Beaches, bikes, and buds: studying in Malmö

When choosing a study abroad programme, research suggests students place great emphasis on the country and city. With that in mind, what makes Malmö stand out from the rest? We decided to find out by eavesdropping on two recently-arrived master’s students.

Beaches, bikes, and buds: studying in Malmö
Photo: David Bergström

Fabian Eckert from Munich, Germany, and French-born Luke Sims, who studied at bachelor’s level in the United Kingdom, are new-found buddies after both enrolling in the Master in Leadership for Sustainability programme at Malmö University.

Having moved to the city in August, their newly-arrived eyes offer a fresh take on life as an international student in Malmö.

Sitting in the café in the campus’ centre-piece new building, Niagara, Fabian explains:

“It was way better than I expected. I thought that Malmö was just an industrial city which was not that nice; the old city area is okay, but that is not what Malmö is about. This new area here is so beautiful, and it is really modern.”

Fabian (left) and Luke. Photo: David Bergström

Fabian, who now lives with his girlfriend in private accommodation, spent his first few weeks living in his van on the beach while he searched for a place to live.

“The beach is the best place,” he exclaims. “Every morning I got up at 7am, jumped into the sea, and then had a shower, and after I could just walk to university.  And it is a proper beach too, really nice!”

Luke adds: “It was a surprise for me too. We were there in September, but I wouldn’t have expected to be in Sweden and swimming at that time of the year.  I did one year of studying in Florida, and the weather was different for sure, but the beach was pretty similar.”

But now as winter looms, the guys are increasingly retreating to the city’s bars, choosing the student-friendly area of Möllan as their stomping ground.  

“It’s like the centre of the city and everyone gets there easily,” comments Fabian, as Luke nods his approval.

“There are a lot of bars there and the beer is generally cheaper there too,” the French student adds.

“It is very relaxed and pretty chill. You feel like if the evening is going well then it would be easy to just go and talk to people. I think that is something I really like about Malmö; it is easy to get to know people.”

The city’s ethnically diverse population has certainly helped them feel more welcome.

“There are a lot of students in Möllan, so that is mainly who you socialise with,” says Fabian. “I really think that in Malmö you don’t really feel like a foreigner because it is so international, you always see people from everywhere and you never get the feeling that you are the only person who is new in the city.”

It has not taken them long to work out the best ways to save money; Luke favours seeking out small, family-owned cafes rather than corporate chains because the coffee is better and you tend to get free refills. Fabian soon discovered the fruit and vegetable market in Möllan for bargain shopping.

“You really feel like you’re in a different country there, everyone is running around shouting about what they’re selling and if you go one hour before they close, it is even cheaper,” Fabian confides.

It is Malmö’s strong international identity which has also given rise to its reputation as one of the best places in Sweden to eat falafel.

“It is the best thing in Malmo; you can buy the cheapest falafel on earth here!  I eat about two or three a week!”

The city’s location adjacent to Copenhagen is also a great advantage.

“For travelling, being so close to Copenhagen is great. Having a capital airport so close to Malmö makes getting in and out really, really easy,” Luke explains.

The guys have pin-pointed where the best second-hand shops are, the cheapest and best places to get food and coffee, and when the normally-expensive bars have their happy hours. But both agree that there is more to living in Malmö than the inner city.

Just a short train journey can land students in the region’s picturesque countryside, nature reserves and sandy beaches. Both Luke and Fabian have taken advantage of the Swedish law ‘allemansrätten’ (the everyman's right) which allows anyone to spend a night, with certain restrictions, on both public and private land. 

Read also: Why Malmö has it all for international students

“Because it is the south of Sweden the weather is not going to be as extreme as other areas. We could go to the beach in September, and at the beginning of October we went camping next to the sea and it was fine,” Luke reflects.

“The countryside is beautiful around here. We’ve been camping a few times, and we went to the south coast near the city of Ystad, that was really nice,” agrees Fabian.

The city’s reputation as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world is also a golden factor in their student lives.

Fabian says: “We cycle everywhere, and I love it – it is one of my favourite things about the city.”

“I was in Gothenburg recently, I saw people cycling up a hill, we laughed about that, you could see how much they were struggling, but here it so flat, it is so easy,” adds Luke.

The students agree they have no regrets. Whether you’re looking for beaches, bikes, or falafel, they agree, Malmö is the place to be.

More Malmö University stories on The Local

This article was produced by The Local in partnership with Malmö University.


‘They feel conned’: Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules

Sweden's top universities are to call for doctoral students to be exempted from Sweden's tough new permanent residency rules, arguing that it will damage both academic standards and national competitiveness.

'They feel conned': Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules
At Lund Technical University, a majority of doctoral students are international. Photo: Kennet Ruona/LTU

In a post on Wednesday, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, the chair of Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions, said that Sweden’s universities had agreed to submit a joint letter to the government “very soon”, calling for parliament to put in place a special exemption for PHD students to make it easier to stay in Sweden after their studies. 

The parliament, she wrote, “should introduce an exemption for doctoral students and young researchers from the requirement to be financially self-sufficient”. 

Previously, doctoral students were eligible for a permanent residence permit if they had lived in Sweden with a residence permit for doctoral studies for four out of the past seven years. Apart from a slim set of requirements, this was granted more or less automatically.

But according to Sweden’s new Migration Act, which was introduced in July this year as comprehensive legislation to control the number of asylum applications, they now need to be able to additionally show that they can support themselves financially for at least a year and half.

The new law means that the rules for permanent residency are now the same for all categories of applicants, including doctoral students.

Stefan Bengtsson, the rector at Chalmers University of Technology, said that the change would mean as many as 400 to 500 doctoral students, many of whom have built up considerable expertise, might be unable to stay in Sweden.

“This makes for an uncertain future for those from outside of Europe who have applied to come to Sweden for an academic career, which is cause for great concern and disappointment among those who came here under other circumstances,” he told The Local. “Some of them may, of course, feel like they’ve been conned

But what was even more worrying, he said, would be the impact the change to the law might have in the longer term. 

“This change to the law could contribute to giving Sweden a bad reputation. This will create difficulties in recruiting internationally and damage our long-term skills supply.”


At Lund University, the majority of doctoral students in the science and technical faculties are from outside Europe, while Söderbergh Widding, who is also vice chancellor at Stockholm University, estimated that about half of doctoral students were international. 

Söderbergh Widding told the TT newswire that the change was “a devastating death blow”, which put to waste a “previously hard-won battle to make it possible for doctoral students to obtain a permanent residency permit after four years of studies”. 

She said in her letter that the change contradicted the research policy proposition from December 2020, which stated that the “number of foreign doctoral students who stay in Sweden should increase”, and said that giving residency to doctoral students was a good way to increase this.  

Ole Petter Ottersen, the rector of the elite Karolinska medical university, told the newswire that he thought the change in residency laws would damage Swedish competitiveness. 

“This is not good for Sweden. This will damage our ability to attract and recruit talent from other countries. For a country that lies on the periphery, the goal should be to make it easier, not harder, to recruit competence.”