Tag Archives: Sweden

“More openness, trust and tolerance”: do you want to run with Kristina?

“We are always strangers to someone else. Learning to live together is fighting against racism”  

Tahar Ben Jelloun

I wanted to start writing this post with a sentence by a famous Moroccan author who has been trying to fight racism and hate for many years. I’ve read one of his books, and I highly recommend them to you, if you have never had the chance to embrace his words. However, the significant sentence it’s also an assist for me to talk about another special person who comes from Sweden: Kristina Paltén. And perhaps, after reading some lines of my post, you’ll be able to get why I linked Ben Jelloun’s words to Kristina.

I’ve stumbled upon her story few days ago, and I straight away thought that it was extremely worth sharing it. Who is Kristina? She is a Swedish runner. And what about when a runner wants to change the world? Well, you just can’t stop her. She will jump over fears and doubts, and she will start running. And fighting prejudices with kindness and smile.

That is exactly what Kristina has done.

Everything started in the first half of 2015. The idea was to challenge personal fears, as well as general prejudices that the Western societies might have against Islam, and people following that faith: people who might deemed to be so different from Europeans, giving strength to the misleading dichotomy “we/us”. The choice of Iran was especially due to the fact that it is a Muslim country with Sharia law: would have it been possible to see a woman from Europe running through a foreign nation, with an additional series of limitations?

The adventure that led Kristina to Iran didn’t begin without difficulties. As you can read from her blog, many concerns featured her first steps in her project. “One of my intentions with this trip is to challenge fears. And I definitely do, on a daily basis”, she says. Fears of what could have happened, fears to see her permit denied, or to get no sponsors and magazines willing to buy her articles that she would share. Fears that, eventually, didn’t stop her at all.

The first weeks were incredibly full of things to do, people to meet and the trip to plan. Kristina mentions that many people gave her a great hand: pieces of advice, contacts that could be useful in Iran, reassurances about the hospitality and friendliness of the locals. Among the people who helped her, some of her Iranian friends as well as a freelance journalist, André Larsson, who contacted Kristina and proposed her to make a movie about her journey, following her steps in the following months. The enthusiasm that arises line after line on her blog is amazing. She knows what her goal is, she knows that the only way to being herself is doing what she really wants. She feels that people around her believe in this project, and that a positive energy is permeating the air she breathes. And gradually, brick by brick, her dream becomes true, even though at some point she still didn’t have flight tickets and, most importantly, a visa: that would mean that she could go to Iran anyway, but without the permission to be filmed by a journalist such as André.

Anyway… remember the positive energy? Apparently reached Iran before than she could, and speeded up the visa process: Kristina got it eventually, and the packing list could get started! In early September of the same year, her adventure in Iran officially began: over the next 58 days, she would cover 1,840 kilometers, starting from Bazargan, close to the Turkish borders, and ending in the north-eastern border at Bajgiran. The experience she had turned out to be fantastic. “I want a world where we trust each other and listen to one another”: a symbolic leitmotiv of her journey, and a tangible feeling she could actually sense. Along with the physical challenges carried by the path she undertook, Kristina had the chance to see stunning landscapes, and taste the smile and the hospitality of the people she ran across.

A family that gave Kristina some fruit and water

A young woman who asked Kristina to take a picture with her

The journey ended few months later, in November, and a movie, “Alone through Iran – 1144 miles of trust” is ready to be screened. At this point, I just would like to hug her. And I leave you all with her words of wisdom:

“Today I feel like “muslim” has become synonymous with “terrorist” or “fundamentalist”. There are around 1,5 billion muslims around the world today, and I’m guessing most of them are really nice. With this run I want to question my own prejudices, learn more about a culture I know little about and meet a lot of people. I hope my run will contribute to more openness, trust and tolerance both within myself but also in the world”

Thanks, Kristina.

Featured image: https://www.facebook.com/alonethroughiran/?hc_location=ufi

All the pictures belong to Kristina Paltén. Follow her blog: http://www.palten.se/se/index.asp?Sida=235

Other source: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/swedish-woman-runs-alone-across-iran-break-prejudice-2022055010

How Forest Changed Me

Fulufjället National Park

Fulufjället National Park

I was born and raised in the big city of Jakarta, a city with population more than 10 million. You see building everywhere. Cars, roads, skyscraper, you name it. It does not really sleep even during the midnight. I thought Jakarta has almost everything a city should have. Until I move to Sweden. One of the very easy thing to spot: it does not have forests. Today is Forest Day so let’s talk about it! Continue reading

Series “Lights, camera, action! – Brief history of the Swedish cinema” / Part 1: The outset

Some weeks ago I had the chance to write a post about the Göteborg Film Festival, meant for not only highlighting the main features of the event, but also as an expression of my passion regarding the cinematic world. I’ve decided to give more room to this passion, by combining it with my experience in Sweden; that’s why this piece is the first one of the series called “Lights, camera, action! – Brief history of the Swedish cinema”.

It’s been a while that I’ve wanted to get to know better the cinematic reality of this Scandinavian country. Of course I’ve heard about Ingmar Bergman – probably one of the most famous Swedish (and worldwide) filmmakers. What I ignored was that behind his name there is as well a huge legacy of filmmakers and actors that made Swedish cinema remarkably rich and well-known at an international level.

Greta Garbo, one of the first famous Swedish actresses, known worldwide. Source: www.cameralook.it

Over the course of the past two centuries, Sweden has gone through different phases of its history. As many countries between the end of the 19th and the outset of the 20th century, the overall economic and societal situation was mostly shaped by an agrarian perspective, strictly linked to the precepts of the Lutheran Protestantism. This was the context in which the first public projection took place, precisely in Malmö, in 1896. From that moment on, people working in the cinema industry would have played a fundamental role within the Swedish society.

Numa Wilhelm Peterson and Ernest Florman are the very first two names that we have to keep in mind when it comes to dealing with the dawn of the Swedish cinema. Both of them collaborated and gave birth to the first production, a collection of newsreels. But in 1897, Peterson, who was the owner of photographic supplier companies, produced “The Barber’s Shop in the Village”, made by Florman. Swedes were in front of the first-ever Swedish film drama. Other short films came up, among these the one called “Slagsmål i Gamla Stockholm (A Battle in Old Stockholm)”, a particular one because its aim was to recreate an old 17th century Stockholm setting; proper costumes were also used, by the way.

  Numa Peterson and Ernest Florman. Source: http://www.victorian-cinema.net

In less than ten years, a cinematic mania pervaded the entire country. Many towns started establishing their own cinemas. One of the outcomes was also the foundation of a film production company by a bookkeeper, Gustav Bjösrkman, and his boss Nils Hansson Nylander, in 1905. Starting being active from two years later, the AB Svensk Biografteatern was essential in giving the push to a new era of the Swedish cinema, renowned as “The golden age”.

Are you still there? I know, too many historical facts and names that you (probably) have never heard of before, but hey: this is how the fascinating process that led to Ingmar Bergman and other famous personalities began – and I hope I can convey that feeling to you, since along with the passion for cinema, I’m mixing the one regarding history, too. So, let’s not lose the thread, going towards the end of the first part of this series of pieces full of past memories, old cameras and black&white backgrounds.

Where were we? Yes, a new film production company was born. Apparently, they were missing one important member, one capable of managerial skills and creativity. Here came the moment of Charles Magnusson, another name to remember. Known for his ability to film important public events in Denmark and Sweden, he started building an image in the relative business. He owned a laboratory and some cinemas in Gothenburg, the city where he came from. In 1908, the choice of Svensk Biografteatern could not be other than signing Magnusson. That turned out to be a decisive moment for the new established industry.

Charles Magnusson. Source: Wikipedia

We’ll have the chance to talk a bit more about what Magnusson did in order to boost the film industry, and we’ll see that his management will prove to be extremely crucial to the development of what it was defined as the aforementioned “golden age” of the Swedish cinema.

Stay tuned for the second part of the series “Lights, camera, action!”. To be continued…


Featured image: “The Seventh Seal”, by Ingmar Bergman. Source: http://www.originalprop.com/blog/2009/09/28/chess-pieces-from-ingmar-bergmans-the-seventh-seal-sold-by-bukowskis-in-sweden-for-144000-today-2/

Main sources: http://www.academia.edu/5943663/A_short_history_of_Swedish_cinema, https://swedishfilmshollywoodremakes.wordpress.com/further-readings-2/sweden/swedish-cinema-the-silent-era/

Coming to Sweden: African Edition

Coming to Sweden: African Edition Part I

I’ve been tackling how to best write about this topic. How it feels to a black African international student is Sweden.

I have considered everything from doing a meme collage to a video story. However,to start with I thought it would be nice to share a few reflections and experiences.

I get emails asking me questions on everything from how to survive the weather. How to maintain natural hair. If racism exists in Sweden. Or, what to do when you’re craving food from home. So, this post is for you. As well as those who want to get some insight into being a black African international student in Sweden.

Coming to Sweden: The African Edition Part 1

Coming to Sweden: African Edition

source: google.com


First, let’s just say that I’m realizing that when it comes to Swedish culture, we do things a little ‘say different’. For example saying sorry. Recently, I bumped into a fellow digital ambassador from India and said sorry. I expected a weird response but we both laughed when we realized that we both do it.

Growing up, we were taught that if you bumped into someone, someone dropped something, tripped or fell, you say sorry to kind of convey your empathy. It comes as a gut reaction. I quickly found that in Sweden, people find this odd and keep asking why I say sorry when I didn’t do anything.

Coming to Sweden: African Edition

source: giphy.com


Second, the weather will always be a topic of discussion until the day that I leave Sweden. No seriously. I once overheard some students on a bus discussing a classmate of theirs from Ghana (I think) and how he would go on and on about how the weather was terrible. They couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t just get over it. One thing I can say is that when you are used to sunshine (sometimes rain) and warmth for almost 365 days of the year it’s hard to (just get over it). Yes, it does get cold back home but not like Swedish ‘cold’ or ‘rain’.

Coming to Sweden: African edition

source: giphy.com

Speaking from experiencing my first Swedish winter and -6˚C, I doubt anyone just gets accustomed to it. Even for the second or the third or even the fourth time round. I’ve met other African students who have been here for years and even Swedes who say sometimes even they find it hard to cope. You get accustomed to it but it never becomes ‘normal’, you sort of just build tolerance. So, my advice for experienced winter students is to offer up some tips on how best to cope i.e. layering, exercise etc. when you find someone struggling.

Coming to Sweden: African Edition

Winter in Gothenburg


Third, I was kind of expecting this one. All the jokes about being asked how you arrived here? Is it your first time in Europe etc. Funny enough I haven’t encountered too many of these. On the odd occasion at afterwork a random girl will ask me what country I’m from and tell me that I’m making Africa proud. It used to get to me when even my lecturers would say ‘in Africa’. In my head I’d think there are 54 countries each with different stories, histories, cultures, geographies etc. so for me that’s like saying ‘in Europe’. But I take it in stride now and mention that it would be nice to know which specific country. I tended to get defensive in the beginning but now I’m quickly learning to:

‘Share our similarities, Celebrate our differences’

M. Scott Peck

Coming to Sweden: African Edition

source: memegenerator.net


Finally, I knew coming to Sweden meant less flexibility in terms of hair. I knew I would not be able to get the products I needed or it would be too expensive to get it done in a salon. Thus, I decided to learn how to care for my hair courtesy of YouTube. I did crotchet braids knowing they would last a few months before I decided what to do next. From day 1, I got asked whether it was my real hair or how I dry it when I wash it. At first I enjoyed answering all the questions even from random people who would walk up to me and touch my hair. However, encounters including hair sniffing and unwarranted touching quickly made me draw some boundaries. It’s great to be curious but it’s also good to ask before you touch or approach someone especially if its a stranger.

Coming to Sweden: African Edition

source: giphy.com

Take Away and Tips

Take it in stride. Before leaving home,past students from the Swedish Alumni Network in Kenya (SIANK) told us that when we come to Sweden we would not only be representing Kenya but the African continent on the whole. I am beginning to understand that being from a country so far away from Sweden is an opportunity to educate people about a culture, country and continent that is a world away.

The same way I am learning about Sweden and Europe is the same way I’d want Swedes as well as everyone else to know about my home country and Africa.

Here is a post I previously wrote about my study abroad experience coming from Kenya.

Keep reading for Coming to Sweden: African Edition Part II where I will discuss food, music and language.

Follow Study in Sweden on Snapchat for more updates

From Sweden with Love

NB: Disclaimer: This post is based on my perspective and experiences. It is not meant to generalize all African students in Sweden perspectives.


When humility meets photography: an amazing seminar with Christoffer Collin

Back to Gothenburg after another meeting with my friends and fellow colleagues as Digital Ambassadors for Study in Sweden, I thought it was nice to share with you all a part of the amazing days spent last week with them. There would be a lot to say to be honest, we’ve been in three different places (Jönköping, Gränna and Omberg – have a look at what Supritha has written about that here). Anyway, I’m gonna focus on something else in particular, to be more precise about an awesome seminar that we had with a famous Swedish photographer. He gave us some hints and tips, however he shared with us moments of his life and his career.

His name is Christoffer Collin. Do you know him? Or probably you’re among his 1.3 million followers on Instagram.

Source: hasselblad.com

Almost six years ago, he wasn’t a professional photographer. He was working in his small town, Karlskoga, in a small company as a project leader. He had (and still has) many hobbies, like playing football and sharing moments with family and friends. He loved looking at others’ pictures, but he wasn’t really pushed to go out and taking cool pictures or even become professional. Of course he liked shooting with his phone, just for fun – what he didn’t know at that time was that it would turn out to be his future profession, a passion and a way of living.

The year 2011 was crucial in that regard. A journey in Thailand was one of its revelations. Along with two friends and on behalf of a charity, he walked for 900 km throughout the country in order to collect money to support a local orphanage. Christoffer was appointed as photographer of the mission. And that is how everything began: taking pictures, taking pictures, and taking pictures. Experimenting, learning step by step and starting loving that. Moreover, in that period there have been some issues within his family; these contributed a lot to the way he perceived the reality and the surroundings, the way to value people and things in his own life… basically, to understand what really matters.

Once back in Sweden, he was told of Instagram, at that time not so popular as today, still on its way to a bright future. Using exclusively his phone, Christoffer started posting pictures on Instagram, at the beginning for fun and for sharing them with friends and family. However, gradually the thing reached unexpected levels. Followers kept growing and growing. After almost two years, he decided to resign from his job and take the risk: becoming a photographer. Passion for capturing the light overcame the daily routines and shaped the world around him and within him. The positive feedbacks from his followers as well as the continuous increasing number of them pushed him to make this step in his life.

Now he is one of the most famous photographers in Sweden, and many companies around the world constantly ask for his collaboration. He has been travelling the world, and improving the art that once he could barely conceive to be what now is one of the most important things that could happen in his life. His photography aims at pushing the viewer to have his/her own ideas and thoughts regarding a picture: involving people emotionally, by just sharing his work. No more, no less than that.

Christoffer is such a nice and humble person, really easy-going, and thanks to his deep thoughts, talking to him was such a great inspiration. I can say that meeting him was incredibly fantastic, and I wish you could have the chance to exchange some words with him, one day.   

Source Featured image: Christoffer Collin

“Believe in your damn self” – International Women’s Day 2017

Days such as today, the International Women’s Day, should come not only once per year. Or, the meaning carried by it, at least, should be a continuous and persistent engine capable of awakening men, women and other genders, and making them question the level of equality and justice reached by modern society.

Sweden is a well-known feminist country, where the word ‘feminist’ could be seen such as a synonym of ‘gender equality’. Just to mention few facts regarding the Swedish history in that respect, we may recall that in 1947 Karin Kock was the first woman in government, and few years later, in 1955, three months’ paid maternity leave for working women were established; in 1970 the world saw the first woman holding a high position at the UN (United Nations): Alva Myrdal. In 1974, paternity leave took over the social leading role held by the maternity leave (however, the paternity leave has been recently updated).

One may think that, probably, such an International Day could be important, but in the same time not having a high and wide appeal in Sweden; all in all, there are so many countries where women’s rights are daily trampled on and overcome, aren’t they?


Sweden is one of the top-countries when it comes to safety and to gender equality rights.

Source: government.se

Last but not least, the Scandinavian country is one of the leading nations standing up for human rights in the world.

Many important steps and goals have been achieved, yet many things must be done. When it comes for instance to the economic equality, there’s still a pay gap of 13.2 per cent between monthly salaries earned by men and women. The reasons why this happens can be related to different factors, such as profession, age, work experience. However, the gender issue seems to be still manifest. The Swedish Discrimination Act promotes the equality between employees, and a direct action especially by the employers. Still, it could not be enough. Within this kind of social environment, an action by some movements is required: movements fighting and standing for women’s rights. How not to mention the movement called “15:57”. Supported by women’s unions and other social actors, the 15:57 movement has a clear goal: bridge the 13.2 per cent pay gap, because this means, technically speaking, that women work without receiving any payment starting from 15:57 in a normal working day of eight hours until 17:00.

There are other kinds of movements too, fighting against the stereotypical power assigned by the Western society to masculinity. One of this is known as Macho i Kollektivtrafiken” (“Macho in Public Transport”), which tries to open women’s eyes when it comes to taking public transportation, and spotting men who claim more space than physically needed: this has been seen as an unconscious and daily form of power within the boundaries of the public space.

Recently, another interesting initiative has been taken by the Swedish Football Association. Particularly, they targeted the women’s team, which is noticeably one of the strongest in the world. The association had in mind one clear thing, still so powerful and compelling: engaging and involving young women to believe that every goal can be reached, bearing well in mind that the key is to believe as much as possible in themselves. The initiative has featured the players of the women’s team: on the back of their football shirts, some inspirational Twitter messages by very important women in the world took over their names.

Lisa Dahlkvist, more than 90 caps for the national team. Source: The Guardian

Now it’s your turn. What do you think about the word ‘feminism’? And, just below, you find another interactive tool: an interesting graphic created by our Study in Sweden Facebook team. Have a look, and thanks for reading!  

Main sources:




Featured image: Sveriges Kvinnolobby/15:57