectures to something useful was a large part of the allure in being an engineer for me. The lab work and the industrial experience program both allow you to do this in various ways. During the summer after my second year, I worked in Finland on a fluid dynamics problem related to turbulence. This was a very positive experience and made me realise that, after just two years of studying Engineering, I could communicate with professionals and specialists and was treated as a valued member of a team.
For my third year, I chose mostly courses in Mechanical Engineering as well as some business modules and a brilliant module called "Design Methods". It was nice finding that, after two years, I had not been discouraged from studying difficult things but instead had become interested in learning more about problems we face as engineers.