Sri Lankan student aims to harness technology and education to eradicate poverty

As Tharaka Kaushalya was busy with his studies for a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering back home in Colombo, Sri Lanka, his lecturers suggested that the University of Oulu is one of the best schools to continue his studies.

Kaushalya was aware of Finland’s reputation as one of the top countries in education and technology. “Nokia is one of my dream companies to work for, and they have a presence in Oulu, not to mention other companies like Keysight and VTT,” Kaushalya says, meaning the Technical Research Centre of Finland.

Kaushalya was accepted into the University of Oulu and he began his Master’s programme in wireless communication engineering. Kaushalya is excited to be studying in Oulu because of the ongoing research in next generation mobile telecommunication, like 5G, which is rolled out commercially as we speak, and 6G--a generation surely a decade still in the future, but the research and study of which is well underway in Oulu.

Kaushalya’s passion for technology is not just for its own sake, though.

“My programme is highly related to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, especially Goal 9, which focuses on promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization. In the developing world, giving access to high speed and reliable communication links in rural areas at an affordable cost can create more opportunities for people and make their lives easier. It will ultimately promote the concept of globalization which can be used to eradicate poverty,” Kaushalya says.

Kaushalya has travelled across Asia before, but Finland is his first experience of a European country. He knew to expect the cold weather, but he had some challenges in his first few weeks in Oulu.

“This is my first time away from home. In Sri Lanka, I lived with my family close to the university, so it wasn’t necessary for me to relocate. Back home, there are always friends and family around, and here I felt lonely, having to do everything by myself,” Kaushalya describes the transition.

He soon figured out that participating in other activities outside of studies, which have been keeping him busy, is a great way to alleviate homesickness. He has been participating in the Erasmus Student Network and joined the UniOulu Ambassador Programme, which have helped him meet new people.

“There are always tons of events to participate in. I have a very nice ‘Kummi’ family here, they actually gave me a winter coat as a gift, to survive the weather. I’m also very connected to the nature here, walking and taking bike rides in my free time. Biking is fun and easy here, everything is accessible by bike, often faster than a car,” Kaushalya laughs.

Kaushalya says he recommends Oulu and Finland to anyone who’s interested in coming. Many Sri Lankan students are looking to further their studies in Australia and are not aware of the opportunities in the North.

“You shouldn’t be afraid of coming here. People are very helpful here, starting with the bus driver and other strangers you’ll meet. The reason I joined the Ambassador programme is so I can share my experiences, everyone will go through the same challenges and I want to help them,” Kaushalya says.

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Last updated: 12.6.2020