‘The visit was nothing short of perfection!’

SI News hears from NFGL Local Network Uppsala member Provinah Robert about settling into Sweden and why she feels fortunate to have visited UN City in Copenhagen.

‘The visit was nothing short of perfection!’
NFGL Local Network Uppsala outside UN City in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Having received the Swedish Institute Study Scholarship, I was nothing short of overjoyed and excited about the adventure that awaited me in Europe. As to be expected, I had my fears, being far away from home and, of course, the cultural differences. 

This wasn’t my first time outside my home country, but it was the first time outside Africa and in Europe. I didn’t let my fears hold me back though. Like any other student, my idea of the scholarship program was that it would be a lot of reading followed by graduation. Little did I know that an adventure far beyond my imagination was in store.

Ever since I first stepped foot in Scandinavia, the Swedish Institute has been involved with my life in more ways than I could ever imagine. Aside from providing funding for my livelihood, they have lined up activities that help me harness my skills and be actively involved in world activities. 

SI has, through study visits to different organisations across all fields, helped me gain a creative insight. I now know a lot about the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals which, honestly speaking, I had no idea about prior to coming to Sweden.

I have had opportunities to interact and make friends with people from all over the world. Opportunities have opened up for different activities and this has made me even more grateful and helped me realise that my vision, together with that of others’, is more than a distant dream but rather achievable if we work together.

I can go on and on about how the past few months have shaped me, my vision, and dreams, but this article is mainly about our visit to UN City in Copenhagen!

The visit was nothing short of perfection!

We had a fruitful and exciting experience, I even found the train ride to Denmark interesting because I took that as an opportunity to explore and see the surrounding beauty.

As for the UN, our day started quite well, and some of my colleagues were so much in the spirit of sustainability they didn’t shower so as to ‘save water’!

We were excited to learn that the UN building itself is built in a sustainable way. It was built to be energy efficient and environmentally friendly, with solar panels, rainwater tanks and a seawater cooling system. It’s a clear example of what the school wants to achieve and what it stands for. It was also built by the harbour as a security measure.

During the presentation, we had the privilege of being able to have an open discussion and everyone got the chance to voice their opinions on the current setup of the system in the UN organisation. 

Relating to our different countries of origin, we pointed out what we think would be the best approach for all stakeholders to ensure they are actively involved in achieving the 2030 SDGs. The presenter even acknowledged what a diverse group we were, as our members come from all corners of the world.

Among the issues raised, we highlighted the need to involve the local people in countries where difficulties are being experienced and where different organisations within the UN are assisting. They are the ones who are experiencing these difficulties first-hand, not individuals who are in remoter areas, and they face difficulties when trying to relate to the challenges because of their different backgrounds and the distance factor.

We gained immense knowledge on the current projects currently being undertaken by the different sectors within the United Nations in different parts of the world to ensure sustainability and development. This gave us an opportunity to show appreciation for the efforts being made by the organisation. Everyone acknowledged that it would take time, but we are indeed moving in the right direction.

Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get a tour of the whole building because we didn’t clearly indicate in the application that we would require that. At least we managed to see the famous staircase which is built in a way that allows everyone to meet and occasionally interact.

I consider myself fortunate for having been able to travel to places which at one point seemed like a farfetched dream.

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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.