Swedish stories: Kevin from USA on education structure, apartment hunting, safety, and a big-small world
Swedish stories is a series of interviews with international students from Malmö University. Following up on the interview with Raya from Bulgaria, I had a Sunday brunch and a chat with Kevin: a 23-year-old student from Texas, USA. This is what Kevin had to say about student life in Sweden.
A: Let’s start from the beginning. There is a long way from United States to Sweden. What made you come here for your Master’s degree?
K: Actually, since high school I have always planned to study in Sweden. I just wasn’t sure when it was going to happen. I have some family here and a dual citizenship, so I wanted to take advantage of that since European Union citizens don’t have to pay a tuition fee for studying in Sweden. But it’s not just that, I wanted to go out of US and experience something new and different.
A: And how is life in Sweden different from what you are used to?
K: Stuff is slow here. I mean, the pace of life is very slow in comparison to US. If I would walk into a bank in Texas and wanted to open a bank account, their answer would be something along the lines of “Yes, we want your money!” Here it was: “We need your personnummer, source of income, occupation, passport and we will contact you in a week.” An hour event in the US was made into 2 weeks of bureaucracy. On a more positive note, I simply love the Swedish architecture and urban planning. It’s so different. In Texas everything was too far to walk and in Malmö it would be hard to find something that is not in a walking distance.
A: What about academia? Does the university life differs from American one as well?
K: From my understanding, based on what my cousins that went through high school and university in Sweden told me, here you only study your major. Your courses are all connected to your degree. But back during my Bachelor’s in the US, I took Anthropology, Linguistics, Human Sexuality, Native American History, 2D & 3D Game Development, Suicide in Japan… All those different things on top of art history and design education. What’s also different here is the scheduling. Every day in every week is… kind of random. Because in America when you register for courses you would have them at exact same time, exact same day every week. I never have to check the calendar. Every week is exactly the same. Here every week is different. I have to pay more attention to what the schedule is.
A: Are you happy then with your Master’s in Malmö if it’s so different from what you are used to?
K: Yeah, I am. It’s completely different from what I expected. It’s a lot more… tangible. I like that. It’s not just the courses but the class. Everyone is just so different. It’s not just another Master’s program with different courses but also 17 other people from all over the world that I can learn a bit from.
A: Glad to hear that you are happy with the program. What about what is after the education? What do you think about your career opportunities? Is it a valuable asset back in US to have a degree from Sweden? Are you considering staying in Sweden after finishing your degree?
K: As far as Master’s Degree in Interaction Design, I think it could be valuable. The interaction design discipline is evolving, especially in places like Austin, New York, Silicon Valley. However, I suppose what matters is the work experience in the long run. I am doing the education more for myself. I am considering a career in Sweden too. I don’t intend on going back to the US immediately after the degree.
A: Oh, let’s talk about the logistics of such long-term stay. You already mentioned that setting a bank account was a bit of a hustle. What about the apartment-hunting?
K: Well, with my family we had this idea that buying a place in a long run would be cheaper than renting or living in the student dorms. Prior to me moving to Sweden, my family here was looking around. I took around 2,5 months to actually move to the place from the point when we started looking. There was quite a lot of paperwork involved like sorting out the issue of source of income in another continent. The neighbourhood association was doing background checks. Even though we started signing in mid-October, I didn’t move in until November.
A: One question I get a lot as a digital ambassador is how safe Sweden is. My first answer always is: “depends on a person”. What is your opinion? Do you feel safe in Malmö?
K: It’s weird to compare safety here and back home. Austin and Houston are a lot bigger cities than Malmö but also… it’s Texas. People are allowed to carry guns everywhere. It’s weird to go into grocery store and see people carrying guns. That does not make me feel safe there. Here I do feel fairly safe. But then again – it is a smaller city. When I read about things that happen, I know where they are. There was a shooting that happened around 2 weeks ago at a place that I passed in a bus 5 minutes before. I walked out of the bus and saw helicopters in the sky. I didn’t know what it was. I came home to discover there was a shooting and I had just passed by this place. Although, at the same time I know that these events are related to one another. It is like gang in-fighting or something. More often than not, these are not random occurrences like mass shootings that have happened in America.
A: Yeah, I get what you mean. So… to sum up. How would you describe this experience of studying in Sweden? Did it turn out to be what you expected it to be?
K: Not sure what I expected. Honestly, I was just really excited… maybe a bit nervous. But I am really happy about where I am now: doing this Master’s program, learning what I am learning with the people I’ve met here. This is just so cool. I think the biggest change is that I feel both at the same time: the world is so big and the world is so small. It’s just that America is huge, Texas is huge and where I went to school everyone was from Texas. But now I am studying in Malmö, Sweden with the most lovely people from Denmark, Poland, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, Bulgaria, Romania… This is a little microcosm where everyone has a different background. Still even though we know each other for 8 months, some of our conversations are: “back home is like this” “oh, that’s really different, we do things like this.” The world is so big. But here we are all together and it is so small. This is simply awesome. I am so glad I’m here and not sitting in an office in Texas.
If you have any additionals questions to Kevin feel free to post them in the comments!