‘Studying in Umeå has exceeded our expectations’

SI Scholar Mojtaba Parsa reflects on student life in Umeå. a 'unique and exciting' city in the north east of Sweden.

'Studying in Umeå has exceeded our expectations’
Photo: NFGL Local Network in Umeå
Winter solstice is just around the corner. Three months have passed since the start of the new academic year in Umeå, and it is already completely dark at 3 PM. But the darkness does not diminish the unique excitement of studying and living in this particular town. According to students in a survey, I created for this article, life in Umeå has been beyond their expectations.
“Before I came to Umeå, I expected to see polar bears chasing people riding winter sledges,” a student at Umeå told me. It is cold and dark, of course, but the warmth and the kindness of Swedes in this region can simply melt any frost.”
Umeå is the largest city in the northern part of Sweden. With over 120,000 people and a third of those people studying at Umeå University, it is a student city and one of the most progressive cities in Scandinavia. The Umeå municipality predicts that in 30 years, the city's population will exceed 200,000. You can tell because the more you move towards the edge of the town, the more massive buildings under construction you will see. 
About a month ago, we all got to witness the first snow of the season. For many international students, especially those coming from warmer parts of the world, it was incredible to see snow, especially in October. ‘Seeing people biking to work, fraying their path in the snow, makes you realise how fond they are of the winter’ says a first-year student.
Photo: NFGL Local Network in Umeå
Apart from the snow, you cannot neglect the magic of an Aurora, sometimes referred to as polar lights. At the beginning of October, suddenly Umeå’s dark and starry sky with green and violet swirling lights attracted the attention of all people around, especially the international students. In just a few minutes, the lake Nydalasjon was full of people fascinated by this peculiar phenomenon. “I didn’t think that auroras could be seen with the naked eye. Seeing those insignificant yellow street lights compared to the mother nature’s green fireworks in the sky gave me an extraordinary feeling,” says one of the international students.
Apart from the magical scenery, like elsewhere in Sweden, housing is a challenge in Umeå. It often takes a few weeks to find a flat. However, the International Housing Office (IHO) at Umeå University, in partnership with state-owned apartments, dramatically simplifies the process for most of the students. The IHO helps students find a suitable place fast and at a much cheaper cost. 
Last but not least, the quality of education at the University of Umeå is a benefit of living in this city. The distinctive approach of teachers, the quality of teaching and research content, the magnificent university library, the various extracurricular activities, and the fantastic ‘Buddy Program’, were all mentioned in the survey I conducted as significant advantages by students of the university compared to their home universities. We couldn’t enjoy studying here any more!


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.