Application sent! How I applied to a PhD programme in Finland

Last year I wrote about my big decision to apply to a PhD program in Finland. I just sent in my application last week and wanted to take the time to write down my experience from the idea to actually finishing up that research proposal. After all, most of my blogging “career” I’ve been writing about my studies.

In October I had just started to find out if it would be possible for me to apply to a PhD program and do it remotely from Guangzhou. Via Facebook, I got in touch with a university lecturer from Helsinki University who had expertise in China and the Chinese language. He shared many useful tips with me and encouraged me to follow this new journey. Thanks to him, I also got in touch with Turku University.

Turku University had just started their Chinese language degree program last year and they had a very interesting doctoral programme in learning, teaching, and learning environments research. After discussing with a possible supervisor twice online, I started to form an idea of the research topic I wanted to focus on. As a teacher, I have for a long time already felt that the key to mastering the Chinese language (or any language) lies in learning motivation.

I decided to pursue my new dream and started to work on my research proposal. At first, I was completely lost, research proposal writing was not included in my master’s degree and now I had to start from scratch in a new language, English. I read the book Tohtoritakuu (PhD Guarantee, only available in Finnish) to get an idea of what it was like to write a doctoral dissertation and where to start. The book has an excellent reference section where I found other useful books, for example Writing your journal article in twelve weeks and Writing your dissertation in fifteen minutes a day.

After sending in the first draft in December I got a very polite reply from my two supervisors who reminded me that many applicants apply for this programme and it’s not a given that my application will be accepted. In other words, my research proposal wasn’t good enough! (My own interpretation) I got excellent feedback from both of them and with more knowledge and examples of how to write a good doctoral research proposal, I spent a few more days at Starbucks writing and rewriting.

I noticed that even I had the power to decide my own schedule and I could have available time slots here and there through the day, that at this intensive writing period spending the whole day at a coffee shop concentrating solely on the matter at hand, brought me the best focus and results.

When the March application deadline came closer, I was still rewriting and improving my proposal according to the feedback of my supervisors. I certainly would not have been able to finish the application without their help! Also in Finland at most universities, if not all, you must find a possible supervisor first before sending in your application.

Now the application has been sent and all I can do it wait for the results to be published before end of May. Of coure I shouldn’t just lay on the couch waiting for these two months, instead my supervisor adviced me to keep on reading and be ready to start the literature review if I get accepted.

That bein said, there is ofcoure always the chance that my application will be rejected. I have actually no idea what the chances of getting in are. If this happens, I have already decided to keep working on my research proposal and apply again in the Fall.

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