Open space discussion about retaining International students in Sweden
So recently I had been invited by the Linnaeus University to attend and off-campus event. As you can see the topic, it was about retaining international students in Sweden in general and the Kronoberg region in particular after they have completed their studies at the Linnaeus University. Among the participants, there are some students, couple of academic practitioners and lot of members from the different companies in and around the city of Växjö. It was organized at Region Kronoberg office.
The event started off with a brainstorming session were all the participants alike were asked to bring out a topic that they would like to discuss. It was done individually and then once someone had decided on a topic, it had to be presented in front of everyone within 30 seconds to 1 minute. In other words, its just about basically justifying and explaining why that topic is worthy of discussion. Followed by this, the topic was stuck on the wall. After everyone had discussed their ideas, all headed towards the wall to look at the proposed topics again. Now the task was to group up these topics under various generic themes so that finally it culminates into couple of important but broad range of topics that can we discussed within the limited everyone had. Finally these standard themes were placed under a certain time slot in a certain corner of the room which were named A, B, C and D. The idea was whoever felt like joining the discussion in a particular topic would just head towards that group at the time. Thus, it was a free movement session with people deciding on their priorities. And in this way, a randomized discussion group was also formed, making the sessions worthwhile.
Talking about the themes, there were lot of interesting discussions that came about in the lines of Swedish language barrier, ability to integrate students and their families, the knowledge about the Swedish business culture, informational help from authorities were the main focus of discussion. Even though many students have a negative image about the language barrier, some employers present there mentioned that if students take the initiative to at least get some basic knowledge about Swedish, it then creates a positive impression about the candidate which gives them a fighting chance to land up a job in the Swedish marketplace. Another important information discussed was that companies with a minimum 50-100 employees and above are usually not afraid to recruit international students because of their growing tendency, which isn’t so much popular with small companies with 20 or less employees. Thus it could be a good starting point to decide on which companies to apply for. Such discussion also led to understanding the Swedish business culture. Small but vital aspects like fika breaks, keeping everything ‘lagom’, the informal team environment etc. are something international students need to be more aware of. Thus it is important to show one’s character and how they can fit into that culture, something which always companies look for while recruiting new candidates. After all, as the saying goes, “when in Rome, do as the Romans”!
Finally all these discussions along with others were shortly presented to all the participants because not everyone was able to attend every session. Overall, it was very informative from my perspective as it was a good learning and networking session. We then ended with a good lunch with everyone where we had the opportunity to speak to anyone we wanted personally about various other questions and opportunities. I would like to thank the authorities for organizing such an event and the attempt must continue because I can surely say many students would love to stay and work here after studies!