From Hiking Mugs to Aalto University: Learn More About Bianca's Journey

Jul 10 / ELINA
Deciding between two passions can be incredibly challenging, mainly when one represents a seemingly safer path and the other is a leap into the unknown. For Bianca, the choice between design and engineering was one such crossroads. Here’s how she listened to her heart and pursued her dream of studying design at Aalto University in Finland.
Bianca knew from the start that studying design could be tricky and perhaps not the safest career choice in terms of job prospects or future visa stability. However, her passion for design was undeniable. 

“I decided to listen to my heart and apply to design,” she recalls. 

She began exploring design programs in Europe, quickly discovering that Finland offered a high-quality education at a more affordable price than Italy or Spain. Despite the fierce competition—only 6% of applicants are accepted into Aalto University's international design program—Bianca was determined to try.
Assignment - Wardrobe Infographic - from Aalto entrance exam second phase
Empty space, drag to resize
Bianca’s journey wasn’t straightforward. After her initial application to Aalto was rejected, she didn’t give up and moved to Helsinki to study international business at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences. Living in Helsinki allowed her to immerse herself in the Nordic design culture she adored. It was here that she discovered the Scandinavian Design School (SDS) and its Aalto preparation course, which would become a crucial step in her journey. 

"I decided to move to Helsinki either way to study international business at Haaga-Helia. During my time here, I found the Aalto preparation course offered by the Scandinavian Design School."

Empty space, drag to resize

A Romanian Background

Coming from Romania, Bianca had a strong foundation in maths and IT, subjects she studied in-depth during high school with an initial goal of becoming an architect. However, she soon realized that architecture was too technical for her liking. 

"During the last year of high school, I started to take this architecture preparation course in Romania, and I understood that it was too technical for me. I really like the creative part but not the technical,"
she explains. 
Without any formal art school background, she shifted her focus entirely towards design.
Empty space, drag to resize

The SDS Experience

After her first rejection from Aalto, Bianca sought more information about the application process and stumbled upon a blog post by a girl named Sara. In the post, Sara talked about her own journey and mentioned the Scandinavian Design School courses. Inspired, Bianca decided to enroll in the Aalto preparation course to strengthen her confidence and skills. 
"I felt confident about my decision to take the course SDS offered just because, previously, when I applied, I felt super insecure about my skills and what Aalto is expecting from me."
Assignment - Matchstick Modeling - from Aalto entrance exam second phase
The SDS course turned out to be precisely what Bianca needed. Although she had passed all assignment stages in her first application, she had faltered at the interview. This time, with guidance from her SDS teacher, Eeva, and the supportive SDS team, Bianca felt much more prepared. The course’s flexibility allowed her to tailor her learning experience, opting for in-person classes in Helsinki rather than the online option.

"The course was very insightful, and the best part is that you can choose how you want to take it; it’s very flexible and tailored to each individual. Most of the people did the course online, but as I was in Helsinki, I decided to take it in person. I felt that I established a good connection with the teacher and I really enjoyed the whole atmosphere of the course," Bianca reflects.

The SDS course not only refined Bianca’s design skills but also taught her to plan her work better. She balanced her technical abilities with a newfound creative approach, thanks to Eeva’s patient and understanding teaching style. The assignments were challenging yet rewarding, pushing Bianca to produce work she was proud of and to embrace both structured and creative approaches to design. 

"This course helped me to develop some structure for the way I approach the tasks. I’m quite technical when it comes to design; however, with the help of the course, I was able to embrace the creative approach and, in general, to find the balance between both of these approaches."
Empty space, drag to resize

Applying to Aalto

The second application time to Aalto was markedly different for Bianca. Equipped with tips from SDS, she felt more relaxed and focused. The nerve-wracking interview, particularly the 15-minute sketching task, became manageable thanks to Eeva’s advice.

"When I had to work on the assignments or when I had the sketching task during the interview, I felt quite composed, and I was able to approach the tasks in a structured way."
Bianca remembered to trust her unique thought process and showcase her individuality, which proved to be a winning strategy. 

"Even if you don’t know or are unsure what to do, try to do it your way because your thought process matters the most. They are not looking for the same type of students; they are here for diversity and individuality."

Additionally, she applied to Metropolia University of Applied Sciences for their extended reality design program as a backup, and thanks to insights from SDS, she secured a spot with a high score.
Empty space, drag to resize

The Passion for Design

Bianca’s passion for design started in the eleventh grade when she created a small business making metal cups for hiking. Combining her love for hiking and design, she crafted these unique mugs and realized how much she enjoyed the entire creative process. The support and positive feedback from customers and her family fueled her desire to pursue design further. 
"Since I was little, everyone said that you should do something in your life that won’t feel like a job and that you will truly enjoy and have a passion for. I realized that when I was making these mugs, I truly enjoyed every step of the process."

Choosing design over architecture was also a strategic decision for Bianca. She believed design allowed for quicker and more flexible innovation compared to the time-consuming nature of architecture. 

"It is easier and faster to make a change in the world with design than with architecture because it’s more time-consuming; however, with design, you have more flexibility."

Bianca’s journey from Romanian to Aalto University is a testament to the power of following one’s passion despite obstacles. Through persistence, strategic decisions, and invaluable support from SDS, she transformed her dream into reality. Her story is an inspiration for anyone standing at a crossroads, illustrating that with determination and the right support, it’s possible to turn a dream into a vibrant reality.
Created with