Johan’s masters journey inspired by taste for travel

The frostiness of a ‘real winter’ and Crocodile Dundee’s legacy were among the discoveries made by Johan Leech during his time at the University of Eastern Finland.

Graduating in the professional course Master of Science (Nutrition and Dietetics) with Distinction, Johan is the first UOW student to undertake a research project at the Department of Clinical Nutrition, Kuopio Campus, a leading centre in nutritional epidemiology and clinical research in Finland.

With the help of UOW’s International Exchange Program and his research supervisor Professor Linda Tapsell, Johan became the first post-graduate student to go on exchange.

“I have always loved to travel, so it was the perfect way for me to see the world and complete my degree at the same time. Studying in Finland gave me the opportunity to truly see, learn and live another culture and way of life,” he said.

“I enjoyed being an ambassador for Australia, as many of the students I met didn’t know much about Australia (only what they’d seen in Crocodile Dundee) but were keen to learn more. I made many good friends in Finland, travelled to places I never knew existed and did things I will never forget. Plus I learnt quickly how cold a real winter is.”

Johan, supervised by Dr Vanessa de Mello Laaksonen, worked with data from the landmark Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study (DPS), the first large-scale control trial to prove type 2 diabetes is preventable with lifestyle intervention.

“As a student, it was fun to see the many similarities and differences of Finland’s universities, education system and the student way of life compared to Australia’s. It also broadened my knowledge and understanding of health and nutrition and how it is perceived and valued in other parts of the world,” he said.

Professor Tapsell, Director of the University’s Smart Foods Centre, said UOW had a long-standing exchange agreement with the Kuopio campus and hosts around four students a year from the Department of Clinical Nutrition.

“Johan was the first student we were able to send back to Finland from Wollongong. He will now take out his professional credentials with a strong background in research to enhance future practice knowledge and skills,” Professor Tapsell said.

Johan said he was excited to graduate but would fondly remember his time as a student.

“UOW has been a big chapter of my life. The past five years have been full of invaluable experiences, culminating with my exchange in Finland. I really enjoyed what I studied and made great friends along the way. There’s nothing quite like student life,” he said.

“For now the plan is to begin some full-time work and see where it takes me. I don’t know what I will be doing next year, but that’s the way I like it!”

View UOW’s 2011 Graduation Photos here.

By Jenna Bradwell.


  • Master of Science (Nutrition and Dietetics) with Distinction graduate Johan Leech.

  • Part of the University of Eastern Finland’s Kuopio campus.

  • A ‘real’ Finnish winter.