“Long may bicycle rain”

“Welcome to Uppsala, the city of nature, student nations, unique tradition and a place where you can not survive if you don’t have a bicycle” is the sentence that we heard several times when we arrived in Uppsala. At first sight, it was similar to Tartu, but at the same time so different in many ways.

Even though I thought that it was an exaggeration, it is true that a life in Uppsala depends on a bicycle. As we were living in student accommodation Flogsta, surrounded by the forest, and since the city transport was too slow, riding a bike was the best way to get around the city. Except when the snow starts to melt, then it’s a nightmare from which, fortunately, you wake up quickly.


Work, work and more work

Biomedicum (BMC) as a part of Uppsala University, was the place where we spent every day from the end of August until the end of December. The building is so big and confusing that at first, we needed a map to find the lecture rooms. Yes, you read correctly, a map! The concept of studies was different from the University of Tartu. At Uppsala University we were studying one course at the time, so when the lectures were finished, the fun and the real work started. Intense lab work where some of them included a fieldwork with collecting samples, and writing the reports were our everyday routine. If you haven’t experienced soil and water sampling while the rain is pouring, then you will when you come to Uppsala to study chemistry. We knew the importance of sampling in analytical chemistry, but one thing is to study how it should be done and something completely different when you get to perform it, that is when you really remember it. If you add on top of that a rain and a group of students running around the city with muddy boots, you get the day that it will be very hard to forget it.


I think that everyone will agree with me when I say that the most interesting part was the time spent in the lab and with the instruments. Put an analytical chemist in the room with HPLC, GC or MS and he will be the happiest person alive. The thrill of preparing your samples and organizing your work, the confusion of getting the results you didn’t expect, the rage when the instrument just decides that it won’t work when you need it, and the happiness when everything makes sense at the end, are just one of the emotions that we felt like a scientist to be.

When work is finished, you put a lot of clothes on you, ride a bike through icy road with an attempt not to fall, head back home and dive into writing the reports. If we were effective and fast, which we were, of course, our free time was reserved for the preparation of exam. You are probably asking when the sleep in our schedule was. You know the saying that sleeping is overrated, well while studying in Uppsala we proved that hypothesis. 3-4 hours per day in your comfy bed and a daily dose of caffeine are simple enough.


Now all of this will sound scary for future EACH students, but not everything is black and white. If you really love bioorganic analysis and analytical chemistry, the experience that you will gain during your time at Uppsala University is unreplaceable and it is worth the effort. Additionally, all of this can help you to realize your strengths and flaws and to decide if the analytical chemistry is something that you really want. In the end, nothing is going to come to you on a silver plate. If you want it, you must work very hard for it.


Near Stockholm

“The Venice of the North” is the nickname that Stockholm definitely deserves. One of the advantages of Uppsala is that it is very close to Stockholm. Since we couldn’t travel as often as in the first year, a short trip to Stockholm was our biggest attraction. Even though that it is one the most expensive cities that I have been to, it is a great feeling to walk through the streets that are surrounded by water and beautiful parks. The boat ride is the best way to get away from stress, to turn off your computer and just to enjoy the nature and the spirit of Stockholm.


Life after EACH and job perspective


The University of Tartu gave me a good background of analytical chemistry while at the second-year university (Uppsala University) I got the chance to acquire knowledge in bioorganic analysis. For me, the EACH programme represented the first step forward in my carrier as an analytical chemist and now I am working as a researcher in CIPF Polymer Therapeutics Laboratory (Centro de Investigación Principe Felipe) in Valencia, Spain. This job position came as a result of my master’s thesis which I successfully performed there and defended at Uppsala University. Simultaneously, while working as a research assistant I will be pursuing a Ph.D. degree in chemistry at the Polytechnic University of Valencia. The focus of the project will be the development of analytical techniques for better characterization of polymeric drugs, for determination of polymeric drugs in biological samples and for better understanding the faith of polymeric particles once administered in the body.

Generally, as EACH alumni, I can say that it is not hard to find your place in the scientific world. Your CV is not only enriched with a master’s degree but also, with an international experience that makes you unique among others. The only thing that I have to mention is that in case you want to stay in Europe, but your residence is outside of the European Union, there is a much higher chance to find a Ph.D. project than a job in the company. The reason is just pure bureaucracy and not your expertise that you have after this study programme.


“Keep calm and study analytical chemistry”


Every moment of these two years, every breath I took in Tartu and Uppsala, every exam, every presentation and group work taught me something extraordinary. It taught me patience, and how to approach my craft. It taught me about collaboration, experimentation, risk, friendship, and empathy. There were the days where I couldn’t stop laughing, and nights when I wished I could have been sleeping in bed, instead of studying and writing the reports, but somehow, we made it through and we had fun even then. And if I got the chance to go back in time I would, with no doubts, choose the EACH programme again.


Snežana Đorđević

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