‘The beauty of being different’: how to raise a global child

In today’s interconnected world, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to prepare them to thrive in the global community by sparking and feeding their curiosity. 

'The beauty of being different': how to raise a global child

But what does that mean? Well, we must inspire our children to be curious about the world and to become globally aware. We must teach our children to appreciate, communicate, respect and interact with people across different cultures and in other countries. 

That’s easily said, but how do we actually make that happen? How do we give our kids the tools to make their own way in our global community? 

One way in which we give our children the best possible start in life is to enrol them in a preschool that has a curriculum that encourages curiosity and will allow children to continue their education anywhere in the world if their parents move.

The International Early Years Curriculum (IEYC) is a child-centred curriculum for 2-5 year olds that recognises the developmental needs of early years education and emphasises playful, holistic and child-focused approaches to learning and development. 

At Futuraskolan preschools the IEYC is given an international twist by teachers such as Luca Nicolo, originally from Italy, who works at the ​​Gåshaga preschool.

“We like to emphasise the interconnectedness of our world, so we help our children make the connections,” says Luca. “We teach that our connections with others should be built on respect for others. Others’ cultures, traditions and things that are different. We emphasise the beauty of being different instead of everything being the same as what we see out of our windows. We give kids the tools to find out about the rest of the world around them and how fascinating it can be. But we also always emphasise the importance of our roots.”

Looking for a preschool in Stockholm? Learn more about Futuraskolan and its commitment to an international education

Kids at Gåshaga getting messy.

Rachelle Colldahl, is a Californian who now lives in Stockholm, and whose 4-year-old son attends the Futuraskolan International Gåshaga. She explains the nuts and bolts of how the teachers at Gåshaga encourage the students to be curious.

“Before my son even started at the preschool he was asked by the teachers to create, and bring to school, something that represents the country he’s from. Well, I’m American, and my husband is half-Swedish, half-British so we made three things for the school.”

“I also really like the fact that the school has a diverse menu, such as falafels and other international foods. And when a particular country has a special holiday they’ll serve that country’s cuisine. And they’ll encourage the kids to talk about it.”

Learn more about Futuraskolan and its commitment to giving children the best possible start to their education

This focus on the “beauty of the other” and interconnectedness has paid dividends already as far as Rachelle is concerned.

“We want our son to learn different languages, so we’re very happy that Futuraskolan teaches him Swedish. He’s already learning other languages, small words from other countries, just from his friends at preschool. That’s really exciting to me, whether it be French, Spanish, or Arabic, he knows a few words from each.”

As Luca says, this international approach is deeply embedded within Futuraskolan’s DNA. “From the beginning, we read fairy tales not just in English or Swedish, but in the languages of some of the other children – maybe some in Spanish, Italian or Arabic. So the kids can see that these stories are not just confined to their own cultures but are global stories.”

“Our teaching methods go beyond any border, both geographical and cultural,” says Luca.

“On United Nations Day in October we invite all the families to celebrate with a multicultural party. We have dances where children will dance to some traditional music from countries other than their own and wear their countries’ traditional dress. Some of the teachers are from countries other than Sweden, too, and we’ll join in the dancing.”

How do we give our kids the tools to make their own way in our global community?

But there’s a more profound dimension to this internationalism, too, as Rachelle explains.

“The school has been sponsoring a feeding programme in the Philippines to support the students of primary schools in Legazpi city,” she says. “There are videos and communications back and forth between the schools and Futuraskolan. As much as we can teach empathy at home, sometimes it resonates more with the kids at school. They’ll say things like, ‘Oh, this kid doesn’t have shoes and he has to walk to school.’ 

“They learn that there’s no clean water in certain places, or some people don’t have electricity. Futuraskolan is teaching our kids empathy and to be caring. These are incredibly important, long-term life lessons. And they’re being taught them at a very early age.”

Futuraskolan’s commitment to encouraging curiosity in the wider world extends beyond preschool into regular school years, all part of its approach to helping children become empathetic, globally-minded human beings.

Are you looking for a preschool that has an international curriculum? Find out more about Futuraskolan.

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Seven things you need to know before coming to Sweden to study

You’ve been accepted to university in Sweden, accepted your spot, and applied for your residence permit. Now it's time to prepare for your move. Maybe you’re wondering what life in Sweden will be like? Here are some tips based on my first year living in Lund, where I'm currently studying.

Seven things you need to know before coming to Sweden to study

Buying new is so passé

Need a winter jacket? Bedroom furniture? Maybe a new baking sheet for whipping up something from Sweden’s never-ending list of seasonal pastries? Whatever you do, don’t buy it first-hand. Sweden is teeming with second-hand stores, selling everything from wine glasses and patio furniture to boardgames. On my walk into Lund’s city centre, I pass a second-hand shop which frequently has bras hanging in the window – undergarments is where I draw the line, but to each their own.

Some shops are well-curated; others appear to be a dumping ground for anything and everything cleared out of junk drawers and closets after a long cleaning hiatus. But the search for the perfect formal dress for a sittning (one of Lund’s popular formal dinners) or a ball is half the fun – so grab a friend, and get browsing!

Want a drink at home on a Sunday? Plan ahead

Sweden’s Systembolaget shops have the monopoly on alcohol sales in the country – you won’t find anything over 3.5 percent anywhere else. And these shops aren’t open 24 hours. They close early on Saturdays, and don’t open at all on Sunday. If you fancy something other than a warm beer from your local supermarket on a Saturday night, plan ahead and pay a visit to your local Systembolaget. If you’re in a student-filled area, you’ll find plenty of your peers doing the same, walking out with cases of beer, boxes of wine, and whatever liquor they can afford. Be warned: drinking in Sweden is not cheap! Downing a pint at home instead of at a bar will save you a few kronor.

Failing a class…isn’t as bad as it sounds

So you’ve failed a class. Now what? Well, not much. You can take the exam again and again until you pass, so long as the material on which the test is based is not changed. If that happens, you may have some new topics to learn. In my media and communication studies MSc programme at Lund University, professors provide three deadlines for submitting the essays that we must write in place of exams. If I don’t submit my paper by the first deadline, I know I’ll have two more penalty-free opportunities to get it done. And if I receive a failing grade, that grade will not go on my academic record – instead, my record will not be updated until I submit a passing paper. While I’ve yet to take advantage of this system, knowing that missing a submission or failing a class is not a disaster is a welcome change from the strict, deadline-driven American environment in which I completed my bachelor’s degree.

Getting a bank account is a long process

Don’t bring cash with you. You’ll never spend it. I’ve still got some cash sitting in a drawer, because I keep forgetting which ATM near me will let me deposit cash into my account – my bank branch is cashless, and won’t help me there. Make sure to let your bank at home know you’ll be using your card in Sweden.

I moved to Sweden at the end of September. I didn’t open my bank account until mid-January. Opening an account entails a lengthy journey through Swedish bureaucracy, beginning with an application for a personal number, or personnummer. You can apply for a personal number at your local Skatteverket, or tax agency, office, provided that you can document you will be in Sweden for more than one year. I’m lucky enough to attend one of the universities piloting a two-year student resident permit, so proving the length of my stay was easy. While I got my personal number within 10 days, the process can take up to 18 weeks.

So you’ve got a personal number. The next step is to get an ID card, also from Skatteverket. There are three offices that issue ID cards: in Malmö, Gothenburg, and Stockholm. And appointments book up fast. I waited six weeks for mine. I got my ID card quickly, within two weeks – a friend waited months for hers to be issued.

Finally, with what I thought was sufficient documentation in hand, I walked into a Nordea bank to open my account. I was sent home account-less that day though, with the bank requesting statements from my Pakistani accounts. Armed with even more paperwork a few days later, I finally completed my application for a bank account. About a week later, my account was open. And finally, I had BankID – the magical Swedish eID that opens all sorts of doors, including, finally, digital access to my Covid-19 vaccination records. Swedish bureaucracy is a multi-layered beast, each layer tightly entwined with the others, and it took me months to unlock all the layers, starting with my personal number and ending with my digital ID.

Stock up on candles

The winters are dark. And long. And depending on where in Sweden you are, either delightfully snowy, or constantly slushy. In Skåne, there’s slush. So when you get home and peel off your jacket and scarf and hats, and it’s 3 pm and dark and dreary, you light a candle. Or two, or three. Preferably scented. Candles have gotten me through dark Scandinavian winters before when I lived in Copenhagen, and they continue to do the trick. I brought a favourite coffee-scented offering from a small Pakistani company with me, that I’m still rationing. If you don’t have a favourite to bring with you, you can browse through the selections at IKEA and Lagerhaus. Some friends of mine opt for fairy lights to brighten up their apartments, but I prefer the warm glow of a candle’s flame. Perhaps I just like fire.

Don’t worry if your Swedish is stuck at a basic “hej”

Almost everyone can communicate in basic English. That said, learning the local language is never a bad thing. After all, if your hope is to stay on in Sweden, you might soon need to prove a basic level of Swedish proficiency before getting permanent residence.

But ditch the Duolingo – or at least, don’t rely on it exclusively. One of the benefits unlocked by a personal number is the opportunity to enroll in SFI, or Swedish for Immigrant, language classes, offered by your municipality free of charge. You can choose to study in person or online, morning or evening. Do it! It’s a great way of understanding the language – wait until you hear about all the different ways in which adjectives can end – and as a bonus, you can also expand your social circle with the other students in your class.

Holidays and traditions are a serious business

If you’re currently waiting for your student visa, you may have already experienced how tough it is to get hold of office workers in July. Annual leave is taken seriously here, with workers taking several weeks off during the summers. No checking email, no answering work calls – pure vacation mode.

This commitment to time off for enjoyment also applies to holidays throughout the year. On Valborg, on April 30, I saw my largest Swedish crowds: about 50,000 people crammed into Lund’s city park, well on their way to total inebriation by 11am. The celebration, to welcome the coming spring, brings Swedes out of their homes after the winter, with massive bonfires burning bright in the evenings. Midsommar, the summer solstice, is also celebrated hard, with families and groups of friends bringing picnics into parks around maypoles, where they sing about small frogs and dance around, gripping onto their partners’ earlobes.