Amanda Magnusson Overmark

My name is Amanda Magnusson Overmark and I was born in Stockholm but moved to the island of Gotland as a teenager. At 16 years of age I moved to Lysekil (on the west coast of Sweden) for Grammar School (Swedish gymnasium) where I studied marine biology. Two years later I went for a traineeship at Sydney Aquarium in Sydney, Australia, where I fell in love with the country. I then worked in Sweden and saved money to go back to Australia, which I did in 2008. I backpacked the country for two years and then went on exploring New Zealand for another year. Coming back to Sweden after three wonderful years abroad, I worked for a bit before deciding to continue my goal of studying biology at university. That is my life in short before university.

I did my Bachelor’s in ecology at Uppsala University’s Campus Gotland. After that I started the Master Programme in Biology, specialising in Ecology and Conservation in Uppsala. I chose these programmes because since I was a small child I’ve wanted to become a biologist. It started off with a great passion for marine biology, which after my travels developed into a huge interest also in terrestrial biology. Since I lived on Gotland when I decided to start studying at university, I looked into what the college here (then called Högskolan på Gotland) had to offer.

When reading about the ecology programme, everything just felt right! Ecology includes both the marine and the terrestrial world and to study the connections between them and everything around it just sounded amazing. I’m very happy that I chose this programme for my Bachelor’s. After one year of studies, Högskolan på Gotland became Uppsala University, which I was very pleased about. After my Bachelor’s I wanted to continue onto my Master’s. Since I was so pleased with studying ecology it was an easy choice to continue with the biology specialisation ecology and conservation. There are no Master’s programmes at Campus Gotland for biologists so I had to move to the mainland for my Master’s.

For my Bachelor’s it was just pure luck that the ecology programme existed on Gotland and that Uppsala University decided to take over the college Högskolan på Gotland. Uppsala University is a renowned university with a long history producing great scientists and researchers. I was therefore very pleased to become a part of this great university. Since I was so happy with my Bachelor’s I knew I wanted to continue to study at Uppsala University for my Master’s.

The variety of courses you could choose from when studying both the Bachelor’s and the Master’s programmes was great! You could choose courses that best suited your interests and future career plans. The small research projects included in many of the courses were a great way to learn and prepare for the final projects. I also loved that some courses included travels, since I love to travel to new places. During my Bachelor’s we went to Poland for a two week excursion, which also inspired me to do my Bachelor’s project there. And during my Master’s programme we went to several fantastic places in Sweden. I had many dedicated teachers during my time at Uppsala University, all with a passion for teaching their subjects.

The atmosphere is class was mainly very friendly and fun! There were some differences between the Bachelor’s and Master’s classes. The classes in my Bachelor’s programme became very intimate since we all became very good friends during the three years, whilst the Master’s programme included a lot of exciting classes with a lot of debating. The students in my Master’s programme came from all over the world and had different backgrounds, interests, values and goals. That was really awesome and made the class really interesting. Campus Gotland is a rather small campus which makes it easy to find your way around. Many different programmes exist under the same roof which made being on campus lots of fun. The campuses in Uppsala are huge and spread out all over the city. My campus in Uppsala, the Evolutionary Biology Centre, held only programmes within different fields of biology, so you know that pretty much all the students there had an interest in the same area as you.

During my Bachelor’s I did an internship at the National Park of Bialowieza in Poland, while I was doing my final project on the Bialowieza Forest. For my Master’s I had become a part of the board in Gotland’s Botaniska förening (Gotland’s Botanical Society) and I was also the coordinator for “Floraväktarna” on Gotland. At the end of my Master’s studies I worked as a teacher aid in the Bachelor Programme in Environmental Science at Uppsala University. I was also volunteering for the project “Barnens hav” (The Children’s Ocean) which helps school teachers to learn about the Baltic Sea and how they can better teach students about our ocean.

While I was still studying I was offered to work for the County Administration Board on Gotland, working with mapping old growth forest on the island and also updating management plans for several nature reserves. After that I was offered a position at the Swedish Forestry Agency, working with forest conservation and the project LifeElmias. I am still working there, and find it really exciting. I usually say that I started my biology career in the ocean, only to crawl up on to the land in into the forest.

At the end of last year I went home for parental leave after giving birth to my son, so for the moment I am enjoying everyday life, with nature still being a part of it of course.

Uppsala University prepared me for life after graduation in several ways, such as offering a variety of courses within biology and ecology, which helped in deciding what I would like to do after my studies. During my time at Uppsala University I had a lot of practice in giving public presentations, which is an important skill to have no matter where you end up working. I also got an insight of what paths would be possible after graduation, and what I would need to get there.

During my Master’s studies I was renting an apartment in Stockholm and commuting every day to Uppsala. Now I wish that I had lived in Uppsala instead. Not only because of the long travel time each day (4 hours door to door!), but mainly because I missed out on so much when it came to social events with other students. I recommend living in Uppsala if you are studying there and to join a nation to get the benefit of joining heaps of social activities.

My advice to other students is to choose a programme and courses that you will enjoy. Of course it is important to see that your choices will lead somewhere in your career, but it is also important to include your interests for your studies to be successful. Also, start off your studies as hardworking as you can be. It is better to study too much in the beginning than too little. If you have studied too much then it is always easy to adjust for the next course to come. But if you have studied too little you are quite likely to negatively affect the results of future courses as well. My final piece of advice is to ask questions, lots of them! It’s true what they say, the only stupid question is the one that’s never asked.

Read more about the Master Programme in Biology, specialising in Ecology and Conservation