Every year thousands of students pack their bags and leave Sweden to study abroad. Some of these students travel from our very own university here in Karlstad. They leave family and friends behind to try a new way of living and studying in another country, and return home with new experiences and friends. Of course, studying abroad also entail a lot of preparations, and a lot of courage.
One of the students that chose to study abroad is Viktoria Grönkvist, who studied one semester in the city of Limerick, Ireland. Viktoria is studying the Sports Science program at Karlstad University, and used her fifth semester to see the world. But the dream of studying abroad began already during high school.
— I remember that I thought about studying abroad already during high school, but then there was never time to do so. However, after graduation I spent a few years traveling and working in different countries. Those experiences shaped me to be a curious person who like to discover what the world has to offer.
After finding out that her program offers a elective semester Viktoria began the massive work to fill out all the applications that must be completed before an exchange semester.
— The first step in the process was to submit an application that contained transcript, CV, certificate of registration, a photo of myself and a personal letter. The personal letter is a kind of presentation and should specify the reasons why you want to study abroad.
Important to self-reflect
Viktoria says that it is important to self-reflect what subject you intend to study abroad, what the goal is and where in the world you want to study. Also, you need to think about how and where to stay during the time abroad and what to do with your regular living at home.
— For me, the University of Limerick offered accommodation in the campus area with, what I thought, was a high rent. So, I checked around and found a lady who offered a house located about ten minutes from the university that would be shared with other international students.
Viktoria admits that there was a lot of butterflies in her stomach before she went away, but that it was worth it when she arrived.
— Of course, the butterflies flew around in the stomach, and I kept thinking that I couldn’t do this. It is easy to think in negative patterns, but it is important to stay calm and think positive thoughts. It is not the easiest thing to just pack your bags and go to a new country and believe that life rolls on as usual. It was a challenge that definitely tested me, but it all went very well and I am proud of myself who dared to do it.
Once in place, Viktoria studied pedagogics and spent her spare time to met new people, adopt to the language and to the culture.
— Outside the school I spent time exploring the country and meeting new people. There was many trips where the nature showed its beauty and surprised me over and over again. Ireland is known for its rainy climate, but during my stay, they had the most beautiful autumn in over fifty years, so I managed without a raincoat or umbrella for four months.
Different way to study
One of the greatest differences from studying in Sweden, Viktoria says, was that in Ireland they study all the courses at the same time.
— We read all the five courses in parallel, so in the end, in December, it was a great final test. The system reminded me of high school, but personally I prefer to read one course at a time, even though you get more education in a shorter time the Irish way.
For Viktoria the time in Ireland came with several new insights like staying cool and seize the day.
— I have come to the understanding that we must dare to do scary things, like “dare to love scary things”. Even if something in the first place may seem scary, we must dare to take the leap. If I succeed in that, I will grow and develop as a person. Every time I do it, it feels easier to challenge yourself and follow your dreams.
But it is not only new insights about herself that Viktoria learned during her stay in Ireland. She also formed new relations with other people.
— Four months can seem to be a long time, but those four months passed an instant. By getting to know people from other countries, you build bridges. Those bridges makes it easier to understand each other and to communicate. At the same time it made me realize how much we humans have in common, no matter where on earth we are.
What would you like to say to those who dream of studying abroad, but have not decided yet?
— Dare to love scary things! Everything else always solves itself one way or another.
”An opportunity that one can not miss”
Another student who chose to give student life abroad a chance is Olle Henriksen. Instead of studying he and a couple of friends decided to collect material for their B-level essay in Kenya, Africa.
— I saw it as an opportunity that one can not miss. Partly, because Kenya is a country to which I might not go in the first place. At the same time, I wanted to go for something completely different than Sweden. As a future teacher, and particular in social science and religion, I think that you can get much in exchange to study abroad, both as a person and in your future profession.
Except giving him new perspectives on his future profession, Olle says that it was exciting to meet a new culture, both getting to know their ways of learning, university culture, visit the country and see it from different perspectives.
— When I first thought of Kenya, I did not expect 2.4000 meters over the sea, chilly nights and that you would be unable to walk outside the area when it was dark. Some things you can not really prepare for here in Sweden. The same applies to the transportation. You can’t really go in with the attitude that it will go as smoothly as it does here.
To study abroad in Kenya was quite different than to study in Karlstad, Olle explains.
— The days at Laikipia University started at 7 AM with breakfast, during the morning we interviewed students and participated in the student’s classes. Also, we had a couple of meetings with local teachers, principal and other staff at the university.
But the time in Kenya did not only offer hard work to gather information for their study.
— Sometimes we went into the town to check it out, to eat and to shop. Sometimes we stayed on the university to read or work. Since we also had a few days of vacation we were on safari, went to the beach and to other nearby cities.
For Olle and his friends, the time in Kenya both meant acquaintances with new people, and new insights about how other people in different cultures think and look at things.
— It is not only about the studies and writing about your experiences. It is also about everything you learn when you meet new foreign people, talk to them, and get to know them. You learn their way to think and look at things like democracy and education.
Just like Viktoria, Olle says that it is important to actually take the chance when it does come:
— Take the chance, it is rare to get such chances. Most things solve themselves, so don’t worry.
This is a news article. Read more about the journalistic work in Karlstads studenttidning here.