Exchanges in Stockholm give new perspectives

Discovering a new country, getting unexpected academic insights and making new friends - exchange students at Stockholm University get a unique learning experience.

Exchanges in Stockholm give new perspectives

Going on a university exchange can be one of life’s most enriching experiences. Exchange students learn about another culture from the inside and get to know local students, while all the time gaining course credits towards their courses at home.

Stockholm University is home to about 1,000 undergraduate foreign exchange students at any one time. The university’s excellent academic reputation and its location in Sweden’s beautiful, buzzing capital make it a popular choice for students from all over the world.

While the largest number of exchanges in which Stockholm participates are with European universities – France, Germany and Finland being the largest source of students – others come from much further afield. At the time of writing, the largest numbers of non-European exchange students were from the United States, Australia and China.

Yeung Yeung Fok is a sociology student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He chose Stockholm for his exchange because he wanted “to go somewhere very different from Hong Kong – somewhere cold and close to nature.”

Foreign exchange students are drawn from one of the over 1,000 universities with formal exchange agreements with Stockholm. The vast majority stay for one or two terms. However, students whose home universities do not have an exchange agreement with Stockholm are also able to come for a term or two as ‘free movers’.

One of Stockholm’s major attractions, distinguishing it from universities in many other European countries, is that it offers over 200 undergraduate and master’s level courses in English to exchange students. These enable students to gain a different perspective on the subjects they are studying at their home universities. The most popular courses among foreign exchange students are in the Law and English Departments and in the School of Business.

But many students also want to learn something about Sweden while they are there.

“Courses related to Sweden are popular, and most people want to learn a bit of Swedish,” says Ronald Trumpf Nordqvist, international coordinator at the university’s International Exchange Unit. Particularly well-attended courses include ‘Sweden, Society and Everyday Life’, ‘The Viking Age’ and ‘The Swedish Model’, which examines the Swedish economic and social model.

The experience of studying in Sweden comes as a pleasant surprise to many exchange students, according to Trumpf Nordqvist.

“Our student satisfaction surveys show that people appreciate the informality; the fact that it’s very easy to contact academic staff. Many people, particularly students from Asia, find our interactive educational environment to be a refreshing contrast to the way they’re taught at home.”

This is an aspect of Swedish university life that Yeung Yeung Fok appreciates:

“At home, the main teaching formats are lectures of about 100 people. Here there are more seminars and tutorials. It is a great experience to talk so much with my teachers and classmates and to learn from them,” he says.

Kat Grigg, who has come to Stockholm from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, to study for the final semester of her master’s, finds the informal teaching style similar to back home. The main difference for her is that students study one course at a time, instead of four courses at once in Australia.

“You focus on one subject for two-and-a-half months, which means you get immersed in it – and you get to know your classmates very well.”

Outside academic life, Stockholm also has much to offer. Many students take internships in the city, and the nightlife of one of Europe’s most sophisticated capitals is something that many take advantage of.

“The Swedish people are so nice and are willing to interact and answer my questions. I really like that,” says Yeung Yeung Fok.

Kat Grigg is full of praise for the university’s efforts to make her feel at home. An orientation day was provided when she arrived, and she was assigned a Swedish mentor:

“My mentor has been great – she has taken me to art galleries and restaurants in hot parts of town that I might never have visited otherwise,” she says.

Like in many major cities, finding somewhere to live in Stockholm can be difficult. While free movers generally rent on the private market, the university lets out 450 rooms in halls of residence to regular exchange students. Some of these rooms on the main campus in the ‘Lappis’ area, but most are at other locations around the city.

All rooms have private bathrooms and kitchens shared between about 10 students. Yeung Yeung Fok speaks highly of his accommodation in a student corridor in Kungshamra. His room, he says, is larger than he had in Hong Kong, and is equipped with a chair, a bed and a wardrobe, as well as high-speed internet.

“It’s also near Ulriksdal Castle and the forest, which is beautiful.”

As exchange students are all officially still registered at their home universities, they do not need to pay course fees to Stockholm University. They only pay their standard course fees to their home universities, where applicable.

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Stockholm Open set to serve up a storm

The ATP Stockholm Open hits the Swedish capital on Saturday with international players vying for a piece of the €530,000 ($718,000) pie. Will it be a local Swede who takes out this year's title? The Local chats to the tournament organizer to find out more.

Stockholm Open set to serve up a storm

“All the sponsors, players and organizers are getting ready, I’m really excited,” tournament spokesman Christian Ahlqvist told The Local over the phone, with the sound of tennis balls thwacking around in the background.

Held inside Stockholm’s Royal Tennis Hall, the tournament has been played every year since 1969, attracting some of the biggest tennis names in Sweden and the world.

“All the big Swedish players have played in the Stockholm Open, Björn Borg, Mats Wilander. Former world number one Roger Federer won the title in 2010. We’ve had some really great players, its always been one of the tournaments to play in,” explained Ahlqvist.

IN PICTURES: See Swedish tennis legend Björn Borg’s career in pictures

Headlining this year’s contingent is Spanish world number four David Ferrer who is tipped to take home the trophy.

“Ferrer is coming from Shanghai, he’s a great player and he’s always performed very well here,” said Ahlqvist.

But if you thought it was a one horse race, think again. Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Polish giant Jerzy Janowicz (who is over two metres tall), both 22, are two young players looking to challenge Ferrer and show the tennis world that they belong at the top.

However the odds are against Sweden netting the championship. World number 444 Markus Eriksson is the only confirmed Swedish player so far, although more may find their way through in Friday’s final qualifications. But statistically, the odds aren’t historically in the Swedes’ favour, with the last winner, Thomas Johansson, in 2004.

A strong Swedish presence in the singles may be lacking, but the Swedish men are expected to do better in the doubles.

“Jonas Björkman is making a comeback in the doubles with one of the best doubles players in the world, Robert Lindstedt. So that will be interesting to see,” said Ahlqvist.

As for a tip for the winner, Ahlqvist likes world number 41 Jarkko Nieminen from Finland.

“Jarko is someone who’s been a bit on and off the court with injuries. He’s played here so many times before, he’s almost a Swede. Everyone would love to see him win one.”

Saturday marks the opening ceremony for the Open, which will be held on centre court and is free for everyone. The tournament begins on the same day, with the final scheduled for Sunday the 19th.

Josh Liew

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