Tag Archives: bilainsweden

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!

Very Swedish Valentine’s cards

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day! Swedes aren’t always the best in expressing their feelings but we all know that they do love us, don’t they? Why not express your feelings in a Swedish way this year? Check out these Valentine’s cards and spread the love.

 

 

 

 

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.


FRIDAY 6.01

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.

SATHURDAY 7.01

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.

SUNDAY 8.01

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.

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MONDAY 9.01

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.

TUESDAY 10.01

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.

WEDNESDAY 11.01

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.

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THURSDAY 12.01

Who would have known that writing 2000 words takes so much time?

FRIDAY 13.01

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).

SATURDAY 14.01

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.

SUNDAY 15.01

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!

 

7 New Year’s Resolutions for studying abroad

As I mentioned in my last post, I already started working on my New Year’s Resolutions. Trying to make my head around what I want to accomplish in 2017 made me realise that there are some general points that all international students could probably work on. So if you are still struggling with your New Year’s  Resolutions maybe you will like some of those propositions for making your next semester abroad a little bit cooler.

 

TRAVEL AROUND AND GO LOCAL

Studying abroad could be called a wasted time for me, if you don’t take time to explore your surroundings. You don’t have to go far, your region for sure has a lot to offer. Anyway, it is not about WHERE but HOW. Find your own way to go local. Wander around with some unfamiliar national music in your earphones. Make a tour of those small nameless places serving great local food until you have to let one of your buttons loose. I choose to sit on the kerb of the street every once in a while, observe the life going on around me and sketch in attempt of catching the fleeting atmosphere, the genius loci of the place. However, I still haven’t had a chance to explore a lot of Sweden except of few cities. So I can let you in on the secret that one of my personal resolutions for 2017 involves me, trekking and Swedish wildlife.

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kayaking the coastline of Bohuslän; Southern Sweden; Credits: Henrik Trygg/imagebank.sweden.se

LEARN NATIONAL LANGUAGE

I came to Sweden with a firm belief that I don’t need Swedish because I already know a bit of Danish. They are so similar I was afraid of getting it all confused. Besides, everyone here speaks English anyways. I was right. I don’t need Swedish. But I want Swedish! There is never going to be a better opportunity for learning a new foreign language than when you are actually living abroad. You get a chance for practice at every step. So all the international students out there: stop being lazy and start learning the language of the country you live in. New language is a whole new reality to explore. So in 2017 I’m diving into world of experiences described in Swedish, hope to see you there!

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Credits: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

DIG INTO THE HISTORY

Sometimes the key to understanding someone is learning about their past. And culture clashes are a prominent part of everyday life of an international student. So maybe in 2017 you should expand your knowledge of the country you live in? Whether it means taking a Coursera MOOC or enjoying a good historical book – it is up to you.

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the Öland museum in the local history centre of Himmelsberga; Credits: Tina Stafrén/imagebank.sweden.se

MAKE PLACE IN YOUR LIFE FOR NEW PEOPLE

I see it so often– international students sticking with the one person from their country that they came with (or met just after coming). Or when you are excited that you managed to form this awesome pack of friends and you do everything together. That can be a lot of fun, sure. But sometimes it means not letting new people into your life. When I found out that I am not going to live with my best friends here for the next semester I was a little bit bummed. Boo hoo, we already planned morning pyjama dances, cooking together and weekly Saturday’s karaoke. But then I realised that living in the dorms will actually lead to meeting a lot of new people. And I want to keep meeting people and keep letting them into my life, so bring it on 2017!

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Midsummer Celebration bringing people together; Credits: Stefan Berg/Folio/imagebank.sweden.se

TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES

This one goes doesn’t really need explanation, does it? Life goes fast and life studying abroad seems to be going even faster. My first semester is gone in a blink of an eye. And if I have one regret concerning those first 4 months it is not taking enough photos. They are great not only as a reminder of those awesome stories, adventures and new friendships, but also can help you connect with your old friends back home you can share them with. Isn’t the story about your trip to Lapland just hundred times better with the video of you dogs sledding?

simon_paulin-friends_in_the_city-4953

hanging out in the streets of Stockholm; Credits: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

GET INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY

Student organisations, volunteering, sport clubs, creative community meetings… there is so many ways to get involved! Studying abroad goes by the same rules as everything else in life: the more you give the more you get. Giving a little bit more from yourself in 2017 can result in new hobbies, new friends and unforgettable experiences.

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Student organisations rule! ; Credits: Magnus Liam Karlsson/imagebank.sweden.se

LET GO OF YOUR HOME

Last but not least, a challenge for all students studying abroad: let go of your home. I am not suggesting you shouldn’t keep in touch with your friends and family. By all means you should! But sometimes it may be hard to accept that time goes by in your hometown without you. Your friends are going to make new friends, accomplish things without you, places are going to change. Let that happen. Don’t hold on too much to the past, accept that you can’t always be there and celebrate changes with your loved ones when you visit.

 

 

 

Things I’ve done in Sweden

The end of the year is for many a time of summaries. We look back at the last year, evalaute it and make plans for the next one. As a lists-freak I have already strated working on my New Year’s Resolutions. But before I present you a list of things I plan to do during my next months in Sweden, I would like to reminisce some of the things I’ve already done. So without much thinking I have written a list of 50 things I have done in Sweden during these last 4 months. Feel free to take a peek into my life as an international student.

I HAVE…

  1. discovered Malmo during an introduction week
  2. bought a bike
  3. gone bouling
  4. got my bike stolen
  5. sung ABBA karaoke
  6. attended networking event
  7. got a gym membership
  8. celebrated Kanelbulle dag (national Cinnamon Bun Day!)
  9. learnt to code in Processing
  10. cooked national dishes with classmates from another continents THINGS1
  11. got hit on by a Swedish guy (they tend to be so shy, I consider it a success!)
  12. built my first Arduino machine
  13. been completely awestruck by Malmo University’s guest lecturers
  14. ended a party with a 3-o-clock falafel
  15. read 41 academic papers on interaction design
  16. fallen asleep on a train and gone to a wrong city
  17. scheduled CV counselling
  18. lost beerpong to a blindfolded person
  19. programmed a game about an astronaut cat
  20. celebrated un-birthdayTHINGS2
  21. built a machine preparing vitamin drinks
  22. won a Marvel themed pub quiz
  23. presented a tangible interface project at a demo-hour
  24. wished I didn’t have to go back home
  25. wished my visit home didn’t have to end
  26. stayed up reading academic texts until 3 a.m.
  27. been introduced to a concept of Falafel Friday
  28. visited Moderna Museet
  29. watched sunrise in Stockholm’s harbour
  30. watched sunset in Gothenburg’s harbourTHINGS3
  31. had fun in biggest Scandinavian amusement park
  32. started writing my very first academic paper on interaction design
  33. cursed groupwork (Why can’t we all agree on one thing, guys?)
  34. loved groupwork (I wouldn’t have done it without you, guys!)
  35. attended traditional Swedish Julbord
  36. enjoyed Swedish trains more than expected (railways are often just next to lakes!)
  37. had to schedule every talk with my friends back home on Skype
  38. become an Eramus buddy for a Spanish girl coming in January
  39. spent countless hours looking for an apartment
  40. decided to move to dormsTHINGS4
  41. enjoyed many gossiping fikas with my girls
  42. started Friday mornings with a lecture from Creative Mornings
  43. finished Thursday evenings with lectures and pizzas at Foo Cafe
  44. spent every Wednesday at a pubquiz with my classmates
  45. went to a hospital
  46. participated in Urban Sketcher’s meetings
  47. started taking vitamin D regularly
  48. learned about political history of Sweden
  49. discussed ethics of self-driving cars and many other interesting topics during classes
  50. fallen in love with Sweden

 

…actually I could go on and on like that. Those 4 months were full of experiences! Now I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings! 

Foreigner in Sweden Everyday Awards – do you deserve one?

Life of an international student isn’t easy. But hey, I am doing a pretty good job! And sometimes I feel like celebrating myself. After all, why should the Nobel Laurates be the only ones having fun? Check out these awards to understand a little bit better this funny little Swedish life. Or maybe make some yourself, they are great for both self-esteem AND procrastination! Celebrate yourself.

 

award2

award1

Don’t be intimidated though, Sweden is not the ever-freezing land of political correctness and darkness. It’s actually a lot of fun to study here. We have cookies. Or at least Cinnamon Buns.

Oh, and feel free to ask questions about any of the intriguing aspects of Swedish life.

This post is a parody of internet famous Everyday Awards by Beth Evans.