23rd of August 2018 marks one full year since I packed my bags, leaving behind the comfort of being in my home country and coming to Sweden. With 2 bags, some apprehension, some old memories and lots of excitement to embark on this new journey. I was going to study in Sweden, in SWEDEN!
When I look back at the time I have been here, I realize how much I have changed. This came about because of the things that I found different to India (my home country). Also, I thought it might be a good starting point for a blog. So here is a list of things that I noticed had a bold difference between these two countries.
1. Where are the people?
The first time I set foot in Stockholm, I realized how spacious everything felt. It was for a good reason. The population of Stockholm is around 2.2 million while the population of Mumbai city (where I come from) is 20.7 million. It did take me some time getting used to the deserted T-bana stations and freedom to pick a free seat on the bus. The rush-hour, especially in the morning, made me feel more like home though.
2. Wow! It’s green here!
One of my friends told me that two-thirds of Sweden is covered in forest. Now that’s a lot of green. Back home, we have a national park right in the middle of a city. However, here, apart from a national park, there are a lot more gardens and open spaces. People really enjoy these places and is common to see people jogging, relaxing or just soaking up the Sun in them.
3. The weather changes pretty quickly
Within a few weeks of my arrival last year, we experienced 3 seasons in a day. It changes pretty quickly from warm and sunny to wet and cold here. I was also not at all used to the extremely short days in winter. Even though I had heard a lot about it before but well, seeing is believing.
4. This place is a photographer’s paradise
My sister came this summer to visit and she perfectly described the city. She said it is so beautiful and picturesque that you can stand almost anywhere and take a great picture. Now, I am no photographer but I agree with her. The city offers such great views that you start thinking of yourself as one.
5. Freedom in education is no joke
Sweden is known for many things and quality education is one of them. The students are paid a specific amount to study so that everybody is guaranteed access to education. I KNOW! There is also so much freedom that one is spoilt for choice and might end up confused. I for instance almost took up courses out of my master’s program but had to drop them due to a severe clash of lectures. Also, a course co-ordinator canceled a course for the successive batches of a program based on the feedback from the students, since they did not feel benefitted by it.
6. People have a relaxed and informal attitude
In the numerous emails that I have written to professionals, course co-ordinators, program directors, head of departments etc. I had initially used a “respected sir/madam” in the salutation. That however quickly changed to their first names after I observed how informal the attitude of everyone around here was. The interviews are relaxed, after-work events cordial and welcoming and lecturers friendly. I could not even imagine calling my professors back in India by their first names. Sometimes still an “excuse me sir/ma’am” does falter out in a lecture.
7. You have to do everything on your own
In only one year, I have gotten pretty good at multi-tasking. This is because not only you have to study, but also cook food, do laundry, wash the utensils, clean the room, and quite importantly plan for that next trip of yours. Generally, we have a separate person taking care of each of the above things in India.
8. The transport system is excellent
A lot of my friends live almost outside the city but arrive well ahead of time for the morning lecture (I guess motivation plays an important role here). Along with motivation, the excellent transport system makes their commute a lot easier. Strategic points are well connected and the waiting times are short. As a matter of fact, I have always seen at least two alternative routes to my destination every time.
9. Things are expensive
You might have heard it before and sorry for repeating it, but Sweden or at least Stockholm is expensive. The amount for which I get a cup of coffee here, I can almost have a pretty wholesome meal in India. With measures, however, you can stay on budget. I, for example, spend around 1500-2000 SEK per month apart from rent. Maybe I’ll list down some steps in subsequent posts on that.
10. The sun and Sweden: It’s Complicated
Nothing makes the Swedes happier than the Sun. However, when the sun is out, there is a sense of losing it pretty soon and well, don’t get me started about the winters. Everyone is sulking about how dark it is! The winters were talked about in such a bad taste that I had to reassure myself that I am not going to freeze to death here. On the contrary, I really enjoyed it. It was not the first time I saw snow and was still pretty happy during the 5 odd months of the ‘deficit of Sun’. Back home in Mumbai, generally, the feeling is: the colder the better. Nobody wants to go out in high humidity with 35 degrees after all.
I am sure there must be loads of other things that you have found different in Sweden. Do let me know what I have missed.
For more interesting things that make Sweden special as a student, check here.