Back in January 2015 I packed my bags and flew to Umeå in northern Sweden to study at the university. I took part in the Erasmus+ exchange for one semester (January – June).
Moving to a different country was daunting at first, but I quickly settled in and acclimatised, learning that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing!
When I made my application, I chose to study two political science modules: The EU, Power & Democracy and Environmental Governance; and one cultural geography module, Global Equality, that fitted well into my Social Policy
degree. Studying at university in Sweden is quite different to my experience at Anglia Ruskin. For example, modules are taught independently, there is an exam or assignment and you move onto the next module, rather than studying three modules at a time. I really enjoyed studying this way, as I was able to concentrate on one thing at a time. Despite there being a Swedish language course at the university, I didn’t get a place on it, however I learned some Swedish in my spare time, through Swedish friends and the public, for example bus drivers and shop assistants. However, everyone I met spoke near-perfect English and preferred to speak in English.
I stayed in student accommodation, similar to halls, with another exchange student and six Swedes. I had a big bedroom with my own shower and toilet, but we all shared the kitchen and distributed cleaning duties equally (something that Swedes take very seriously!). My accommodation was a short walk from the campus and very close to the gym (IKSU). The gym was a great place to go, especially in the first couple of months when it was so cold outside, to work out, swim or just warm up in the sauna. I soon found out that pretty much everyone went to IKSU and exercise was a big aspect of student life and was something I was keen to get involved in.
I also joined the Association of International Affairs or Utrikespolitiska Föreningen (UPF) in Swedish. UPF is a student-run organisation that aims to raise awareness and encourage debate about international issues. I went to many talks on matters such as climate change and human rights, with guest speakers such as Margot Wallström (Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs) and film screenings such as India’s Daughter. They also organised events such as quiz nights and meals.
During my exchange semester I met so many lovely people from all over the world and still keep in contact and meet up with many of them. There was a huge international community at Umeå University and when we all arrived we were welcomed with a range of activities, as part of the ‘buddy programme’. Briefly, the buddy programme was set up by Swedish students acting as ‘buddies’ for the international students, who are put in groups and met to do activities and nights out to help settle in. Moving onto the nights out, there were lots of clubs and pubs both on campus and in the city centre. My favourite place to go was called Skogis, which is a student-run bar as well as a place to go for (unlimited) soup and pancakes on Thursday evenings, just off campus.
As well as a great nightlife, there were a lot of opportunities to go on day-trips, both independently and run by the university and IKSU gym. I went on a ski trip, close to Umeå, which was fun, although I learnt that I am worse at skiing now than when I was a child. When the weather got a little bit warmer, some friends and I went on hiking trips. Close to my accommodation there was a lake where we went to ice skate and cross-country ski, as well as try and spot the Northern Lights (which I luckily did and were amazing!). I travelled while I was in northern Europe, going to Stockholm for the Easter break and to Finland and St Petersburg just after my final exams in June.
Overall, I loved my Erasmus+ exchange semester in Sweden and would encourage anyone with the opportunity to go for it. This experience is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done but also one of the best and I am so glad I did it. I learned so much about myself and gained so much confidence, and was able to experience university in a completely different way, along with making some life-long friends.
For further information on Erasmus+ please visit the programme pages