‘Having a strong support network can empower you’

SI News catches up with master’s student Shorena Tsindeliani of Georgia, who represents the NFGL Local Network at Karolinska Instiutet to find out how she’s been settling into Sweden, and what advice she has for other international students.

‘Having a strong support network can empower you’
Shorena is in the first year of her master's at Karolinska Institutet.

Shorena is currently in the first year of her master’s programme in Health Economics, Policy and Management at Karolinska Institutet (KI).

Before arriving in Sweden, she had travelled extensively to countries including Russia and Uzbekistan. This is her first time living and studying abroad, and she hopes to impart her top tips to help other international students find success in Sweden.

How does it feel to be the only student from Georgia admitted to Karolinska Institutet with the support of SI scholarship? Does it make the experience easier or harder?

The experience is twofold. It’s hugely comforting knowing there are people who believe in me and my abilities, this keeps me going when times get hard!

I’m also inspired by the fact that after my admission, many Georgian students were incentivised to apply at KI. They’ve been asking me for admission application advice as well as general information about education in Sweden. It makes me happy to contribute to them achieving their academic goals.

What do you think is the most important skill for an international student to have?

The risk of feeling excluded is higher when you’re in a totally new environment. So if you’re far away from the values and people you’re used to, I’d say being sociable is most important.

The early stages of socialising are especially crucial for positioning yourself the way you want people to see you. Don’t stress out and close yourself off to others because you think you’re different, less-educated, less-experienced, or because your English isn’t perfect.

From a lifetime of observation, I’ve found that sometimes true knowledge comes from the connections and relationships you make, rather than the everyday studying process!

Thankfully, in Sweden there are various opportunities to make new friends. Starting at your university where there are people from all over the world, like at Karolinska Institutet, to volunteering your time and skills on projects like

Shorena and her fellow Local Network members.

What does being part of the Local Network mean to you?

Surrounding yourself with people who want to see you learn, grow, and succeed is probably one of the biggest advantages you can have as a student. Having a strong support team can empower you and speed up your path to success!

Being part of SI’s Network for Future Global Leaders (NFGL), I recently found out the need and importance of being involved. NFGL is a network that provides many wonderful possibilities for foreign students, including participation in events, workshops, and various study trips within Sweden.  

What made you decide to be part of The Local Network? How does it operate and do you have any activities planned?

I found out about the possibility of being involved in the Network during the SI NFGL kick-off event in 2017. I got very inspired to create a team to arrange our own events to strengthen our leadership, project management, and communication skills, all which will play a big role in our future careers.

Karolinska Local Network 2017-2018 consists of nine people — master’s students from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, and Georgia.

We don’t concentrate on the exact responsibilities of our positions; the chairperson can easily be the treasurer when necessary, or the marketing manager could be responsible for technical assistance. This approach makes us feel that we’re all equal and our contribution to the network comes from personal desire rather than obligation.

Our network has arranged to take a study trip to the headquarters of Novo Nordisk in Denmark. The idea behind this event is to know and see how the world’s largest producer of insulin and the most sustainable company in the world helps billions of people with diabetes.

If you could offer one piece of advice to an international student new to Sweden, what would it be?

I’d definitely recommend that they switch their time management skills onto maximum so they can explore lovely Sweden at the same time as studying here! There is truly so much to see and get to know.

Sweden is the largest of the Scandinavian countries with a population of nearly ten million, and there’s something for everyone. From the museums to the nightlife, there’s no chance of being bored!

Also, remember the Swedish word lagom which means “just the right amount”, it basically sums up the whole Swedish psyche!


Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.