Passing the semester at Malmö University – walk through my finals week
Today is officially the first day of a new course and I would like to happily report that I came back to life. Passing this semester wasn’t really as tough as I am used to – although I am pretty sure that is more connected to the fact that I no longer study Architecture so days (weeks?) without eating, sleeping or walking away from the computer are gone. Instead of “sleep is for weak” attitude I am enjoying Swedish work-life balance, laid back atmosphere and no grades. Don’t think that means no one cares about the quality of the projects – quite the opposite! I am struggling to be better and better for myself. Small fact that all the projects are group work adds a little bit of motivation and time management pressure. Are you interested in how my final week of the semester looked like? Let me walk you through it…
Before we start two practical information. Firstly, I study Interaction Design, thus my finals week looks different than most of the other students. We don’t have any exams – instead we present project we worked on during the entire course. Secondly, studies in Sweden (or at least at Malmö University) are organised in courses: two per semester and only one at a time. So I wasn’t really passing entire semester but only a 2-months-long course.
Coming back to school after the hazy blur of over-eating, family meetings and not-knowing-what-day-is-it-or-what-is-happening-in-my-life mood of Christmas is a shock. I was supposed to do everything during the Christmas break, wasn’t I? Well, there is just one thing left to do: panic. Panic going through the code in the train, skyping with your group at the airport and trying to do some work at every single one of your five transportation means.
Working, working and yes, you guessed it – working. I am not in this alone: two of my teammates suffer with me the endless hours of skype and iterations of the algorithm. Working on an experimental text processor, we are implementing the last changes in the code to get rid of the bugs and preparing posters presenting the output. At 4.00 in the morning I suggest taking a 3-hours sleep break and meeting again at 7.00 a.m. . One of my teammates thinks it’s a joke – funnily enough I can’t guess if she’s outraged by the idea of us going to sleep already or the idea of waking up again in less than 3 hours.
Hurray, we’ve got everything under control! The code is ready, the posters sent for printing. My group meets at the University to finish the last remaining task – put together a slideshow presentation.
Presentation day! We start with a demo hour – inside our studio all five groups prepare a mini exhibition of the prototypes. Guests (second year students and invited teachers) and us have an opportunity to go around and try out the prototypes. My group is presenting 4 experiments we developed during the design process and a final project: a definition making algorithm for non-existing words, set of poetry created with Google Translate, an algorithm creating a flow of synonyms, a digital dictionary of untranslatable words and the text processor detecting the dynamics of typing and translating it into typographical distortion. We take turns staying at “our” station, answering questions and explaining our process. After the demo-hour each group presents their project, process and theory behind it in front of entire class and receives critique from peers and teachers. This lasts for hours, so when I finally make it to home I am more than ecstatic to see my bed.
Let’s take a break from the studies, shall we? Today is the day that new students arrive in Malmö! And I am one of the volunteers welcoming them. I spend the day in a big black t-shirt with “ASK ME” on both sides, picking the incoming Erasmus and Exchange students from the train station and helping them with the check in.
Oh,well – back to reality. Just the fact that I presented my project doesn’t mean that it’s all over. After finishing a group project each of us individually has to hand in a 3-4 pages ACM format academic paper based on the project. Before the Christmas break we had a chance to discuss our potential topics with our teacher. Let’s get to writing then.
Who would have known that writing 2000 words takes so much time?
Everybody is working until the very last moment. The deadline for uploading the finished paper is at 17.00. Shortly after that I set out from home for a Buddy Night at the Student Pub – a chance for me to meet an incoming Spanish Erasmus student for whom I am a Buddy (person helping out with all the questions concerning Sweden and coming for Erasmus).
The semester is over! Time to celebrate! Most of our class is a good group of friends, so we gather together for some well-deserved fun. Kevin is hosting an end-of-semester party: games, pizza, snacks, laughs and random conversations.
I haven’t had much sleep yet but instead I enjoy a family-like breakfast at my best friend’s place (coming home alone might not be the safest option in Malmö, so I choose to wait until the morning). Her roommate prepares warm scones for everybody – and that’s just one of the perks of living in a student apartment! It’s well after midday when with full stomach and after discussing almost every topic possible from internships to adolescent fails, I finally set out for home. I can’t wait to get to my bed after this finals week. Goodnight!