Czech-born engineer Markéta Mikolajková-Alifov enjoys the beautiful Finnish archipelago and the international research challenges she faces at work. In Parainen she can have the best of those two worlds.

You first came to Finland as an Erasmus student for half a year. How did you end up coming here?

I was studying chemical and process engineering at the University of Pardubice in the Czech Republic. My university was doing research collaboration with Åbo Akademi and University in Turku, Finland. My professor told me about it and recommended to choose Finland for my Erasmus exchange. I did, and I really liked it.

You finished your Bachelor’s degree back home and wanted to continue studying in Finland. You did both your Master’s degree and a PhD in Chemistry in Åbo Akademi University. What convinced you to stay?

In Finnish universities the approach is personal and human and the atmosphere is friendly. The experts here know a lot, but are humble about it. I have studied in Belgium and the Czech Republic where educational systems were more conservative and hierarchical.

Beautiful nature is one of the best qualities in the town of Parainen, says Markéta Mikolajková-Alifov.

You live in the quaint archipelago town Parainen. Why do you like to live there?

It is a calm place, and I really like the nature. The forest is only a few steps away from our apartment, and the sea is also close by. It is easy to try out new activities and to meet new people. I think it is amazing that I can live on an island and still work with people from all around the world.

You work for Owens Corning Paroc in Parainen. How did you end up working there?

Åbo Akademi laboratories have a close co-operation with Paroc. Many of my university colleagues have ended up working for the company. I applied for a position in research and development and was lucky enough to get it. It is fascinating to see my research also applied in practice.

Paroc is known for stone wool insulation products wrapped in red-and-white-striped packaging.

You work as a process development engineer. What do you do in practice?

Paroc has a long history in producing stone wool insulation products. My goal is to make our processes more sustainable, energy efficient and safe. I work with projects and develop new ideas. Our R&D department works with plants from all over Europe.

Paroc is part of Owens Corning, a global company that specialises in roofing, insulation, and composites. What do you think about the career possibilities in Owens Corning?

In a global company you have such a wide range of possibilities to apply your skills and knowledge. You have the possibility to work with many different products, materials, processes and with great colleagues all over the world.

Markéta Mikolajková-Alifov praises the enthusiastic and helpful atmosphere in the research and development team of Paroc.

Describe your working life.

I think my work is a perfect combination of independent work and teamwork. It is a great feeling to be part of a group of such experts and enthusiastic people. In a global company I do not have colleagues, partners, and friends only in Europe but also all over the world.

Why is Turku region the perfect area for you to work and live?

I always like to optimize everything in my life. This region is neither too big, nor too small; you have the culture, the history, the technology, and the knowledge provided by the universities. And then you also have the nature and the beautiful surroundings, the calm archipelago, and the islands. All connected with the whole world.

Mikolajková-Alifov thinks the best way to integrate into Finland is to take part in the Finnish everyday life. One of her hobbies is rowing in the local team in Parainen.

You have now lived in Finland for 10 years and you are also a Finnish citizen. What is your primary advice for integrating and settling into the Finnish way of living?

Take part in the Finnish everyday life as much as possible. I really like the afterwork activities on offer here. I always like to try out new things and I have signed up for so many courses and activities over the years. That is also a good way to practice the languages, both Finnish and Swedish.

Watch as Marketá describes her life and work in the video below, filmed in Parainen and on-site at Paroc. Check out our playlist for more stories of what life is like in Finland for international talents!