Lorena Acuña from Spain
Why did you choose this programme?
“I was looking for a programme in Astrophysics that would enable me to study courses on stellar and planetary science. I found publications from the researchers at Lund Observatory, and their interests where related to the topics of my Bachelor’s project. I was excited to continue my Master’s project on these two subjects, which wouldn’t have been possible for me at my previous university. Furthermore, the idea of working on a Master’s thesis for a year (60 credits) was very important to me as well, since it requires time to develop a consistent amount of research work as a Master’s student.
Lund, as a student city, was an attractive option because I knew I could be part of the student atmosphere more easily compared to in other cities in Sweden. It was also convenient for me, as it just takes three hours by plane to visit my family and friends in Spain during holidays.”
What is the best thing about your programme?
“The thing I like the most about my Master’s is the thesis project. It combines the two subjects I wanted to work on: stellar spectroscopy and planetary science. It’s 60 credits, but we start working on it a year and a half before the final presentation. This means we have time to develop our ideas within our own research, and to overcome any problems during the project. Each of the Master’s students meets their supervisor frequently and we attend seminars given by external researchers every week. This is a natural part of our education and it helps us be aware of the challenges in science. It is also possible to comment and discuss your ideas with other Master’s students, PhD students and researchers in an informal way by attending the coffee breaks in the department every day.”
Have you had the chance to gain any practical experience?
“Every Master’s student gets the chance to do research during their Master’s thesis. In addition, summer internships are sometimes offered for those who would like to work on another research project with a different supervisor in the department.
What is the best thing about Lund University in general?
“Lund University really cares for your well-being by planning your programme carefully, supporting social life through Studentlund – nations, unions and the Academic Society – and offering student services such as academic support and student health.”
What have you learned from studying in Sweden so far?
“Sweden is a great country to live in as a student. The University offers a lot of information on what to do when you first arrive in Sweden, and the arrangements and paperwork – for example obtaining a personal number or opening a Swedish bank account – are relatively simple and fast. However, new international students might experience the well-known culture shock and feel a bit homesick the first few months. Developing your own relationships in a new country and a bit of time to adjust to the new environment is what you’ll need to overcome this.”
Have you been able to get by with English in Sweden?
“The language of instruction of my Master’s is English, so I don’t need Swedish at all for my professional life. Most Swedish people are fluent in English, so if you need help at some point, don’t hesitate to ask the people around you in English. However, I recommend for international students to learn a bit of Swedish, especially if they are going to live in Sweden longer than a year. Learning Swedish made everyday tasks easier for me, and it has also helped me feel at home in Lund.”
Are you involved in any extracurricular activities?
“I am board member of ALVA, the astronomy club at Lund University. We organise events related to astronomy, such as seminars by researchers in our department, workshops on astrophotography, planetarium shows in Vattenhallen Science Centre and stargazing nights, when the weather allows it. I am also active in one of the nations, where I can meet my friends and enjoy sports, cooking and the language cafés.”
What are you planning to do after your studies?
“I applied for PhD studies at other universities in Europe, as I want to continue with research in the field I am working in at the moment. Most of the students in my Master’s want to pursue a PhD position afterwards. Nonetheless, this is not the only path we can follow – we also have the options to work in industry or as consultants in technology companies.”
To what extent has your programme prepared you for a career in your field?
“My Master’s in Lund has prepared me with a great deal of knowledge and research experience to face studies and research at the PhD level. We are also encouraged to work on skills that are useful for scientists, such as teamwork, and to practise with oral presentations. All these skills are also helpful for any physics students that want to continue their career outside academia.”
Do you think it will be relatively easy to find a relevant position after your studies?
“I already found a PhD position I find exciting in the Netherlands, and I am optimistic when it comes to the interview I will have, as I believe my experience in Lund University has helped me prepare for this position.”
Do you have any piece of advice for those planning to study at Lund?
“Be ‘lagom’: find a balance between the student life – which is amazing in Lund – and the time you spend studying and working on your programme.”