Student Interview - MSc in Sustainable Tropical Forestry – University of Copenhagen

Student Interview

Having worked for forest companies in and outside of Canada for a couple of years and travelling through a number of developing countries has made Shauna Matkovich (BSc in Forestry) aware of her interests in the sustainable development of forests as opposed to contributing to capitalist objectives often held by large forest companies.

The world is facing growing challenges in the field of sustainable tropical forestry. Forest companies are exploiting forests for short term economic gains with only minor consideration of the long term consequences for the environment, wild life and even the people living in the forest areas.

Shauna has experienced this through former jobs in the forest industry. The serious consequences of this approach to forestry made her realise that she wanted to get away from the purely economic aspect of forestry and become a facilitator of sustainable tropical forestry in developing countries. In Shauna’s opinion, this facilitation can best be achieved through a two-way capacity building process where it is important that both local and external parties can learn from each other. Therefore, Shauna believes that sustainable tropical forestry requires an exchange of traditional knowledge and new skills and technologies.

In order to become a great facilitator, she thought she needed to increase her social and intercultural perspective on forestry and not only a natural science approach. One of her previous professors recommended the SUTROFOR programme to her and it suited her interests perfectly. Having the ambition of working in an international and intercultural environment made the choice of studying abroad very obvious and having the opportunity to study at two different European top ranked universities in the field of sustainable forestry as an integrated part of the programme supported this ambition.

In touch with real life

What really sold the programme to her was the unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience with tropical forestry through field work in developing countries several times during the programme. During the second semester of the programme she is conducting integrated land-use research in Malaysian Borneo with her class. She will be travelling to Ethiopia in August for a specialised tropical forest management project and for her thesis she will be doing research on her own, probably in Latin America. Shauna really feels that the combination of high level theoretical education in socio economics and hands-on experience in developing countries where you gain multicultural insight and learn to collaborate with people with a different approach is the best part of the programme.

"SUTROFOR has given me hands-on experience as well as socio-economic and intercultural insights which are essential to meeting my career goals of becoming a facilitator of sustainable tropical forest management in developing countries", Shauna says.

Currently, Shauna dreams about working as a forest management facilitator in Latin America, but having a SUTROFOR degree opens the doors to many possible career paths she would like to explore.

International study environment

Shauna has really felt comfortable at The Faculty of Science (which is part of University of Copenhagen) during the first half year of studies. She loves the city of Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, which she thinks offers a nice combination of old meeting new, multicultural and with an excellent infrastructure which makes it possible to ride a bike all over town.

What she has liked about The Faculty of Science in particular is its beautiful Frederiksberg campus situated in the middle of Copenhagen, the casual structures and laid back attitude of students, professors and staff, which makes it easy to approach people and feel welcome. However, if it had not been because she joined the Nordic Games for life science students in the very beginning of the programme, she probably would have had international friends mostly.

"Joining a faculty sports team was the best thing I could have done. I have made lasting friendships with Danish students and was able to meet students from all over Scandinavia", Shauna says.

She points out that there is a truly international study environment at University of Copenhagen, but many international students primarily have international friends. This is partly due to the excellent welcome facilities for international students offered by the faculty prior to semester start. The so-called International Graduate Orientation Programme gathers all full degree students for courses on Danish culture and language, introductions to facilities and study structures at the university and social events. It prepared Shauna for a potential culture shock and created a strong sense of community between all international full degree students whom she enjoys every day.