Jan Köster comes from Temuco, a city in the centre of Chile, and studied forestry at our partner university Universidad Austral de Chile in Valdivia. For the past 15 years, he has worked in the forest and managed various forestry companies that specialise mainly in hardwood. However, this value chain is still weak in his home country, which prompted Jan to become active himself. "I wanted us to process local wood better and make new products from it. So I started experimenting, sawing, drying and planing. I also started an NGO for this purpose," says Jan.
The time came when he could no longer get on with his knowledge and wanted to find out where wood processing was better developed. After talking to acquaintances in the Chilean timber industry, it quickly became clear to him that he wanted to go to Austria. Together with his wife and their three children, he decided to go to Salzburg for a year to attend courses at the FH Salzburg in the Wood Technology & Timber Construction course at the Kuchl campus and to visit important plant manufacturers and wood processing companies. Why did it choose Salzburg of all places? "The wood location Kuchl with its central location convinced me," Jan tells us, "as well as the connections to important companies. And after a very cordial conversation with Senior Lecturer Hermann Huber, I had a good feeling."
Lifelong learningSitting in on the lecture as a guest student was an enriching experience for Jan in every respect. The courses taught by Marius Barbu, Head of the Department of Wood Technology, were especially valuable for him, because there he delved into application-related knowledge about industrial wood processing. "I have completed two degree courses before, but I have never been such an interested lecture participant as I was this semester in Kuchl. I could freely choose the courses and get to the bottom of my own questions. That is exactly what I wanted."
Jan needs special knowledge for his project in Chile. This is because the hardwoods he wants to process come primarily from the genus of false beech (Nothofagacea), which is native to the southern hemisphere. Because of its outward similarity to European beech species, this genus was also named beech by the Spanish discoverers, but the rather greenish-red wood differs in its properties and processing. During his year abroad, Jan had therefore set himself the goal of getting to know as many companies in the industry as possible, networking and exchanging ideas on hardwood processing. He took advantage of the proximity to important machine manufacturers and plant constructors in Upper Austria, Southern Germany, but also Northern Italy. Especially in the summer semester, when he often swapped the lecture hall for a company visit.
Farewell and anticipationThe two semesters are now over and it is not easy for Jan to say goodbye. After all, he has enjoyed the opportunity to pursue his thirst for knowledge without restriction, in a region that is known worldwide for its wood processing. But he also appreciated the quality of life in Salzburger Land with its recreational opportunities, above all mountain sports. At the same time, he is now full of anticipation and creative drive for the tasks that lie ahead of him in Chile. He will start in September. "I am looking forward to being able to apply the new knowledge. I want to build up a sawmill and the associated processing step by step, so that I can produce higher-quality wood products in the future, such as flooring, solid wood panels or even window scantlings." As soon as it is possible, he also wants to give Kuchler HTB students the opportunity of an internship in order to maintain the connection to Austria.
An exciting challenge - we wish him all the best in this endeavour!