NFGL Local Network Sustainability Stockholm gears up for an exciting term

SI News hears from second-year master’s student Andres Felipe Suarez Corredor about Sweden’s different social norms, the infamous Swedish darkness, and his network’s exciting plans for the coming term.

NFGL Local Network Sustainability Stockholm gears up for an exciting term

Speaking on behalf of his network, Andres took time out from his master's degree in Chemical Engineering for a quick Q&A with SI News. 

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

Sweden stands for sustainability, which makes it the right place to learn about this subject and understand how it can be adapted in the context of my home country.

It’s also well known that social movements in Sweden are well developed and have a history of success, which could be replicated in other countries. Finally, Sweden is a pioneer of sustainable technologies and development, knowledge which can be shared to create a better world.

Describe your first impression of Stockholm. What have you found most surprising or challenging?

It’s a beautiful city! In Stockholm, there are lots of cultural things to do and a good nightlife. Moreover, it’s surprising to see how public services, like transport and healthcare, work efficiently and improve people’s wellbeing.

Stockholm is actually spread out across 14 islands, but they are closely connected and each has a different character and vibe. The city is also filled with nature and beauty! It’s a city that’s easy to adapt to and easy to enjoy. The people are also very kind and try to help you as much as possible. 

One of the main challenges is the darkness which can affect your mood a lot. The social norms are also quite different, but easy to learn!

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

Local Networks are a great space to expand minds in your field of study, and open up opportunities to exchange multicultural experiences.

The events also help to raise awareness of contemporary issues which can be used to build a better society. Finally, you get the opportunity to meet great people who help you to generate innovative ideas and build new skills!

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

Being part of the network has been an amazing experience which we all recommend. In this group, it’s possible to learn and reinforce soft skills like teamwork, planning, and managerial skills. 

It’s helpful too for learning how to do group projects more efficiently. Finally, in the group, we have learned to look at sustainability more broadly, including the social, economic, urban, and engineering aspects. 

What makes your Local Network special?

Our team is amazing. We’re students from all different nationalities, everyone is full of knowledge and experience. The cultural differences are not a problem, if anything it improves our dynamic and gives us a broader perspective on society. In addition, the diversity is really important for a successful team. 

What sort of activities did you organise last term?

We have been working on internal meetings to organise our big study trip in April. Additionally, we are trying to make a group that lasts for more generations of SI scholars, building a strong reputation and robust structure.

We have also done some workshops related to circular economy and sustainable economy. In addition, we have been sharing information about sustainable development and urbanism.

What are your plans for this coming term?

This term will be exciting!

We will have our big study to Copenhagen and Malmö, where we plan to meet with urban planners and the municipality to learn about sustainable development and how these cities are becoming the reference point for sustainability. 

We will also go on a study trip to the Hammarby zone in Stockholm where we will have the opportunity to learn insights into how Stockholm is facing sustainability challenges.

Moreover, we will have a new series of ‘Unplugged’ talks, where in an informal and relaxed place we will share knowledge and have discussions to solve some study cases.

What do you think are some of the keys to a successful Local Network ‘handoff’ from one year to the next?

Continuity is key.

It is really important to keep the dynamics so that the network can build a good reputation in the university and among colleagues. It’s really useful when first-year scholars join existing networks and work with second-year scholars. This process can help them to plan even better, more meaningful events. 

Commitment is also important because it’s a challenge to distribute time between the master’s studies and the group agenda. However, as a team it’s possible to manage this wisely.

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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.