How sports helped me settle into life in Umeå

SI scholar Abubacarr Sidy Nyassi is currently completing his master's degree in Accounting at Umeå University. Here he shares his reaction to finding out he had been awarded the scholarship and how sports has helped him to settle into student life in northern Sweden.

How sports helped me settle into life in Umeå
Photo: Abubacarr Sidy Nyassi

One Friday while in my home village having a beautiful conversation with my mum, I received a message from the Swedish Institute Scholarships for Global Professionals SISGP. At first, I thought I was in a dream; before I realised it wasn’t a dream, my eyes were already filled with water. Yes, tears! Suddenly my mum asked 'Son, why are you crying?' I replied, 'Mum, I just received a message from the Swedish Institute that I have been awarded a scholarship to study a two-year master’s program in Sweden!' My mum too couldn’t believe the news. It was indeed some mixed feelings as we cried and laughed together. Those tears were not tears of sorrow, they where tears of joy! It all happened on that faithful day on a Friday evening under an orange tree. Indeed, 26th April was a day I will always remember.

As a first-time traveler, the wait was too long before the Swedish Migration Agency finished processing my Residence Permit. From the day I applied for the permit, it took close to about two months before I finally lay my hands on the vital Residence Permit. Then comes August 26th – the D-day for me to say good bye to my peace-loving family. My flight was expected take off from Banjul International Airport at 20:00hrs. Despite the heavy rain, my grandpa Saikou accompanied me to the airport and gave me a towering hug. To be seen off by one's grandfather wasn’t common in The Gambia, if it happens then surely count it as the lucky one. I am the lucky one! 

With my grandpa at the airport

My journey wasn’t the best journey for a first traveler, having to connect with different airlines and check-in in different airports (Leipzig, Stuttgart and Stockholm). However, I couldn’t focus much on the scenes along the journey as I was curious about my destination country. After a long and hectic journey, I finally arrived in Stockholm Arlanda Airport in August 27th around 3pm. I quickly connected the train to my final destination Umeå city. The train took about 5 hours to arrive in Umeå. I was welcome by the cold weather and strong wind as I left the train station for my corridor. Two days later I met a girl at the kitchen, she introduced herself to me as Janja from Slovenia. She’s also an international student eager to make new friends. Janja helped me to settle quickly and we became friends since then.

My friend Jania from Slovenia

Coming from a country where sports is keenly followed by young people, the first thing I wanted to do in my first month in Sweden was to join a gym. I felt in love with IKSU Sports when it was introduced to the students at the Orientation ceremony. The cold weather made me not waste any time to register at the multi-purpose IKSU Sports. I needed to connect with something that can help me settle in quickly. Thus, I capitalize on the massive student discount available for Umeå University students at IKSU. IKSU Sports is one of the biggest sports centres in Europe and it has almost everything an athlete may need (e.g. volleyball, basketball, football, swimming, climbing, regular gym and many more facilities). However, my favorite sports classes at IKSU are Body pump, Indoor Walking and Total Training. In addition, IKSU Sports was the perfect place for me; In as much as I care about my transcript grades, I also care about health. Thus, IKSU Sports gives me the perfect combination of health and education. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Umeå visitors to try IKSU Sports, it will surely give them a life time experience. 

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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.