Students from Finland explore food safety and local cultures in Hong Kong and Shenzhen through mobility program supported by the Team Finland Knowledge Programme

This April, a lively group of students of different nationalities from the University of Helsinki (UH) and the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) embarked on an extraordinary journey to Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Their mission? To deepen their knowledge of global food safety practices and immerse themselves in the vibrant local cultures. Supported by the Team Finland Knowledge programme, the trip provided a perfect blend of scientific learning and cultural exploration.

The adventure kicked off at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), where the students engaged in microbiological examinations and mycotoxin detection. The students got their hands dirty—quite literally—by analysing food samples they picked up from the local wet markets.

Next, they travelled to Shenzhen University (SZU), where they experienced advanced detection of heterocyclic amines from local food samples using mass spectrometry. These are the chemicals formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures and can be potentially harmful if ingested in large quantities. The students learned how to prepare samples and use Liquid Chromatography with Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS)​​ for quantification of the heterocyclic amines.

Beyond the laboratories, the students immersed themselves in the local scenes. Gaukhar Mukash from UEF was thrilled by the cultural aspects: “I had a great chance to visit both HKU and SZU and shop at the local markets. We were also introduced to the local landmarks in both cities, such as Victoria Peak and Folk Culture Village. Overall, the mobility experience was an exciting chance to gain a new perspective on food safety in different parts of the world.”

Sini Pitkänen from UEF also appreciated the well-rounded experience: ” I had an amazing culturally enriching experience in the mobility program. The amount of laboratory work for each day was good—we could still explore the city after the work was done. We were welcomed to both universities with great hospitality. Chinese food is super tasty!”

Afrin Sarasvirta from UH noted the practical applications of their studies: “The visits to wet markets were interesting. The analysis we conducted were relatively simple and I think that in the time given even more could be possible. On the other hand, it was nice to have time to explore Hong Kong. The laboratory part was organized in a very clear way and everything at HKU worked very smoothly.”

Lauri Pohjalainen from UH shared his memorable experiences: “It was definitely the most memorable experience I have had during my studies! The schedule was tight, but we managed to complete all the experiments on time with time to explore the city during the week as well.” He also gave suggestions on how the program can future develop: “In possible future courses, it could be interesting for GloFoSa course students to meet the local students and perhaps collaborate with them on experiments.”

This program not only enhanced the students’ scientific skills but also expanded their global perspective. Through a mix of rigorous learning and engaging cultural explorations, the students gained a profound appreciation of the complexities and challenges of food safety across different cultures. The trip was not only a deep dive into the essentials of food safety but also an unforgettable exploration of the cultural richness of both cities. We are hopeful that this mobility program is the first of many others to come, continuing to bridge learning and cultural understanding between Finland and China, and beyond.