My name is Andrea and I was very lucky to have the opportunity to live and study in Sweden as an international student for two years. So how did I end up there you might ask?
I applied for and was awarded the Swedish Institute scholarship for Western Balkans to pursue my master studies in Sweden. I wanted to study Industrial and Organizational Psychology and was thrilled when I saw that Linnaeus University was offering exactly what I was looking for. So I buckled down, wrote my application and a couple of months later was on my way to the lovely city of Växjö (whose name I could not pronounce, making the train ride in the right direction a great source of personal pride at the time :) )!
My time in Sweden was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life and has left me with many realizations and lessons learned. I thought I would share some of my experiences with you:
Appreciate and enjoy nature!
Ok. I knew this one before! But, I feel like I really got in contact with nature and rightly so as I was living in a city that is surrounded with lakes and forests that have little pedestrian walkways and breathtaking views. Did I mention we had a small castle on campus?
Enjoying nature seems to be a big part of daily life for many Swedes. Whenever I would go for a walk I could see many people just strolling around. In the summer you get to go in the forests and pick some barries, or swim in the lakes. If you come from the south like me, the swimming part might be a bit difficult, but with years you get used to the cold!
Recycle! Recycle! Recycle!
In connection to the first one, many people in Sweden are very concerned with environment and try to contribute as much as they can to using environment friendly technologies. I feel like I had an environmental consciousness awakening there. So much information on sustainability and different ways of preserving the environment is accessible, and what is most important you see people practicing it every day.
Everything is Digital!
So, here comes a sort of funny story. After a long travel, I come to the University and get greeted by lovely students and staff who explain everything to me. Where I live, when I need to come to school and I even get a guide to my new dorm room. We have a nice chat and I am left in front of the door, trying to open them for a good 15 minutes. Upon finding help I realize that the small blue key chain is actually the key! These types of experiences continued for a while. Unable to open doors, confused about the use of chip cards, lights automatically turning off if we are not moving enough in the classroom, etc. The list continues! :) It was exciting to discover all the technology used to make daily life simpler and at the same time to save energy! Do not worry, if you go there it takes about six months, after which you open the doors for the newbies.
I loved this part. Cash was rarely used and people always preferred cards. Even in small Christmas fairs in nearby villages, people accepted cards!
*Small tip. You get cheaper bus tickets if you do not use cash!
Debate is second nature!
One of the things that impressed me the most was how encouraged discussion and critical thinking is, both in classrooms and in everyday life. Very often I would hear some of my local colleagues stating: “They are debating now…” and then all sorts of things! From big like elections and future of the state, to small like how should we call these types of cakes? There was a debate for everything, and I loved it! I believe that through open expression of opinions, people really have a chance to grow and learn and make good solutions.
International surrounding = Personal Growth!
When at the topic of personal growth, I learned a lot in Sweden. I think big part of this was living in such an international surrounding. I met people coming from all over the world and I got to learn about their traditions, cultures and way of thinking.
It was a truly life changing experience and I am really grateful for the opportunity! It wasn't always easy, but I came back home with a lot more knowledge than I had before and friends that taught me a lot.
I am really happy that now, I have the opportunity to be part of the HeySuccess team, and help support an organization that works towards bringing international opportunities to young people all over the world. Do not be afraid to try living or just traveling to different countries, it can teach you so much!
If you are interested in studying abroad as well, be sure to check out thousands of scholarship opportunities available on HeySuccess.com. The website allows you to among other things set up notifications in order not to miss any opportunities. It is very practical and you can read more about how to do it here.