What comes to mind first when you think of Sweden? As many people know, Sweden is located in northern Europe and is famous for the generous social welfare it bestows on its people. However, other than its welfare system and geographic location, what else do you know about Sweden? The UOS Times met with a student who is currently doing an exchange program at Sodertorn University to learn more about Sweden and Sodertorn University.
About Sodertorn University
Sodertorn University was built in 1996 and is located about 20 minutes away from Stockholm by subway. It consists of four academic schools and has about 13,000 full-time students. There are various programs and courses designed to help students gain academic achievement. It also carries out research in history, sociology and other fields.
“Thanks to the education system of Sweden, it is possible for students to study much more vigorously here than in Korea,” Joung In-young (Dept. of Urban Administration, ’14) said. Unlike Korea, which has two semesters a year and requires four years to graduate, universities in Sweden have four semesters over a single year, each of which is called a “period.” In each period, students usually take only one class. Because students can focus on one subject for a enough time, they can study more passionately.
Living at Sodertorn University
Living as a stranger in a foreign country might be one of the most difficult challenges that exchange students face. Joung mentioned, however, that residential spaces and programs for exchange students are well-prepared at Sodertorn University.
Residential spaces for exchange students are ready upon arrival at a school called Bjornkulla and Lappis, so exchange students do not have to suffer the burden of finding housing themselves nearby the school. Students can get a private house; however, most exchange students chose to live together communally to help them build close relationships.
Additionally, there are special programs for exchange students to help them adapt to life in a different country. ESN Sodertorn, which is the office in charge of exchange students, runs mentoring programs that link exchange students with local students. It also runs museum tours, orientation and other various programs. There is, however, no special program which teaches the Swedish language, so most exchange students should enroll in a language class at the school. Also, most of these programs are for exchange students only, so there is unfortunately little exchange between local students and exchange students unless a student participates in a non-exchange activity.
Living in Sweden
“Sweden has a beautiful natural environment,” said Joung. As mentioned above, Sweden is located on northern Europe. Therefore, it has long winters that are very cold. On the other hand, during summer, the temperature warms up and the days becomes longer.
As Joung mentioned, Sweden has long, cold winters and temperate summers. However, the differences in weather between the northern and southern parts are huge, so students who want to study in Sweden should research exactly where their exchange universities are located, before they apply to the exchange program.
“There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from Sweden,” said Joung when The UOS Times asked why he chose to go there. He mentioned that the Swedes have a low rate of corruption and elevated levels of civic engagement. He thought that he could learn from people who live in such a perfect country with so many great points.
Sweden’s political situation is much better than Korea’s and there are many interesting things to learn, as mentioned above. In Sweden, members of the National Assembly usually commute by bike or on foot. Also, if they receive bribes or commit immoral behavior, the punishments can be very harsh. Due to this reason, the Corruption Perception Index ranked Sweden as the fourth least-corrupt country in the world.
Advice for Students
Joung said students who want to take part in the exchange student program should first consider what they want to get out of it for themselves. For example, if one student wishes to have many international friends, he or she should figure out if there are many programs or events at the school designed to foster relationships with fellow students. Nevertheless, he added that it would still require a lot of effort to make friends with students from other countries.
Some students want to travel around Europe while they study there. He advises these students to choose a place that is well-connected to other countries in the region so frequent travel is easily available. He also mentioned that northern Europe’s price rate is not very high, so there would be no need to worry about cost.
Joung had hard time during doing team projects at Sodertorn University because of the small number of exchange students compared to local students. Due to language barriers, cultural differences, and divergent background knowledge, it was hard to mingle among students. If students want to participate in an exchange, they should bear these things in mind before studying abroad. Joung also mentioned that exchange students should have a strong will to participate in programs and events held by school. He thinks that this is also a really important thing that exchange students should consider.