My 2019 Autumn semester took me across the world on a study exchange to Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden. Having never been outside Australia on my own, let alone to Europe I was filled with a mixture of fear and excitement. Hopefully this post will shed some light on the highlights of my trip thus far, and also teach you what it means to Study abroad in Sweden.
Stepping out of the airport, the brisk -14°C wind quickly shocked the 40°C temperatures from Sydney out of my system. My first impression of getting around were blown away, with the public transport network around Stockholm being second to none – max wait time during the day about 3 minutes for any service. Aside from that, Stockholm doesn’t get the title of “Safest City in Europe” for no reason. Whether I’m rummaging through the markets or catching a bus home at 4am I’ve never once felt threatened or unsafe.
Moving onto the university life, the initial orientation week hosted by the Student union was unbelievable. The multitude of pub crawls, activities, and overnight parties allows you to not only soak up different Swedish traditions; it enables you to meet the other 300+ exchange students from all around the world. It is in these events that I was able to make groups of friends whom I continue to spend the majority of my free time with and planning trips around Europe & Scandanavia with!
This exchange opportunity allowed me to challenge myself with subjects that didn’t relate (directly) to Structural Engineering. This semester I’m studying the following 3 subjects:
- Introductory Astronomy for Engineers
- Swedish Society, Culture and Industry in Historical Perspective
- Transport, Communication and Sustainable Development
KTH and UTS have their similarities and their differences in terms of academic life. Alike UTS the classes run with similar structure, with assignments and exams having similar weighting and importance. The structure of the semester/s is something that I’m finding difficult to become accustomed to. Being required to cram and complete 2 subjects in the space of just 7-8 weeks, myself and other international students are finding it challenging to learn the content thoroughly – but we manage all the same. In saying this, the benefit of having a dedicated campus with cafes, bars, and of course accommodation you are constantly immersed into the student culture of the university inside and outside of class. It is this culture that makes coming to university that much more enjoyable.
It is now March and just as I started getting used to the cold, dark, and gloomy Stockholm, it has stopped snowing and is a summery 4°C outside. To fill in my time between classes and study I’m constantly looking for new places to explore and travel, whether it be museums, ice skating rings, or simply second-hand shops; Stockholm has an abundance of attractions to offer. Looking towards the weekends and the benefit of being so close to Europe shines through with trips to the snow, Iceland, Riga, Lapland, Prague, and Amsterdam all being complete. In the coming months trips to Finland, Russia, Estonia, Denmark, and Norway have all been booked – and that’s all before semester ends!
Aside from my travel, I’ve taken full advantage of the Swedish custom ‘Fika’, which by definition means to “go get coffee and something sweet”. However, this local custom means so much more. This outing becomes more about socialising, meeting new people, and just catching up with old friends than drinking coffee. It is this single cultural tradition that has taught me so much about not only Swedish cultural but about the importance of simply talking to someone and asking ‘how their day is’. Especially being in a community of international students who are away from friends and families, the importance of being open and friendly with one another is so much more important.
Student exchange will challenge you in more ways than just your academic life. It will teach you the intricacies of different cultures around the world, it will teach you how be daring, it will teach you how to be a financial planner, it will teach you the power of friendship, it will teach you how to be a travel agent, and it will teach you how to cook (me). But most of all, it will show and test just how strong you really are.
Don’t stop challenging yourself and keep moving forward.
Bachelor of Engineering
Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan
For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit: www.global-exchange.uts.edu.au