Swedish stories: Raya from Bulgaria on birdwatching, learning Swedish and coming back to school after a career break
Swedish stories is a series of interviews with international students from Malmö University. Following up on the interview with Bianca from Italy, I managed to talk to Raya: a 27-year-old student from Bulgaria. Find out student’s opinion on studying in Sweden.
A: Let’s start with the beginning of your journey to Sweden. What had been your thoughts on Sweden before you came here? Did you have any expectations about being an international student here?
R: Well, I expected very polite people, extremely organised country as a whole and everything being stylish. You know, famous Scandinavian design. When it comes to the studies, I’ve been hearing only good things about the education in Sweden and I was very curious about it. I expected it to be more practice oriented than in Bulgaria, where we focus more on the theoretical knowledge.
A: And were those expectations fulfilled?
R: If I think about it… yes. Well, maybe the organisation is a bit different than what I expected. Seems like the stereotype of organised Sweden working like a clock is not so true after all. I discovered that in some aspects Swedes seem surprisingly laid back. For example I had to remind the dorms to assign me a room. In other areas, it is completely the opposite – they even have law on the maximum amount of time you are allowed to leave your dog at home alone! On a completely different note, I was positively surprised by the weather. It is much warmer than I expected, especially in the Autumn.
A: Looks like you moved to Sweden with a lot of positive expectations. What about fears? Moving to another country can be quite stressful… What stressed you out the most when you were preparing to come here?
R: My biggest concern was that after a few years of working professionally I’ve gotten rid of my student habits. So I was a bit worried that it would be hard for me to go back to the student lifestyle.
A: Ah yes, coming back to being a student after a career break can be a challenge. How is this transition going for you?
R: It’s not easy! I miss having rigid working time: that moment when you walk out of the office and you are free. Being a student means always having something connected to university on my mind and on the neverending to-do list. My biggest pain though is getting back to the “poor-student” economy mindset. I became used to living on a certain level and now I kind of have to take a step back. That has been a great challenge for me.
A: Ok, let’s take our minds off of the university then. How is your life like after school?
R: To be honest, I am used to have quite busy private life in Bulgaria, so when I came to Sweden I saw that as an opportunity to step back, do less and relax. However, old habits die hard apparently. I was feeling a bit lonely at the beginning of my stay, not knowing many people yet, so I decided to fix that by enrolling in various activities. Learning Swedish, going to Språkcafe (language exchange cafe), enrolling to a mentor program, finding a swing dancing course and birdwatching. Birdwatching was a hobby of mine even back in Bulgaria. There is a birdwatching centre next to Malmö, so I can bike there enjoying Swedish landscape on the way. I am surprised though, that here it’s mostly old people that practise birdwatching, in Bulgaria it is a hobby for youth. However, everyone is very nice and I enjoy time spent there.
A: Wow, that seems like you found a lot of interesting things to do in Malmö!
R: I think life can be interesting wherever you go, it’s up to you. That being said, Malmö offers quite a lot of possibilities so it’s easy to enjoy life here.
A: One of your extracurricular activities is Swedish lessons. How did you arrange them?
R: Since I don’t have a personal number because I am doing one-year Master degree, I could not enroll in the Swedish classes organised by the city. Instead I signed up for the classes provided by the university. They are being held only once a week though, so it is not an intensive course at all. It isn’t what I initially wanted but it ended up to be perfect because the master program turned out to be much more time consuming than what I thought it would be.
A: A lucky coincidence! Do you find Swedish a complicated language to study?
R: I am a person that generally enjoys studying languages and I regret not having more time for it. Swedish is no exception. I don’t think it is a hard language though. Swedish is actually classified as one of the easiest languages to learn. It just takes practice. Which, frankly speaking, can be hard to find here since everybody speaks English. Fortunately! It makes living here much easier.
A: Summing up, how would you describe the difference between your education in Bulgaria and Sweden? What are your thoughts on being an international student in Malmö after the first six months?
R: The entire way universities work here and there is totally different. The format of my current studies is very open with a lot of seminars during which you talk whenever you want. There are no grades! This is due both to cultural difference as well as to the differences between disciplines. I changed my field of studies. Now I study design, but I am used to much more rigid format specific for software engineering. What’s more I am not used to an academic approach. It has been quite a challenge for me, especially because of the characteristic academic language. I have been feeling out of my comfort zone for a long time after I came. It was hard for me. I wanted to participate in this open format, but I was feeling insecure. Both because of the difference in the approach and because I felt I was lacking some experience due to change of studies. But now, I have to admit that I am really happy I came to Sweden especially because of this long period of being out of the comfort zone. It challenged me in many aspects. Actually, in all the aspects. It challenged me when it comes to what I think about myself and life in general. I feel like I grew a lot as a person. I would say that this is the most valuable thing for me about coming to Sweden. And I like the place where I am right now.
If you have any additionals questions to Raya feel free to post them in the comments!