It has been two months since the moment I landed in this beautiful country. New environment, trying to make some new friends and also new challenges everyday, all of these made me feel so uncomfortable and stressful at first, but now when I overcame those challenges and looked back, I learned much more than I expected in this two months. And I think It would be good to write some reflections and feelings about studying abroad, or to be precise studying in Sweden, to end my last blog post.
It is a big decision to study abroad. You need to leave your parents and friends, the place and the language you are familiar with. For me, it is all about courage, whether you have the courage to create some uneasiness to your life and see how it can reshape you to a better person. I always think that if you are too familiar with the environment and people around you, it would be so difficult for you to get inspired to think of something new or think from different perspectives.
Before I came here, I had typical “age crisis” as most of those who just graduated from bachelor or may have been worked for one or two years. I only known I don’t want my life to be like this but I had no idea about what I want to do in the future. However, I am quite sure that if I continued to stay in the place I was so familiar with, I would not be able to come up with anything that can make my life a bit different from previous. “How about leaving Hong Kong, change the environment a bit and see how things go?” That was the moment I started thinking about studying my master abroad.
So I got the courage, but “why Sweden?”. This is the question that I was asked most whenever I told someone I would like to study in Sweden. There are plenty of other choices, for example UK and USA. Everyone has the reasons behind their decision of where to study, for me, it is all about the need for an unfamiliar culture. I want to study in a place where English is not the native language but still there is no problem for me to use English for daily conversation. Moreover, I want place where it is not a hotspot for Hong Kong students to study in, as I want to force myself to spend more time with people from different countries or have different backgrounds than me. In addition to my previous exchange experience here, I think Sweden is the ideal place for me to start my new journey.
Undoubtedly, no one knows beforehand what they can gain from the experience of studying abroad, however if you never start, you will never know. The most enjoyable part of studying abroad is there are millions of possibilities and it all depends on what you want the experience to be. You can choose to stay around with people with the same nationality as you or you can choose to make friends with different background; you can choose to focus on study or you can choose to understand more about the industry you are interested in by joining different activities. It is really all up to you!!!
So all in all, what I conclude is if you have the courage to take the first step, you are half way from making a difference in your life. Yes, we can’t predict what this experience can benefit your future, however, if you put effort in making the studying abroad experience as good as you can, I am sure that one day when you look back, you will not feel regretful for this big decision you had made, just remember a journey of a thousand miles simply begins with taking one single step.
Orientation events, networking with others and partiesssss… these basically sum up what did I do in the first week at Stockholm. No worry, you don’t even have a moment to feel alone or homesick here, as there are always people around to make sure you can get used to the life here as soon as possible.
The most impressive event for me up till now is the Welcome Banquet organized by my school for new master students. Everyone wore Tuxedo and evening gowns to the dinner. During the dinner, we sang a lot of songs. The most interesting part is whenever a song came to an end, we would say “Skål” (a must-learn word in Swedish means Cheer!!) and drink wine together. It is quite a cultural shock for me, since in Hong Kong you are not supposed to drink any alcohol and sing out loud together in such a formal dinner.
Another unexpected surprise I got is, I had never imagined the diversity of nationalities at school. Here we have students from almost all around the world, South Africa, Germany, China, India, you name it. I think it will be a good experience to work with people who have different cultural background and working style. And I have a feeling that I am studying in a global village rather than Stockholm School of Economics.
Beyond all these new experiences, don’t forget there is still one tedious agenda in your to-do list after the arrival. That is to get a personal number from the tax department here. Personal number is a must here for you to do anything related to your identity, you can’t get a bank account or study Swedish in SFI if you don’t get the personal number. Thus, if everyone is going to study here, make sure you go get the number as soon as possible. It will make your life here even more easier.
So last but not least, enjoy the last bit of summer sun here in September.. I have a strong feeling that Autumn or winter will come soon XDDD Skål!
I know that it may be a little bit too early to start packing things for my two years in Sweden. However, it is never too early to start making a checklist for packing, as the later I start preparing, the easier I forget to bring something. Here are some tips:
Start making a checklist NOW
It is not easy to remember everything you need to bring when you are in a hurry, so it would be better to start making a draft checklist in your phone. It can make sure that whenever you come up with anything that you need to bring for your study, you can write it down immediately. Trust me, it will make your packing much more faster and easier later.
Look for things that you need to buy
There are something that you don’t need to use in your hometown, but you will need them while you study abroad. For example, plug adapter or an extra router, etc.
In Hong Kong, the coldest day is around 10°C, which is incomparable to -10°C in Sweden. So I need extra winter gears and clothes with me.
It is sure that you can get everything you need in Stockholm, but don’t forget in Sweden they charge 25% VAT on most of the goods. Thus, I think in general, it would be cheaper to buy things in hometown instead.
Check anything you need to do
Since we will go home less often during our study in Sweden, I think there are some tedious things that we need to fix before starting the journey.
The most important thing is to exchange some kronor for the use in first few weeks. With the student visa, foreign student can open a bank account in Sweden, but it still takes some times for the application procedures. Therefore, it is better to exchange some Kronor in home country to ensure that you have some cash for daily spending before you have a bank account with money transferred from your home.
Secondly, I think it is better to double check the cell-phone plan you are using. For example, whether it will expire during your stay in Sweden. You can just simply contact the service provider and see if they offer any cheaper monthly plan that allow you to keep your phone number while you are not at home.
Last but not least, I will go to hang out with my best friends as much as I can before I leave. Afterall, I am going to leave my dearest parents and friends for a while, so I want to spend more time with them face-to-face before I need to see them in Skype and adjust the time zones to chat with them.
After resigning from my work, it is time to start doing some preparations before I come to Stockholm!!!!
Based on my previous experience, I hardly find a Swedish who can’t speak English, so I guess language won’t be a big problem in this country. However, since I am going to stay in this country for two years, I think it would be better if I know some basic Swedish to communicate with others.
Previously, my friend suggested a very useful language learning webpage called “Duolingo” to me and surprisingly I find Swedish course in it. This webpage provides pretty all-round language training where you can learn both reading listening and speaking skills. Moreover, the syllabus is quite well-organized, as you need to finish learning some basic things before you can move on to learn more advance sentence structures. And the best part is it is completely free of charge!!!
So started from last week, I go to this webpage when I am free and hopefully two months later I can handle some very basic conversation in Swedish with people there. Well… it is kind of a challenge to my persistence.
Yes, language won’t be a problem in Sweden, but accommodation must be a big problem. Afterall it is not traveling and I can’t stay in hostel for like two years, so it is always better to start looking for place to live earlier.
Indeed, there are plenty of choices for accommodation in Stockholm. You can choose to live alone, share it with others or rent a corridor room. For me, I love to socialize with different people but at the same time I want my personal space, so student corridor room is definitely a good choice. As I previously exchanged to Stockholm University, I know there are two major student apartment areas called Lappis and Kungshamra, both of them are quiet closed to Stockholm University and I think the commuter time to SSE is also acceptable.
So first of all, I started looking for a corridor room from SSSB (Stockholms Studentbostäder), It is an official webpage to find student apartment in Stockholm and you can easily locate people who want to rent their room out. The only bad thing about this webpage is you need to get your student visa and personal number before you can rent an apartment via this webpage.
If you still haven’t gotten your student visa (just like me), I suggest you to join the facebook group of “Lappis” and “Kungshamra”, there are lots of people who want to rent out their student apartments post advertisment on it. All you have to do is keep looking at their posts and try to contact the person who want to rent out their apartment or room. Haha…. I think I am really so lucky, as I just got a room in Lappis where I can rent it for a year with pretty good deal. So no worry, when there is demand, there is supply, just keep looking don’t settle XDDD
04:00 again…. It marked another normal over-time working day as an auditor in Hong Kong.
I hopped on a taxi and asked myself “What the hell am I doing?” This is the question that I keep asking since the second week as an auditor in one of the Big Four auditing firm. I must admitted that there is great difference between reality and what I expected. Long working hours, tedious works with no much judgement and thinkings needed…..
Yes, it is a big firm and I can gain invaluable experiences there, but what next? Be an internal auditor of a big corporate later and do the same thing for the rest of my life?
That’s how I started thinking to have a master degree…. To be inspired and to make changes to my career.
When it comes to studying overseas, UK or USA is the most popular among Hong Kong people. But for me, Stockholm popped up in my mind almost immediately.
I exchanged to Stockholm for half a year during my undergraduate degree and I was impressed by the professor there. They seldom refer to book knowledge, instead they encouraged students to think more before reading the book . “ There is no right or wrong for your idea, just different” is the word that I heard most during my exchange study.
What s more, I love almost everything in Stockholm (except the chilling winter). People are shy but very nice to each others. All in all, I just can’t wait to start my study there!!!!