Maria is a second-year Bachelor student from Ukraine studying at Jönköping University. After finishing high school and one year of studies in Ukraine, she decided that it was the right time to leave her comfort zone and start looking for something more exciting.
After exploring different universities and different countries, I completely fell in love with Sweden; 1.5 months later I landed in Arlanda and got on a train going to a little town in the middle of Sweden.
What has been the hardest to adjust to?
For me it was extremely difficult to get used to the number of group works during university studies. Swedish education is quite different from the Ukrainian.
Here they teach us a lot how to develop soft skills through interaction with team-members, host-companies and teachers.
Final grades always depend on group projects; basically you can pass individual written exam with A, but group work will pull you down to D or C. Sometimes it feels very unfair, but thats how students are supposed to learn how to communicate effectively and adapt to stressful situations.
What was the biggest obstacle when you first came here?
My biggest obstacle in Sweden was a very big gap between Swedes and internationals. You should put a lot of effort (usually it means learning Swedish) to integrate in the society and make good friends with Swedes.
What do you like about Sweden?
The main thing I like in Sweden is their infrastructure. The transport system is truly amazing. On sj.se you can check and buy tickets from anywhere to everywhere. Trains, busses, subways are all synchronised and easily understandable. Every city has its own special app for purchasing tickets, checking online schedules and maps. All information is available in English. It is super easy and convenient!
What do you like about Swedes?
I really appreciate that all Swedes know English. It was very important for me when I was choosing a country for my Bachelors and after these 2 years it still amazes me how everyone has a very high level of English. In general Sweden is very friendly to foreigners and you can notice it everywhere.
What is your favourite Swedish word?
My favourite Swedish word is ’lax’, which means salmon. I think it sounds very catchy.
What do you find strange about Swedes?
I find it very strange how hard it is to fire employees with obviously bad performance. Swedes say: ”We don’t fire people – we don’t continue their contracts”. Because of many Union regulations it is almost impossible to terminate someone’s contract immediately and I believe that everyone knows it and uses it 😉
What do you miss the most from Ukraine?
I miss fresh food. It is really hard to find not packed meat, fruits and berries. I also miss the opportunity to talk to friends in my native language. And of course I miss my parents and doggy. Sometimes it feels very lonely here without them.
What is confusing about Swedish culture?
What is really confusing to me is Swedish fashion. Literally all shops, no matter to which brand they belong, sell the same cloths with a price difference of ~30$. No wonder all Swedes dress up the same and all teenagers look alike – black jeans and black leather jacket, white t-shirt and white shoes. And also 95% of all students have MacBooks. Remaining 5% are internationals 🙂
Do you have any advice for a Newbie?
My advice to all newbies is to learn Swedish as soon as possible and not to rely on anyone. Preferably start studying before entering the country, because it is always very sweet to see how Swedes respect and support you when you try to say something in Swedish.
Do you have an anecdote about your first time in Sweden?
Sweden is second home to many internationals, so watch out when you are discussing something on your native language. You will never believe how many people can actually understand you. It happened to me and my friends a lot, and every time it was sooo confusing….