Trainee report: Bioforce Program 2014, Steyrermühl Paper mill, Austria

I worked two months, from the beginning of July to the end of August, at the UPM Steyrermühl paper mill in Upper Austria. The town is located about 75 kilometers east from Salzburg and is part of the beautiful area of Salzkammergut. Since I was studying in Vienna as an exchange student during the spring I decided to visit the mill already in April. That was the easiest way to discuss about my tasks in summer and it was also nice to see the place and meet some colleagues.

At the mill, I worked in the paper laboratory. During the first weeks, a colleague helped me to get familiar with all the places and equipment and, of course, the Austrian working culture. After some three weeks, I got an own project with the TMP plant. I picked up samples from several points of the process and measured properties of the pulp. However, I couldn’t spend much time with my project, due to shutdowns at the TMP plant, for example. When not focusing on my own tasks, I helped the other workers in the lab with the routine measurements. Sometimes there were also some special cases, in which I helped, too. Despite the task performed, the job consisted of taking samples, measuring chemical properties of the pulps and measuring optical and physical properties of the handsheets made of the pulps.

In my free time, I went jogging and visited the places nearby. The surroundings are excellent for running and spending time outside in general. There were four marked running trails with different distances and amazing views. Still, my favorite was a forest track from Steyrermühl to Gmunden by the river Traun. Gmunden, located 10 kilometers south from Steyrermühl, was a town worth visiting. The cute town itself is already a perfect place to spend a day, but the shores of the lake Traun and especially the hiking trails of Grünberg are really attractive. In Steyrermühl, I naturally had to pay a visit to Papiermachermuseum right next to the mill. I also visited the cities of Salzburg and Linz.

During my stay, all the practical things were dealt very well right from the start. An accommodation was organized by the company and I got a bike for the two months. I got also help whenever needed and some hints what to do in my free time. Though German was the only language used at the mill, I didn’t face any major communication problems. The local dialect was way too hard for me to understand but everybody changed to easier and clearer German when they spoke to me.

All in all, the summer in Steyrermühl was an interesting and valuable experience. Of course, my German skills improved a lot and I learned more about paper testing in a laboratory but, additionally, I realized that working in Middle Europe is not that different from Finland. After this experience, it will be much easier to think about a career outside of Finland and I’ll be readier for opportunities overseas.

Finally, thanks to UPM, in Finland and Austria, and Paper Engineers’ Association for this great opportunity! Hopefully the Bioforce trainee program continues providing interesting experiences for students in future as well.


Matias Alarotu / Aalto University School of Science and Technology