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‘Spend some time in Sweden to see how great it is’

‘Spend some time in Sweden to see how great it is’
Photo: Malmö University
Learn why Civan Aslandan, who represents the NFGL Local Network at Malmö University, has come to value Sweden’s famous flat hierarchies, and what animal he’s desperately hoping to spot while he studies here.

Originally from Turkey, when Civan first arrived in Malmö he wasn’t sure what to expect. Now midway through the first year of his master’s in International Migration and Ethnic Relations at Malmö University, he’s discovered there’s so much more to Sweden than meets the eye.

What motivated you to seek a scholarship to study in Sweden?

Honestly, the main reason I sought the scholarship was the reality I wouldn’t be able to afford to study abroad as a non-EU citizen. I needed to fund my studies and the Swedish Institute was offering the best opportunity for that. In other words, the scholarship brought me to Sweden.

However, later I couldn’t believe I didn’t consider studying here before! I think you need to spend some time here before realising how great this country is. Then you can forget the cliches about temperature and moose and see there is much more to Sweden.

Seeing a moose would be really great though!

Joking aside, I had high expectations even before I had the appointment at the embassy. I’ve been really impressed by the scholarship program, the NFGL, and its aims.

Describe your first impression of Malmö.

My first impression of Malmö was that it was different. What I mean is that, after spending considerable time in many cities abroad, Malmö wasn’t like any of them. It has its own atmosphere, which was quite astonishing. Maybe it’s because I found myself in the middle of Festivalen when I arrived, surrounded by old Scandinavian brick houses near the ocean!

However, after that short period of fun — which involved eating a lot of falafel and hummus! — I found myself faced with demanding studies which required a lot of self-discipline and studying.

Why did you decide to get involved in the Local Network?

I didn’t come to Sweden just to write my thesis and read a couple of articles.

Local Networks offer the chance to be part of a social environment where I can spend quality time with other university students and the local people. Experiencing the society I am living in and having a good time were opportunities I couldn’t turn down!

What have you learned from your work with the Local Network so far? How has it added to your experience in Malmö?

I’ve learned a lot from my work with our SI NFGL in Malmö. First of all, I figured out that lots of people can work well together when there is no hierarchy. I’ve been in lots of environments and, in some of them, people let their egos get in the way of working together which stops them achieving something remarkable.

Most significantly, I’ve learned that even if there aren’t many contributors, time is limited, and there are other pressing commitments, if you’re dedicated to making something happen, then you can. After all, our network has helped my integration into Malmö because I believed we could create something in this city and become part of it.

What are your plans for the coming term?

We really want to better understand — and help other scholarship holders to experience — Malmö’s most special quality, which is that it’s wonderfully multicultural. This is not just fascinating for me as a student of migration, but also for other students of various disciplines.

I believe we should invite scholarship holders from different cities to get more insight into being an immigrant or refugee. In this way, they may also establish a dialogue as a group of people from different cultures that have found themselves in a different country which they are trying to be part of. So that’s our main focus, and we’ll be planning a workshop.

Other than that, we are working hard to organise a seminar and workshop event to learn more about the art of leadership.

What do you think is key to a successful Local Network ‘handoff’ from one year to the next?

I believe that the experiences gained through the network should be transferred to next year’s members, so that mistakes aren’t repeated and successes can be continued. We are not currently making notes about our experiences, but maybe one of us who has some free time will take the initiative and write some!

Next year’s members should know that we’re always just a phone call away and we don’t plan on totally leaving the network behind once we finish our studies. Rather we’ll just live somewhere else and continue to be part of this expanding network.