Top image Source : http://www.icra.it/mg/mg13/plenary_location3.htm
The first time I set foot at Stockholm University was two weeks before the beginning of the Autumn Semester. I had been offered an apartment by the housing office of Stockholm University, and had to pick up the keys at a Student Union’s desk set in Södra Huset.
I have to admit that the surroundings didn’t make a very good impression on me that particular day. The Campus was empty, quite lifeless, and the clouds accentuated the coldness of the buildings that are visible from the metro’s exit to Campus Frescati.
I guess the anxiety and the nervousness of discovering what would be my study space for a year ( and therefore a big part of my life in Sweden ), did not really help. I could not really picture myself enjoying a day there : going to the library, meeting friends, having lunch…
When I got to Södra Huset, I thought that the building once again, was quite sad and monotonous. The camaïeu of green and grey that was unraveling in front of me was very disturbing. I really struggled getting around the ‘architectural idea’ of the Campus I have to say. I also have to admit that I was very used to my home university’s campus and its style. Being located in the heart of the seventh arrondissement in Paris, in the neighborhood of Saint Germain des Prés, and near the Seine, the Louvre museum and other impressive historical sites, it didn’t prepare me to an easy transition to Campus Frescati.
I left university that day, with a lot of questions, and thoughts about how I would be able to grow in love with this place.
Reflecting back on all of this now, I realize that my thoughts during that first encounter weren’t quite rational. Södra Huset and its architecture is still not the most beautiful place to my eye, but it is very lovely and warm to me now. I have learned to appreciate its secrets, got myself a favorite spot to chill with my friends, and had quite some fun scrutinizing the change in colors from houses A to F as well as the art scattered on the walls as I navigated through the corridors.
Moreover, as the days went by, I had the curiosity to go further in exploring campus and discovered the various buildings that compose the location. I fell in love with Aula Magna on orientation day, but also with the style of one of the most recent building on campus : Studenthuset.
Mainly, I grew out of the apprehension of not being able to feel comfortable, and got at ease. In fact, it didn’t take me a long time to realize that a lot of amazing people actually wandered the alleys of Campus Frescati.
Orientation week ( exchange students ):
On the 24th of August, when I got to Universitetet train station, I did not really know what to expect. I was still a bit worried, and unsure of my liking of the place. However, I was quite surprised to see how full and noisy the Tunnelbana was on that day. Of course, I could’ve expected that, but for some reason, my first experience at university made me think otherwise.
I made my way through the crowd, and arrived at Aula Magna, where the presentations for orientation day took place. The auditorium where we spent the afternoon, was the second very good surprise of the day.
From the outside, Aula Magna is already a very pretty building. It’s a touch of life. With its wooden coat, and its glass windows it stands out in the middle of a the more neutral colors present on campus. Unfortunately, it is not the first thing that you see when arriving at university, since it is quite covered by vegetation and is located on a mound. You get a better view of the building, from the South end of campus. The auditorium inside, was an amazingly pleasant sight as well ! ( see picture illustrating the article ).
I stepped into the room, sat down, and relaxed for the first time that day.
The orientation session went very well, and a lot of useful informations were delivered to us. Overall, I would say that this day changed my perspective on Stockholm University a lot ! The intervenants were very friendly and open to discussion, and I got around the fact that I was far from being the only exchange student in Stockholm University ! Even if I already knew that, it made it very comforting for me to visually realize what it meant. I knew that many more students from all over the world were probably having the same thoughts, and facing the same challenges as I was.
To resume my first impressions and feelings, here is a link to an interview that was realized right outside of Aula Magna after the welcome session ended ! You’ll see me, and other exchange students sharing their impressions and expectations on the upcoming year at university and in Stockholm !
The rest of the week, was full of activities organized by the Student Union. They really took care of our ‘newly arrived selves’, showed us around campus, took us to different places, and made sure that we met each other and started to build our own social network at university.
Even though I did not participate in all activities, I enjoyed the time that I spent with other exchange students taking their first steps in Stockholm as well as the warm attitude expressed by the whole Student Union’s staff.
Political Science I
Despite the truly exciting moments that I spent in Stockholm these past months, wandering into the city and discovering the nordic treasure that Sweden is, I often have to remind myself that I got here to spend a year studying !
As an exchange student, I am enrolled in the department of Political Science. Therefore, I started this school year with the classes from « Political Science I » programme, and will follow with « Political Science II » next semester.
So far, I have had three classes out of the four that i’m taking this semester : Political Theory, Swedish Politics, and Comparative Politics.
Having already studied the basis of Political Science, and Political Theory, I though that the first module would be the easiest for me, and would even be a little boring. However, I really appreciated the approach and the educational method that the teachers used for this course. Unlike at university in France, a lot of the work we had to do was based on readings, very well suited to the subjects, and very relevant to the discussions that we had. The classes were also here to guide our reflexions, explain certain notions but mostly participate in debates. I found it very interesting to exchange with my classmates, and put in perspective my understanding of the texts, with theirs. Overall, I would say Political Theory was my favorite course so far.
The second module was « Swedish Politics ». I found the class pretty interesting, since I came here not knowing much about Swedish Politics. However, the class tended to shift a lot on European Politics, and European Union problematics, which is not my favorite subject ( even though I understand the necessity to talk about those issues ). Also, the seminars were not as interesting as the ones during the first period. But I was lucky enough to be in a seminar group with very dynamic people, who made good presentations and brought some useful questions to the forefront of our discussions.
Finally, the course that I am following right now is comparative Politics. I have to say that I am quite uncertain about my liking of this class. The lectures are very interesting, and the teacher know’s how to get and keep our attention. The American presidential elections also added a little spice to the course, and we had a lot to talk about and to discuss in class. Also, I find it very interesting to approach politics not only from a very Eurocentric point of view, but trying to find different indicators and criteria to do so. The teacher really succeeded in bringing that out during his lectures.
Nevertheless, the seminars are a little less lively than the ones we had in the first period and I wish we would have more space for debate, since the subject is so interesting ! Especially since I realized how international our seminar groups were, I think it would’ve been very nourishing for all of us to be able to exchange on our different experiences.
To resume, I still feel like those three first modules were pretty interesting, and will serve as a good introduction to the subjects that I have to study next ! I really got the time to get around the study system, grading system, and teacher’s expectations ( which are quite different from the ones in France ).
If I had to rank the classes so far, from my most favorite to my least favorite it would be :
- Political Theory
- Comparative Politics
- Swedish Politics
For period four, I registered in the department of Anthropological studies, for the course « Gender and sexuality ». I am quite curious to discover classes at another department, and especially to have a class on gender. In my home university, I never really had a chance to study such a topic. I can’t wait to see what it will be like, and I feel ready to dig into that subject !
Life at Stockholm University :
Overall, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of student-life in Stockholm University.
First of all, the program that i’m following is designed in a way that allows students to have a lot of free time and take care of themselves. Keeping in mind that at my home university, I had approximatively 25 to 30 hours of classes every week, in addition to the load of homework, presentations, and exams that we had.
My two first years at university were therefore quite intense, and I didn’t have much time to exercise, have extra-scholar activities, (or even sleep) that much !
I was quite surprised then, when I realized that my school schedule here at Stockholm University was composed of 6 to 8 hours of classes a week. And even though we have quite a lot of readings to do, it’s easy to keep organized and to work at your own rhythm.
Moreover, the campus is very well equipped, and the atmosphere is very well-suited to studying. You’ll find everything you need to spend a day on campus working. Several places to eat, sit, relax, and work are available around campus Frescati.
This was also a change for me, since in France, our campus didn’t have much provisions for us to go and shop for food for instance. We only had one cafeteria, that wasn’t open at all time. Of course, there were facilities around campus where we could go and buy some food, or coffees, but it is way easier to have everything on campus !
I was also very happy to see that a gym was available on campus, with quite affordable prices for students and very good gym classes !
For 299 sek a month ( similar price to a gym membership in Paris ), I’ve been able to go to the gym 3 to 4 times a week for a group class or just working out by myself. My favorite classes are probably Bodypump and Bodyattack. The first one being a bodybuilding class mostly, and the second one a cardio class based on martial arts moves !
I also have to say that having such facilities on campus, is very encouraging. I can simply go to school, and stop by the gym before going home, without having to hop on the Tunnelbana or go far from home for that.
Given that the days are becoming shorter, and that it gets colder, I have to admit that this saves me quite some time ! And it also keeps me motivated to go to the gym.
To conclude on what student life is in Stockholm university, I would also want to mention the great work that is put in by school staff and administration. The international student coordinators are always very available. They answer your e-mails very fast, and if you go and visit their office, your problems will be solved almost immediately.
Even before moving to Stockholm, I was very happy to be able to count on them, and to rely on the administration, especially through the arrival process. It was very comforting to meet such a friendly staff, always ready to help with everything.
I will probably be dedicating another article to my school mates, and the different people that I came across while studying at Stockholm University ! I feel like the social encounters that I made here, and the connections that I am making with them, deserve a whole post for themselves.
I hope this article was useful to some of you guys. I’ll be back soon with more news.
Until then, take care !