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Study Abroad

International Services for Students

Exchange Testimonial: Malmö, Sweden

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

By Loren Ha, Exchange to Malmö University, Sweden

Nearing the end of my exchange semester (or for many others, the start of theirs) in Malmö, southern Sweden, I’m happy to say that my experience has gone far better than I could have ever imagined. Because of the terrific orientation program that Malmö
University provides, I was already in Malmö by August 13th, more than 2 weeks before classes began and less than an hour after arriving, I was already at my first scheduled information meeting, learning about my new school, life in Malmö and getting the keys to my dorm. The next few weeks were filled with Swedish lessons, information sessions and organized activities where I got to meet the people that I would become friends with for the next 5 months. Some highlights include eating crayfish at one of the largest crayfish parties in the world during the annual Malmöfestivalen, exploring the surrounding region on a bus tour and trying out some local varieties of food stuffs available at the local supermarkets.

I began my first official class at Malmö University as September rolled around. The credit system is a little different in Sweden and 30 ECTS credits make up a full-time course load. I was enrolled in two 15-credit courses in the beginning of the semester but each was only a few weeks long so the second class didn’t begin until the first finished in mid-November; this meant taking only one class at a time— a very refreshing change from your typical study regiment. I learned about “co-design” or participatory design, a uniquely Scandinavian approach to solving design issues and quickly saw how my time would be divided for the next few weeks. It varied, but on most weeks there were only 2 days of classes; however I found myself meeting up with my group almost every day to work on our group project which involved cumulative milestones that eventually led to our final presentation. One of the “workshops” that we ran was even featured on school’s website (http://www.mah.se/Nyheter/Nyheter-2013/Design-for-att-paverka/) after it was tweeted out by a local business partner we worked with and retweeted by the Malmö City Twitter handle.

Of course, being in Europe on exchange means traveling around as well and not just staying in your dorm all day! So far I’ve been to ten different countries and my highlights include: going to Saint Petersburg, Russia, taking 2 overnight ferries to get there and visiting Stockholm and Helsinki on the way; visiting Finnish Lapland to see the Northern Lights, ride on a husky safari and venturing into a small village in Norway to swim in the Arctic Ocean; and finally, celebrating new years with my closest friends at one of their homes in the small city of Esslingen, Germany and watching the most amazing display fireworks I’ve ever experienced atop a hill overlooking the city.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and even more about other people and their cultures. If you are thinking of doing an exchange, do it! You will learn more about planning, organization and financial management on exchange than in most of your classes. Managing your time to squeeze in as much travel as possible while balancing school, learning to pack just the essentials so that it fits in just one carry-on bag, finding the most cost-effective way to get from point A to point B, watching your savings dwindle down to dangerous lows while budgeting for the next few months—none of which are easy tasks but what you gain in doing each is invaluable and also highly useful.

Exchange Testimonial – Sweden part 3

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
Just outside COOP, a supermarket store in Lund.

By Kathy Tse, Exchange to Lund  University, Sweden

These past few weeks, in conjunction with my studies and weekend trips (since my last entry I’ve travelled to Stockholm (it is such a beautiful capital!) as well as Berlin and Hamburg of Germany. Tomorrow I will be heading to Gdansk and Warsaw of Poland!), I’ve also been training myself to do more of what I’ve never done in Vancouver before, which is biking!  I know, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this too, but I’ve never been an outdoor person and biking was never something I had been motivated to try (my friends tried to teach me once but was quite unsuccessful). But when I arrived in Lund two months ago, my attitude towards biking changed.

At first, it was a bit of a sight for me that almost everyone in the city biked.  I knew from previous exchange reports that many students bike and that Lund was a relatively easy city to get around to, but it never occurred to me that there would be any incentive for me to join the crowd.  However, within the first week of orientation, almost half of the new students already bought a new or second hand bike, and within the second, almost all.  I was asked as to why I didn’t purchase a bike, and I even remember hearing the former vice chancellor giving her one most important advice at the university’s welcoming ceremony, “Buy a bike!” It was indeed a moment of internal struggle before I finally decided to purchase one.  Even though I didn’t know how to ride a bike at the time.

Of course, I later realized that although the city’s transportation system is relatively well, a bike in Lund is almost equivalent to a car in Vancouver (minus the speed).  With a bike you have your own autonomy.  You can go to places the bus might not be able to take you to and can have the flexibility of going wherever, whenever according to your own biking route.  This seemed perfect for those who liked late night parties as well as those who liked to rush their way to class (you see this phenomenon especially early in the morning). It was also perfect for students because it was less costly than taking public transport or renting a car, and Lund actually has a very well biking infrastructure that contributed to their success as being rated as one of Sweden’s most environmentally conscious cities (You can watch a one minute news clip from BBC news : http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8393475.stm). Oh, and as a result, the city doesn’t have any traffic jams, something I wish would happen in Vancouver!

So in the end, I became so impressed by the biking culture that I started joining the harmony and have been enjoying the rides through the streets, feeling quite healthy, accomplished that I learned something out of my usual comfort zone, and just having that extra bonus to my exchange program.

Exchange Testimonial: Sweden Part 2

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
Enjoying homemade German apple strudel, cheesecake, and mocha cake at a friend’s home. A little messy but very delicious.

By Kathy Tse, Exchange to Lund  University, Sweden

I just love food.  Especially good food.  So when I came over to Sweden, I had all kinds of expectation about food.  I knew that Sweden was famous for their meatballs (köttbullar in Swedish), bread and desserts, but what I didn’t know was that in Lund, I would be able to taste all kinds of international dishes, as well as be able to network and establish connections with peers through these food events.  And believe me, food plus talk is one good thing you can enjoy in life.

In one of my Swedish cultural studies classes (SASH 42-Swedish everyday life), we learnt that food serves as a social institution.  It’s a way of bonding people together through the sharing of food, and it’s a way of establishing each others identity through the conversations that we partake in.  Obviously, we learnt this because in Sweden, relationships are quite important to people.  That’s why one of the most common everyday life activities a Swede or anyone living here could participate in is Fika.

Fika, in English, means, “to have a cup of coffee” but can also mean “having a coffee break with someone”.  So to fika someone might mean that you are having a cup of coffee, enjoying some sweets, and having a conversation with a friend.  These three components often come hand in hand, and having been here for almost two months now, all I can say is that I’ve been drinking more coffee than I have in ages.  Cinnamon rolls too, for that matter (Did you know that cinnamon buns originated from Sweden?  That’s why there is a Cinnamon Bun Day here, which just past last week on October 4th).

But most importantly, aside from the food and drinks, I’ve been bumping into a lot of interesting people this way.  Since Lund University and the school nations (they are equivalent to school clubs) hold a number of events, such as International Dinner Nights, lunches, parties, sittnings (this is a Swedish student tradition where students sit together to enjoy a three course meal but sing drinking songs in between), and crayfish parties (this one just ended but it’s also a Swedish tradition during the end of summer where cold crayfish is served), there were numerous opportunities to learn about the culture and economy of other countries, improve my own networking skills, and just have plain fun eating, drinking, talking, and dancing. I also had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving dinner just last week and it made me feel right at home.

So if you ever plan to travel abroad or go on exchange, and you would like to meet new people, just be sure to join their food events.  It’s bound to be a conversation starter and you’re bound to have fun trying new food.

Oh so did I tell you how much I love cinnamon buns now?

Exchange Testimonial: Sweden

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Lund University - Main Buidling

Life in Lund – An unexpected dream come true

By Kathy Tse, Exchange to Lund University, Sweden

Sitting on the bench outside of the main building of Lund University, Sweden, on one Friday morning, I looked to the right to see a girl peddling through with her bicycle holding a bag of groceries.  She was smiling brilliantly while doing so, and beside her another girl was commenting about the good weather.  Not far to the left, I hear the sound of birds chirping and another bicycle making its way through town.  The smell of flowers was still present in the air and I could hear the slow rustling of the leaves as the gentle breeze blew against the trees. And I thought to myself, “What a wonderful place!”

Lund University, established in 1666, is one of Scandinavia’s oldest and largest institutions, specializing in education and research. It has consistently been ranked amongst the world’s top 100 universities, and has an extensive internationalization strategy, one component being its international exchange program. The main campus, which is the one that I attend, is situated in Lund, where vibrant student life could be found in every corner of the city, as most students tend to find accommodation here.

Having arrived in Lund for a little over a month’s time, I have come to realize that I have already made this city my home.  The culture, people, classes, and experiences that I have gained thus far have become one of the fundamental driving forces of my everyday life here in Sweden.  Every single day, I look forward to learning something new, and every single day, I do learn something new!

Of course, sometimes the experiences come as cultural shocks.  Such as the realization that everything in Sweden is only in Swedish (street signs, labels, food packaging etc.), the fact that there is a queue for almost everything, the hard-to-comprehend truth that shops do not open on Sundays, the agony I experienced while trying to choose which milk to buy (in Sweden you can easily find over 20 different types of milk in a supermarket-including the different fat levels for the same type of milk), and the critical moment when I almost entered into the male washroom because the Swedish word for “Mr.” is “Herr”.

The weather was also very poor during the first few weeks as there was strong wind and sudden down pour of rain.

Lund University - Library

But all this has been offset by the amazing people I’ve met from all over the world (Germany, France, Belgium, Turkey, Netherlands, Australia, Bolivia, Singapore, US, Japan, Hong Kong, and, of course, Sweden), the fun international activities organized by the school nations (these are basically student clubs), school trips, cultural events such as the Malmo Festival and Kulturan Night, singing Swedish songs in our SUSA level one Swedish language course, having Fika with my classmates, and travelling to other nearby countries during the weekends (so far I have travelled to Denmark, Norway, and Netherlands), just to name a few.

I have also learned to appreciate my home culture more (I am a Chinese Canadian) by sharing my experiences with classmates about Canada, as well as enjoy the privilege of representing SFU, as I am the only SFU student at Lund University this semester.  On top of that, I just had one of my best birthdays two weeks ago with my international friends.

Although I am sure that the other exchange programs at partner universities may be as fabulous as the one in Lund, I would trade nothing for the experiences that I have gained thus far at this beautiful university.  Not only have I become more independent and more willing to try new things, but I have also learned more about my capabilities as an individual.  In the weeks to follow, I look forward to continuing sharing with you my experiences in this awesome country as well as introduce the unique culture of Sweden. Vi ses!