Life After Sweden
As promised as part of my series about Graduation in Sweden, this is the post on Life after Sweden.
Recently, when I traveled to Nairobi for my thesis fieldwork. I got to attend a Swedish Institute Alumni Kenya event (SIANK) and spoke to two alumni members about Life after Sweden.
Dickson Minjire Kinuthia , 26
Monica Nderitu, 38
When did you study in Sweden?
Dickson: I studied at Lund University from Fall 2014 to Summer 2016.
Monica: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)- Uppsala between 2009-2010.
What program did you study in Sweden?
Dickson: Master’s in Development Studies with a concentration on Participatory Development.
Monica: Masters in Environmental Science- Environmental communication and management.
What scholarship did you receive?
Dickson: Swedish Institute Study Scholarship(SISS).
Monica: SI- Guest scholarship.
Why did you choose to study in Sweden?
Dickson: I think my main inspiration to study in Sweden was my dad. He studied his master’s at World Maritime University (WMU) in Malmö in 2003. He had lots of good stories about Sweden and we could even tell from his many photo albums. I grew up liking Sweden a lot. So, when skimming through Swedish universities, I came across Development Studies and International Development and Management programs. Luckily, both were being offered at Lund University. So, I applied for both and then for the Swedish Institute Scholarship. I was awarded the Swedish Institute Study Scholarship(SISS) under Category 1.
Secondly, Sweden always tops the world rankings in several areas such as, gender equality, happiest nation and quality of life. I was thus motivated to go to Sweden one day to study and see what they do that we are not doing here in Kenya. I hope what I learnt in my two years, I can be able to use that and contextualize it, to Kenya to move forward in my field of expertise
Monica: I wanted to experience life in a developed country and Sweden offered an organised system for my needs. Also the fact that Sweden is one of the most environmental friendly country, I wanted to have an experience of how they do it.
Do you remember how many Kenyans were in your year?
Dickson: In total we were 47 SISS recipients in 2014. 12 of us were in Lund University.
Monica: From SI scholarship- only myself but we had other few Kenyans about three.
What was your most memorable experience in Sweden?
Dickson: Lund is a very vibrant with student life because of the high population of students. So, there were so many student activities that brought students together creating very good friendships. I have great and close friends from my korridor, class, department and mentor group. Also, Skåne is very beautiful. We did a lot of bike rides to the countryside.
Our programme in Lund had close to 20 nationalities, so the learning different experiences from each and every classmate was amazing. So, studying in Sweden was amazing both inside and outside the classroom. However, I do not miss my Surströmming (fermented herring) experience haha, it was so bad!
Monica: The experience with the nature. Experiencing the different seasons I had only studied in books was an awesome experience to me. I would love to take my sons to Sweden for the same reason.
What do you miss most about Sweden?
Dickson: First, I miss my friends. In the two years that I spend in Sweden, I made so many friends because I am a very social person. People say it takes time to become friends with Swedes but I actually did not experience that. I am still in touch with a lot of them. Hopefully, I will visit them again to relive the moments we spend together.
Secondly, I miss the efficient system of doing things. It might not have been perfect but the way things are done in Sweden is more efficient that here in Kenya. I miss using the trains because here we mainly have the buses as public transport. The Nairobi traffic experience is not very awesome.
This might sound odd but I miss the changing climate patterns especially in winter(though it was mild in Lund)😊. It can get super-hot and dry here especially in January and February.
Monica: I miss the sense of security- the fact that i could walk across the forest at any time of the day. I deeply miss it. I also miss the organised system and some Swedish snacks.
What career are you in now?
Dickson: Currently I am working as a Project and Research Assistant at Local Development Research Institute(LDRI) here in Nairobi. It works and champions for Open Governance and advocating for Open Data to enhance decision-making in Development.
Being a development studies practitioner, I prefer to be in the field where I can interact with the people and listen to their stories. I am inclined therefore more towards qualitative research. Currently, I am leading a project where we are creating a platform to increase interactions between farmers and fertilizer sellers for better and quick decision making.
Monica: Environmental/climate change adaptation consultancy.
How did studying in Sweden advance your career?
Dickson: I studied International Relations in my Undergraduate. I decided to focus fully on Development Studies in my Post-Graduate. That was the best decision I made in that now my work revolves around development issues in Kenya. All the knowledge I acquired in our very interactive class sessions, I am able to put it into perspective in my work. Sweden’s approach to gender equality has been an inspiration.
In every meeting, seminar or conference I attend, the first thing I look at is the gender composition of the attendees. I want to see equal opportunities for both men and women, and that is very important in all aspects of life.
My area of research has mainly been on Citizen Participation and importance of Deliberative Democracy in Development. With the inspiration on gender equality, now I hope to advance my studies to PhD and look at the issue of Women Participation in Development.
Monica: Wow! It is what I am feeding on today, it equipped me with environmental impact assessment skills which I still use today. It has helped me toadvanced to research on various climate and environmental matters.
Do you currently work with or have a connection to Swedish companies?
Dickson: I am working with a local organization but amazingly I have a close connection with a Swedish Organization known as Pingstmissionens Utvecklingssamarbete(PMU). They work on different areas of development such as education, health, gender equality, political advocacy among others. So apart from informal interactions with the Regional Manager Mr. Erik Sedig and practicing my Swedish skills with him 😊, I also get to know about their work in Eastern and Southern Africa that is motivated towards fighting poverty. Definitely in future I would like to work with Swedish Organizations. Those that work mainly in Human Development to help steer forward Sweden’s Development Agenda in Kenya.
Monica: No, BUT I would really love to find a connection with one, it is my dream!.
What career advice would you give to students who have just graduated from studying in Sweden in general and about coming back to Kenya?
Dickson: Your services, knowledge and skills are needed here because it is definitely different perspective from how things are done here. Come back and help build and develop our country. You have already seen the way things are done in Sweden, so you have a chance to contextualize those bright ideas into the Kenyan perspective.
Those with entrepreneurial knowledge, this is a great opportunity to put this into action and help create opportunities for more youths in the country. As a growing economy, there is optimism of catching up with the developed world. You fresh graduates are part of the fresh minds that will take this country on that path towards development.
Monica: When you come back to Kenya, try as much as possible to be calm. The system back home is still the same one so you need a lot of patience. Secondly, use what you have learnt in Sweden to advance yourself even through self employment. If there is a system or a process you liked in Sweden and think you can implement it in Kenya, go for it. We need this to change our society!.
Thank you to Dickson and Monica for taking the time to sit down with me. I have learnt a great deal about what Life After Sweden looks like and tips for integrating back into Kenya after graduation. It was also funny to hear what experiences they most miss and remember about Sweden. So to the graduates this year! Let’s remember to take what we learn in Sweden and implement it back home to develop our countries.
Good luck with your Thesis!
From Sweden with Love